excerpt: Except for lip-service to do away with export subsidies, nothing tangible and date bound is being spelled out. At the same time the thrust on private investment is meant to push the genetically modified food industry into Africa. With Europe refusing to accept GM foods on conditions of human and environment safety, the G-8 leadership is finding ways and means to find a market for the unwanted genetically manipulated food. Africa therefore is the perfect food dump.
Make hunger history
By Devinder Sharma
The New Nation, Jul 17, 2005
Riding on the swelling public opinion about Making Poverty History in Africa, Gleneagles golf resort in Scotland provided the perfect playing ground for the heads of state of the richest countries to sow the seeds of hope for the billions living in abject poverty and destitution. Gleneagles perhaps provided the last opportunity for these leaders to translate into action their 'concern' for the poor and poverty stricken.
The G-8 leaders instead opted to uphold the commercial interests of big business and trans-national corporations. Except for making empty statements about the shameful scourge of poverty and the need to bring ailing Africa back into the fold of economic development, the international community failed to take any significant step towards the cherished goal. The message at the end of the G-8 Summit is very clear: Africa will have to live on hope.
Like thousands of British who had assembled at the meadows in Edinburgh two days before the G-8 Summit officially began at Gleneagles, this writer was amazed at the perseverance, determination and patience of the people who had lined up for a peaceful march snaking its way through the city. Carrying placards, banners and wearing mostly white, they waited for the police to give the thumbs up signal to move. Such was the enthusiasm to make their voice heard that they braved the slow movement of the march. It took us nearly three and a half hours to traverse not more than 100 metres and yet people were clam and cheerful. An estimated 250,000 people took part in the peaceful march.
For the millions who assembled in Edinburgh, the peaceful march was the only democratic way to express their anguish at the faulty global policies exacerbating hunger and poverty. Unfortunately, the world leaders who swear in the name of democracy are the first ones to turn a blind eye to the traditions of democracy once they are in power. Democracy no longer means hearing and protecting the voice of the masses. As the G-8 clearly demonstrates, democracy is all about protecting and strengthening the Stock markets.
President George Bush had made it abundantly clear before he landed at Gleneagles that any agreement on reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to conform to the Kyoto protocol commitments was 'ruled out'. He instead talked about the need to provide clean-up technologies to the new emerging economies like China and India. "Now is the time to get beyond the Kyoto period and develop a strategy forward that is inclusive of the developing nations," he said. What is not good for Corporate America therefore cannot be questioned.
A last minute gesture by Japan provided the G-8 countries a saving grace. Japan agreed to fill up the gap to raise the aid packet to Africa to US $ 50 billion by the year 2010. Like all other policy decisions that emanate from the rich economies this too came with strings attached. "Private enterprise is a prime engine of growth and development," the communique issued at the end of the Summit said. In other words, the G-8 leaders had allowed the private sector to join the Bretton Woods institutions to continue the plunder of Africa. As Peter Hardstaff from the World Development Movement (WDM) summed it up: "Ask not what we can do for the poor, but what the poor can do for us."
Time and again, the emphasis shifted to global trade and investment. More than writing off the outstanding debt (surpassing some US $240 billion for Africa) and providing aid, trade was projected as the right approach to growth. With no commitment to do away with the huge agricultural subsidies being provided by the OECD countries, equal to US $321 billion a year, the development paradigm being suggested for some of the world's poorest countries will only multiply poverty and hunger. Farm subsidies are almost six times of what has been promised through the aid packet for Africa.
Agricultural subsidies depress global prices and enable the food companies to dump highly subsidised farm products on developing countries. For the countries deluged with food imports, importing food is like importing unemployment. The socio-economic fallout adds to poverty and hunger. After all, what is the justification for Europe to produce 200 per cent surplus milk for the next ten years? With countries like India already surplus in milk, and with China not requiring milk for human consumption, the entire surplus is meant for the African countries. The G-8 leaders therefore need to cap agricultural production in their own countries.
Numerous studies have shown how agriculture subsidies are being used to destroy farm livelihoods in the developing countries posing a serious threat to food sovereignty. Except for lip-service to do away with export subsidies, nothing tangible and date bound is being spelled out. At the same time the thrust on private investment is meant to push the genetically modified food industry into Africa. With Europe refusing to accept GM foods on conditions of human and environment safety, the G-8 leadership is finding ways and means to find a market for the unwanted genetically manipulated food. Africa therefore is the perfect food dump.
Such an approach runs counter to achieving food self-sufficiency. What the G-8 leadership refuses to accept is that the only way out of darkness for Africa is to strengthen its agriculture so as to emerge food secure. Africa will have to follow the same approach that the two most populated countries India and China followed in the early 1970s. Both the countries had closed the national borders and provided the right kind of policy mix that enabled farmers to produce more. The rest is history.
If a third of the planet's population could emerge out of starvation and hunger by restructuring domestic policies that ensured food self-sufficiency, Africa too will have to follow the same approach. Never before has such a huge mass of people been lifted out of poverty and hunger without ensuring food self-sufficiency, and never in future the same Herculean task can be accomplished by privatisation and agribusiness. Coupled with the right kind of domestic policies, food self-sufficiency is the only way to Make Hunger History. Once hunger is abolished, poverty too will become history.