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The Worldwide Food Crisis

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30/05/2008 "The worldwide food crisis makes establishing a system of global democratic governance all the more urgent. On the initiative of the World Forum of Civil Society Networks — UBUNTU, we the undersigned wish to express our deep concern and to voice our most forceful protest at having reached this long foreseen and extremely grave situation in such a critical affair as feeding the world's inhabitants. This situation clearly exposes the failure of our present economic system in financial, environmental, cultural and moral terms, the rules of the market having replaced the rule of universal values, and it exposes the condition of vulnerability of our International Organisations, brought about by the absence of support from the most powerful countries. The background: Back in July 2002, in an individual statement by Federico Mayor issued in the context of the UBUNTU Forum in the wake of the Second World Food Summit — one of many milestones on the way to the forthcoming FAO Conference on World Food Security scheduled for June 2008 — the following points were made, among others: There is a situation that demands our attention. 24,000 human beings die from hunger every day, and the Second World Summit failed to establish the necessary measures for the eradication of this silent genocide. Developed countries did not show the political will needed in order to fight the causes. ... How many women, children, and elderly people will die for the decisions not taken? 4,800 million human beings suffer from hunger today. While the most powerful countries increase their investment in arms, military expenses and national security, this significant part of humanity is denied all the resources necessary for survival—including training, knowledge and appropriate technology. While wealthy areas protect their agricultural production with enormous financial resources, poor countries are forced to liberalize their agricultural markets. The International Monetary Fund's adjustment policies and the liberalization of world commerce promoted by the World Trade Organization has resulted in the reduction of trade tariffs and subsidies to farmers in these countries, the claim being that the market should solve its own problems. No nation is exempt from responsibility. It is inadmissible that the moral and political responsibilities of democratic governments be transferred to "the market". A worldwide code of conduct in terms of a legal and ethical framework from a duly reformed United Nations is, for all the above reasons, urgent and imperative. What had been happening, and what has been happening since then? The world population has gone on rising, though somewhat less sharply in recent years, and so the need for food is growing and will continue to grow. Most of the population increase is happening in the south, and that is where most of the demand is now and, therefore, so will be in the future. In this respect: The strong economic growth experienced in some emerging countries has led to a natural and sudden increase in the demand for cereals, together with a rise in the consumption of meat, milk, eggs and other foodstuffs — a rise associated with greater development. This addition to the world demand for cereals means greater pressure on that market, which now clearly and urgently requires worldwide regulation. The unmet rise in demand for food in the south will inevitably lead to more frustration and radicalisation, and prompt further waves of emigration. In any case, the present-day food crisis signifies that the limits on exploiting some of the planet's resources are being encountered, and this serves to confirm the pressing need for radical change in our current unsustainable production and consumption patterns, chiefly in the north. Almost all agriculturally useful land is already being used, and thus only a productivity boost based on "clean" and renewable technologies can make a contribution to increasing agricultural production locally and globally. And yet significant phenomena have arisen in connection with these aspects that are contributing to a worsening of the situation. Over the last few decades, the forces of neoliberal globalisation, overseen by the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, have been pressing southern countries to implement privatisation and deregulation policies for the markets — markets in which they have to compete on wholly unequal terms with the countries of the north (which, for their part, have maintained and are still maintaining their agricultural subsidies, including subsidies for exporting surplus produce); this has severely weakened agricultural systems in the south. On top of the losses in international agricultural exchanges, local subsistence agriculture has also been swept away by this onslaught. The result could not be worse: more local/global hunger. It is time to call the political world to account for having brought about such situations. In connection with another world crisis — the energy crisis — major agricultural producer countries have increasingly been devoting land and non-food agricultural produce for the production of biofuels rather than food. We the undersigned believe that in matters of this kind Humanity should endow itself with global mechanisms for arbitration and decision-making over and above the mechanisms in the hands of individual States, since the policies concerned are extremely sensitive in terms of their likely planet-wide impact. The prices of agricultural produce have risen spectacularly, especially over the last two years, and this has only worsened the situation. The main reasons behind these rises can be summarized as follows: A worldwide energy crisis has emerged, particularly in oil, with very significant knock-on effects on food production and transportation costs. Moreover, for many years now the big oil companies have not just hushed up the effects of excessive consumption on the environment: they have also obstructed in many different ways the emergence of clean, renewable sources for producing energy. In any case, prices will go on rising for as long as agricultural relocation remains part of the globalisation process. The unsustainability of the current world agricultural model is clear. As a collateral effect of the financial crisis, investors are being drawn to the stable agricultural markets, and are making profits through speculative trading in commodity futures: they can sell their holdings later on at higher prices, thanks to the increased demand. The result is more hunger in the world, through agricultural produce rising in price now and in the future. As with the financial crisis, worldwide political regulation to control the global markets is now clearly indispensable. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Faced with this bleak and complex scenario, with its many interrelated factors and uncertainties, we the undersigned believe that only the establishment of a system of Global Democratic Governance can put Humanity in a position to direct its destinies on this planet in a democratic, responsible way, and more specifically to meet its basic food requirements. In line with what we champion at the World Campaign for in-depth Reform of the System of International Institutions, this system must contribute to strengthening the United Nations by refounding the other financial, economic and commercial organizations within the UN, and providing them with the human and financial resources needed to meet the challenges we are now facing. Specifically: The new system must have the capacity to implement global decisions in a truly democratic framework. The production and use of biofuels, the regulation of the various global markets and other such issues cannot go on being subject to decisions taken by individual states or — worse still — by the markets of the richest and most powerful countries. It must give priority, through positive discrimination, to the interests of the poorest and neediest groups on the planet — which means the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Earth. This entails launching a new model, much more local in scale as well as much more sustainable in social, environmental and economic terms, and dealing first with the world's least developed countries in all matters relating to agricultural production and trade. It must spring from an in-depth reform of our present-day International Organizations, on several fronts, including: Putting an end to the ascendancy enjoyed by some international organizations (the ones controlled by the world's richest countries) over others. Thus, in the vital field of food, the policies of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO cannot continue to take precedence over those of the FAO. Giving the relevant bodies of the United Nations — i.e. the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (mainly in those aspects less linked to emergencies) — the coordinating power, the framework of competencies and the human resources needed firstly to tackle the current emergency situations and secondly to implement the policies required in the medium and long term to deal with the underlying problems. Accordingly, advantage must be taken of the fresh opportunity afforded by the Review of the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development to define and implement, in a just manner and without further delay, a system of financing for development that is transparent, predictable and sustainable, and that will enable the development objectives that Humanity desperately requires to be attained." Federico Mayor Adolfo Pérez Esquivel Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mario Soares Susan George Noam Chomsky Desmond Tutu Archbishop Emeritus Wole Soyinca Nobel Prize Laureate Aminata Traoré ASF - African Social Forum Ramesh Singh AAI - Action Aid International Kumi Naidoo Civicus - World Alliance For Citizen Participation Chico Whitaker Right Livelihood Award; Brazilian Commission Justice and Peace Kailash Satyarthi Global March Against Child Labour Cândido Grzybowski IBASE - Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas Roberto Savio IPS - Inter Press Service Alexander Likotal Green Cross International Tomas Magnusson IPB - International Peace Bureau Ricardo Díez Hochleitner Honorary President Club of Rome Gunnar Westberg Past President International Physicians for the Prevention of Nulcear War Herman Spanjaard IPPNW -International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Sara Longwe FEMNET - African Women's Development and Communication Network Fatma Alloo DAWN - Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era Meja Vitalis AFRODAD - African Forum and Network on Debt and Development Janet Mbere MWENGO - Mwelekeo wa NGO Cherdsak Virapat International Ocean Institute Rajesh Tandon PRIA - Participatory Research in Asia Nadia Johnson WEDO - Woman Environment Development Organitzation Aldo Caliari CoC - Center of Concern Lois Barber EarthAction Paul Ortega Pax Romana ICMICA/MIIC Philo Morris Medical Mission Sisters Mohammed Fayek Arab Organization For Human Rights Ziad Abdel Samad Executive Director - Arab NGO Network for Development Mae-anne Llanza APWLD - Asian Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development Lau Kin Chi CSD - China Social Services and Development Research Centre Sean O Siochru CRIS - Communication Rights in Information Society Campaign Marino Busdachin UNPO – Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation Rómulo Torres LATINDADD - Red Latinoamericana sobre Deuda, Desarrollo y Derechos Ernesto Lamas AMARC ALC - Asoc. Mundial Radios Comunitarias - América Latina Caribe Carlos Tünnermann ILAEDES – Instituto Latinoamericano de Educación para el Desarrollo Luz Stella Velásquez Red Latinoamericana de Estudios Ambientales Urbanos Carlos Bedoya Jubileo Perú Martí Olivella Alliance for Responsible, Plural and United World Vicente García CIVICUS - UN representative Roberto Papini Instituto Internazionale Jacques Maritain Francine Mestrum AEDH - Agence européenne pour la défense des droits de l'homme Arcadi Oliveras Justice and Peace Europe Jorge Nieto Centro Internacional para la Cultura Democrática Markus Brun FASTENOPFER Antoni Giró Rector UPC - Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya Richard A. Falk Princeton University; California University Hall Gardner Professor American University of Paris John Trent Professor University of Ottawa Josep Ferrer Professor Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC Ferran Requejo Professor Universitat Pompeu Fabra - UPF Joan Domènec Ros Aragonés Professor Universitat de Barcelona - UB Josep Xercavins UBUNTU Forum Ad Hoc Secretariat, professor UPC

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