Mary Ellen McNish, Stand Up 2010

September 19, 2010

Mary Ellen McNish
President & CEO, The Hunger Project

Stand Up NYC 2010

New York, NY

Thank you! It's great to be here!

Today I would like to talk about what's missing in the discussion of the Millennium Development Goals. And that is the people themselves!

Will the 900 million people who now live with hunger and poverty be empowered to control their own lives and their own destinies by finding their own solutions? Will we support them? Will we listen to them?

We at The Hunger Project think this is the key question for us to consider and we believe it is the key ingredient for sustainable action to end hunger and poverty. We believe there are three important actions required to carry out this imperative.

  1. Successful movements of people, especially the poor. Start by awakening people to their own power. It requires them to build their own capacities, confidence, leadership and organizations. Are we prepared to help with this mobilization? Can we support the poor in moving from marginalization to full participation? Can we support their move from poverty to sufficiency? Can we assist them in the move from supplication to transformation? The answer is YES! We can do it together!
  2. Women are responsible for producing 80 percent of the food for household consumption in poor countries. Yet, they get no respect, nor do they get any support or credit. We at The Hunger Project have found that gender discrimination is a fundamental root cause of most of the hunger and poverty in the world. The countries where hunger is so persistent that it seems intractable are the countries with the most severe subjugation of women. This has to stop and it will stop as women continue to become empowered to be leaders and key change agents for themselves and their families.
  3. As long time Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill used to say, "All politics is local." This means something very important to all of us at The Hunger Project. Each and every government has a responsibility to care for its people. It is what they are supposed to do. The great anti-hunger activist Frances Moore Lappe said that the global food crisis is not due to a shortage of food, but due to a shortage of democracy and where we see this to be most important is at the local level. Clean water, laws and customs that protect women, systems that are not corrupt, empowering women to lead village, community and town councils and ensuring that national governmental resources reach the local poor are all part of a fabric to ensure a sustainable solution to hunger and poverty.

As our governments meet across town this week to look for breakthrough strategies to achieve the MGDs we would like to remind them of Gandhi's words: that the goal here is to restore people to control their own lives and destinies!

They should heed the advice of James Yen, founder of one of the great movements for development who said:

Go to the people. Live among them. Learn from them. Plan with them. Work with them. Start with what they know. Build on what they have. Not piecemeal but integrated approach. Not to conform, but to transform. Not relief, but release!

We invite you to join us in this endeavor. Our team is at our booth. We need volunteers, interns and supporters. Please join us!