You might read the title and think, “What, is he crazy? What does a popular band have to do with global hunger?”
Ok, here goes.
For more than a decade, the best selling British band Coldplay has been one of Oxfam’s biggest supporters. With an interest in using their global celebrity for good, Coldplay teamed up with Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign beginning in 2002 to advocate for the end of the rigged rules and double standards of the global trading system. Band members delivered petitions to trade ministers meeting in Mexico in 2003, met with farmers from developing countries to learn more, and spoke out at their concerts around the world.
So what are they up to now?
Coldplay has continued to have an Oxfam presence on their tours and we’re back at it again this year. The U.S. leg of their upcoming tour starts in Portland on April 24 and then comes to KeyArena in Seattle on April 25 and we’ll be there. Want to join us?
We won’t be there to ask for your money, we’re there to ask for your voice.
This year Coldplay is teaming up with Oxfam to support our GROW campaign. We launched the GROW campaign last year with the goal of building a better food system: one that sustainably feeds a growing population (estimated to reach nine billion by 2050) and empowers poor people to earn a living, feed their families, and thrive.
We are advocating for better policies that support the efforts of small farmers in developing countries. We have an opportunity this spring to make changes to U.S. government policy through the Farm Bill – the legislation that governs America’s domestic and foreign agriculture policy. Through our joint research with American Jewish World Service, we found that up to 17 million people could receive life-saving food aid at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers if Congress cuts red-tape in the U.S. Farm Bill.
Right now, more than 50 percent of the aid money the government spends on basic food grains is wasted. Instead of being used to fight hunger, these funds get caught up in overhead costs and fees, from paying for the high-priced food aid agencies are forced to buy, even if there are cheaper local alternatives available, to covering the exorbitant shipping charges of delivering aid on a limited number of expensive U.S. vessels.
This wasteful government system not only costs taxpayers dollars – it can also create delays of up to four or six months before aid arrives. For a community facing food shortages, such as those facing a pending crisis in the Sahel or those affected by last year’s drought in the Horn of Africa, those months can be the difference between life and death.
We can change this system for the better this year. Congress is currently debating the Farm Bill and Oxfam is gathering petitions across the country. We’ll be out at the Coldplay show to get more people to sign on. In Coldplay’s hit 2002 song “Clocks,” Chris Martin asks, “Am I a part of the cure or am I a part of the disease?” It’s time to rally around a cure for fixing our food aid system. Join us April 25 at KeyArena to spread the word. (Did I forget to mention that you’ll also get to see the show for free?!?)
Jonathan Scanlon is based in Seattle and is Lead Organizer, Economic Justice at the international relief and development organization Oxfam America, a new member of Global Washington.