Policy Idol 2016

Policy Idol 2016

In March 2016, three members of King’s Think Tank were finalists in King’s Policy Idol 2016.

Policy Idol is an annual competition open to all current students and staff at King’s, in which participants pitch their policy ideas to an elite panel of leading figures from the worlds of politics, academia and industry.

Erica Arcudi – Audience Prize Winner
Food Waste: Time for Supermarkets to Take Ownership

Each year the UK wastes around 15 million tonnes of food, equating to a loss to business of
at least five billion pounds every year. This staggering amount of waste is approximately
one-third of the food produced in the UK, making us the worst offender in Europe in terms
of food wasted, both in quantity and in percentage of production.

The UK Government has been confronted with this problem before, including by the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA). In March 2015, Anne McIntosh, Chair of the Committee, publicly asked the Government to intervene and stated that the UK is officially ‘currently producing too much waste that is edible’. There are three steps which can be taken to resolve this problem: collect reliable data, incentivise waste reduction and promote the redistribution of food waste.

Supermarkets should be required to publish audited figures of food waste, which are routinely and randomly checked by the government. This will provide a way to monitor the good and bad industry performers when it comes to food waste.
A clear cut way to reduce waste is to incentivise supermarkets to reject less. As one study found, supermarkets reject approximately 40 per cent of the crops produced by farmers – usually just because they don’t meet cosmetic standards. Incentives, such as tax exemptions if supermarkets demonstrate they reject less than five per cent of what they order, would help alleviate this level of rejection.

It is time for change in the UK when it comes to food waste. We need to start by demanding accurate data on food waste from supermarkets, rejecting less and targeting the redistribution of leftover food. With over one million people struggling to put food on their table, the government must consider implementing these policies to tighten up waste not only at home, but also at the farm and supermarket.
Policy Idol 2016

Rocky Howe – Finalist
Empowering Women in Disaster

Between 1995 and 2001 there were over 7,000 world disasters that affected approximately four billion people. A disproportionate number of those affected were women, as along with children they are 14 times more likely than men to perish in a disaster.

There has been increasing recognition that gender mainstreaming is important in disaster management, as seen in the 2015 Sendai Framework that calls for women and persons with disabilities to ‘publicly lead and promote gender- equitable and universally accessible approaches during the response and reconstruction phases.’ The main challenge lies in translating such high-level objectives into actionable initiatives at the scene of disaster. We have identified three specific areas that will help address this issue.

There should be mandatory equal participation in decision-making for women during disaster relief efforts. Both local governments and disaster relief NGOs need to recognise the importance of women’s knowledge in the design and execution of relief planning and management. Community norms, such as traditional roles of care-giving, can translate into empowerment in disaster. Women’s knowledge of the emotional and nutritional needs of their family in disaster are paramount towards making needstargeted and practical decisions. It is equally important to recognise that these norms are not immutable, and that communities can re-envision gender relations in the face of disaster. Mandatory equal participation is a simple and practical tool that will institutionalise the role of women in the recovery process, transforming the perception of women in these communities.

Local female support and kinship networks should also be utilised to help distribute relief and to share knowledge and practices in disaster recovery. Social networks are critical to disaster recovery, as trust and social capital allow relief to reach those generally invisible to external organisations, and create buy-in for interventions. Tapping into such networks serves as social mobilisation, rebuilding community bonds and functions. After Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, community kitchens were set up to enable disaster survivors to work together. Such initiatives bringing people together serve as an important psychosocial intervention for survivors suffering from trauma.

The proposal seeks to link bottom-up participation with top-down decision-making and institutionalise participation for women in disaster management. Disasters are contingent and precarious situations. Its solutions are often highly localised and emergent from pre-existing social infrastructure. In recognising the contribution women can make to disaster recovery, we empower them to make a difference to their lives and that of their communities.

Sweta Raghavan – Finalist
Fixing a Broken Promise: Educate a Girl, Educate a Family

Education as a basic right is beyond the reach of an estimated 65 million girls around the world today, and over 50 per cent of them will never enter a classroom. Unsurprisingly, most of them come from the poorest countries and live in conflict affected, marginalised or socially fragile societies.

Having recognised this deficit in equality, the UN’s Global Partnership for Education pledged to enrol more girls into schools and provide quality education. Thus, when the UN Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) was established, it was promised that every girl would be in school by 2015. Today that promise remains unfulfilled.

To improve the availability of quality education to poor and marginalised girls we need to allocate resources and implement effective new policies. Patriarchal culture and political will, or rather the lack of it, have so far prevented girls from reaching a classroom. The parents of these girls play an important role in removing barriers to education. To influence the parents we have to target local decision making. Community leaders who have been successful in mobilising girls into schools or are aware of the issues in their local area must be invited to take part in the policy making process to ensure that the decisions made will benefit the girls in their community.  By empowering these local leaders we would also be sending a strong message to millions of girls around the globe.

Influencing from the top down is not an issue if there is a national political leadership that is committed to fostering an equitable society. Sadly, corruption is common place in most developing and underdeveloped countries where the majority of ‘out-of-school’ girls live. The global leadership, in this case the UNGEI, needs to take up a stronger diplomatic role in these countries. They must seek greater transparency in the implementation of policies and be prepared to ask for accountability of the money given out to improve access to education.

It is important to usher in a culture that combats inequality – an issue which sits at the heart of this problem. As a first step, governments should be lobbied to include gender studies in their national education curriculum. This will help raise a generation who will abandon the archaic perceptions of girls as inferior and sensitise communities on the importance of sending every child, girl or boy, to school.

This is not an impossible task. Bangladesh, with its fractured politics and stunted economy, offers a great example of how it can be achieved. Despite spending only 2.2 per cent of its GDP on education they have made tremendous progress with education equality., This success has been put down, in part, to the removal of social shackles that restrain women. There isn’t a better way to liberate girls and women across the world than to educate them. We must resolve to fix the broken promise and avoid failing another generation of girls.

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