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Hunger Poll Indicates Widespread Global Support for Millennium Development Goals

A new international survey on donor attitudes suggests widespread popular support for committing funds to end global hunger. In nearly all of the 20 countries polled, a large majority of respondents said they are willing to contribute necessary funds to cut hunger and poverty in half by 2015. That’s the target for fulfilling this commitment, outlined eight years ago as one of the UN’s so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The new survey, issued Wednesday on the eve of the UN World Food Day annual observance, was completed in August, just before the US home mortgage crunch triggered a global economic slowdown. But World Public Opinion lead researcher Clay Ramsay, who carried out the study for the Washington-based Program for International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), says that despite the time lag, the findings overwhelmingly reinforce the view that developed nations have a moral responsibility to help reduce hunger and severe poverty in poor countries.

“We did our poll before the financial crisis really became as dramatic as it has. However, it’s clear that across all of these countries that would be primary contributors to this kind of an effort to have the Millennium Development Goal be realized – countries like France, Italy, Britain, Germany – the lower-income people, definitely feel the pinch. Nonetheless, large majorities in all these countries were willing to contribute a share, helping out the poorest,” he said.

To help respondents in every country get a quantitative idea of how much of a personal annual contribution they would need to contribute to curb starvation by 2015, the pollsters used an accepted World Bank estimate of $39 billion and divided it proportionally according to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and population sizes of the countries being polled. Ramsay says each respondent was given a figure indicating how much each citizen of a country would be asked to contribute annually in order to reduce world hunger dramatically.

“For instance, Americans were asked to give $56 a person. People in Turkey were asked to give $11 a person. And the difference relates to the size of their economies,” Ramsay explained. Other annual amounts proposed to donors of other nations included Britain, $49; France, $45; Germany, $43; Italy, $39; South Korea, $23; and Russia, $11. Ramsay says that the World Public Opinion pollsters decided to include Russia in its study “because its government is studying the prospect of becoming an aid-giver in the future.” Although the breakdown on a per person basis varied from country to country, Ramsay points out that the attitudes matched up similarly across countries, strongly supporting helping the poor.

“One of the reasons we wanted to do this poll was to show worldwide something that we have shown in polling in the US in the past, which is that there is a sense of a moral obligation to do what they can to contribute to a solution of the problem, understanding that the US can’t do it alone and, in fact, all of the developed countries can’t do it alone,” he pointed out.

Thursday in Rome, World Food Program director Jacques Diouf remarked that donor countries have made good on only 10 percent of a $22 billion aid package pledged for this year to help starving nations. He and others urged wealthy nations not to cancel aid or limit trade in ways that hurt poor countries. While US and European financial institutions begin to implement substantially larger-scale government rescue commitments to remedy the current economic crisis, Ramsay says the process of galvanizing public consensus behind such complex, multi-faceted initiatives takes significant time to develop. In contrast, he believes his new poll bears out that the public mind-set across cultures firmly accepts the moral responsibility for advanced societies to help the poor fight hunger and poverty.

“I’d say that there is definitely stronger and deeper public consensus in favor of doing what can be done in an organized plan to help the poorest than there is for the efforts to stem the financial crisis so far, though I do think that over time, those efforts will gather more support rather than less,” he predicts.