South Centre Bulletin
South Bulletin 113
31 October 2005
The focus of this issue of the South Bulletin is on Hunger
In this Issue:
Hunger is an Emergency Lula
"Hunger is not an economic problem, or a problem of food production, or a technological problem. It is a political problem. We have to transform hunger into a political issue and raise it in our meetings, particularly with the rich countries." President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil urges the world to take hunger more seriously.
Hunger a Global Political Problem Chávez
It is a real affront to the human species and the most brutal expression of the savagery of the present world order that, every night, 300 million children go to bed feeling hungry; that every 3.6 seconds someone, at some place in the world, dies from the effects of hunger; and that, each year, 6 million children die before reaching the age of 5 due to malnutrition. President Hugo Chávez says hunger is not being accorded the political priority it deserves.
Hong Kong Ministerial A Test of Commitment on Agriculture - Mugabe
The forthcoming World Trade Organization ministerial meeting, to be held in Hong Kong in December 2005, provides developing countries with the opportunity to translate words into action regarding our commitment to developing agriculture. "It puts our collective political will to the test," says President Robert G. Mugabe. "However, in a more specific way, it challenges the resolve of the developed countries to substantially reduce, if not totally eliminate, trade distorting export subsidies and credits, as well as domestic supports."
Creating the UN of the 21st Century
"The United Nations does not pretend to create paradise on earth, but it tries to make the world a better place, and prevent bad situations from getting worse." Speaking on the above topic in Geneva on 21 October, the UN Under-Secretary General for information, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, noted that today the UN itself does more than any other single organization in the world to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the globe.
FAO to Undertake Reform Programme
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is to embark on a programme of reform so as to play an increasingly effective role in hunger eradication, in the development of sustainable agriculture, in food safety, in the control of transboundary plant and animal pests and diseases, and in the negotiation of a more equitable regime of trade for agricultural commodities. Director-General Jacques Diouf elaborates.
More in this issue
NAM Information Ministers To Meet After 8-year Gap
Cosmetic Concessions by the US-EU in Agri Trade Talks
The U.S. WTO Agriculture Proposal of 10 October, 2005
The Politics of Farm Technologies
Rice in a Private Grip
GMO Technology & Farmers Interest in India
South Centre News
Hunger is an Emergency Lula
"Hunger is not an economic problem, or a problem of food production, or a technological problem. It is a political problem. We have to transform hunger into a political issue and raise it in our meetings, particularly with the rich countries." Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate the 60th anniversary the of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome on 17 October 2005, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil urged the world to take hunger more seriously. "It is not enough to distribute food," he said. "The small farmer must be able to sell his products because we must keep in mind that some 10 per cent of the Brazilian GDP comes from family-based agriculture. It is responsible for the production of our staple food crops such as beans, cassava, corn and milk. We are therefore carrying forward a wide programme of agrarian reform." Following is an unofficial translation of President Lulas address.
"FAO was created the same year as the UN a fact that is not just mere coincidence. A world of peace and security cannot be dissociated from efforts to guarantee total access to the most fundamental human right the right to food.
Brazil has contributed to the FAO in the past 60 years. Josue de Castro, geographer and a great thinker about the hunger issue, has made a noticeable contribution as President of the FAO Council. We were inspired by him when we conceived the main programme of public policy of my government the Zero Hunger project. We have started from the assumption that in Brazil there is no problem of food availability. There is, instead, a problem of access to food.
Hunger is a synonym of unemployment, lack of income, education, health, and decent life conditions for hundreds of millions of Brazilians, and for millions of others around the world. It is also a problem that relates to lack of policies on food security.
In a nutshell, hunger in Brazil above all, is a problem of social exclusion. I can testify to this because I have learnt about this harsh reality in the most difficult way - that is, living it.
The programme Zero Hunger acknowledges the emergency character of the fight against hunger. In a joint effort, food is distributed to the camps of the landless, to indigenous peoples, and to camps of erstwhile slaves (kuilombolas). Food rations are also distributed to children in public schools.
However, Zero Hunger seeks in addition, a change in the structural factors that lead to hunger. For that reason, we have put emphasis on agrarian reforms in support of family agriculture, in the democratization of the access to land, in credit, in technical assistance to and marketing of agricultural products.
Millions of families receive financial support from the government in so far as they keep their children in school and bring them to public health centres.
So far, we have ensured a minimum income to 7.7 million families. Until the end of 2006, our goal is to reach all families below the poverty line in our country. The national programme to feed school children today distributes 36 million rations a day now also reaching children from kindergarten. Its value, which had stagnated for over a decade, has risen 38 per cent over the 34 months since my government took over.
It is not enough to distribute food. The small farmer must be able to sell his products because we must keep in mind that some 10 per cent of the Brazilian GDP comes from family-based agriculture. It is responsible for the production of our staple food crops such as beans, cassava, corn and milk. We are therefore carrying forward a wide programme of agrarian reform.
The national programme for the financing of family based agriculture has received only this year 9 billion Real benefiting 2 million families this year. In addition to reaching record numbers, it is essential to ensure the basic needs of families who have received re-distributed land. For that reason, we focus our governmental actions on rural infrastructure, marketing of production, health and education.
The overall budget of the Zero Hunger programme has increased by 82 per cent in one year, reaching approximately $ 5 billion. Never has any government in my country invested so much in fighting hunger. We will continue to increase the resources until every Brazilian eats at least three times a day. This is a commitment that I have taken before taking office and I will push it with maximum effort.
The fight against hunger and poverty are today at the core of the international agenda. This has been made possible because many of us engaged in this fight. Governments and civil society organizations have made this issue a political issue taking it beyond the confines of mere statistics.
In a joint effort with colleagues from France, Chile and Spain, I have promoted in September of last year in New York - a meeting of world leaders for an action against poverty and hunger. The objective of the initiative is to seek additional resources to finance development and to fight hunger and poverty through new and creative instruments.
Around 60 heads of state and more than 100 delegations attended the meeting in New York. Since then, many things have happened. The issue of Financing for Development has been highlighted in the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, and also in meetings of the G-8 such as the last one held in Scotland. It is a valuable contribution to achieving may be the most ambitious Millennium Goal to reduce the level of poverty by half by 2015. I am convinced that this is possible.
The resources of official development aid must be increased. We know, however, that in the short and medium term, they will continue to be insufficient. We need a renewed partnership between governments, private sector and civil society to overcome the current deficit in the financing for development. We are taking concrete steps in this direction.
Together with our partners, particularly France, Chile, Spain and Germany, we have developed a pilot project based on the application of a small tax on international air travel. We are also examining measures that may facilitate and reduce the cost of remittances made by citizens to their countries of origin. These are important resources estimated to be in dozens of billions of dollars that can help generate income and employment.
We seek instruments that would, in a sustainable and predictable manner, complement the traditional flows of official development assistance. The objective is to make beneficiary countries develop sustainably and one day be able to forego external aid and walk with their own legs!
The mechanisms that we propose do not reduce the importance of fair and equitable multilateral trading system. The amount of resources spent on agricultural subsidies is equivalent to six times the additional amount needed each year to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This has to change.
The phase-out of agricultural subsidies is without doubt the key for the success of the WTO Doha Round. Thus, we welcome the European and United States initiative to reduce the total amount of their export subsidies. Although the amounts announced are still not sufficient, it is a gesture of good faith that must be recognized.
We have to focus our efforts so that a share of the wealth generated by globalization is diverted in favour of the poorest countries. As I have repeatedly said, there cannot be peace and security in a world where one billion people have nothing to eat.
On the 11 October, before coming to Europe, I had forwarded to the national Congress of Brazil a Bill on Food Security, following voluntary guidelines on the right to food.
We are hereby inviting State and municipal authorities to join up in the initiative, and thus give an opportunity to those serving the pubic to express their commitment to this right (to food) which is basically the right to live.
At the regional level, one of the outcomes of the Latin American Conference on Chronic Hunger, held in Guatemala City a few weeks ago, was the launch of the Initiative for a Hunger-Free Latin America.
As a sign of the importance we accord to the civil society in the fight against hunger, we have chosen Porto Alegre to host the FAO international conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in March 2006. It is a tribute to the city that has three times hosted the World Social Forum - a city that embodies the idea that another world is possible.
This is another form of expressing our efforts to incorporate food security in the international agenda. We have to give a strategic meaning to food production, especially that from small farmers. Despite the relevance of the work undertaken by the FAO and other organisations engaged in the fight against hunger, there is still a lot to be done to eradicate this scourge from the world.
Hunger continues to kill many people. When it does not kill, it causes diseases that compromise the development of children, women and men.
In a world of high technology and abundance, it is unacceptable that hunger is still present in the life of millions of men, women, and children.
We have to make international solidarity an emergency. We have to make the fight against poverty and hunger a political commitment and a life project. The FAO has a central role in these efforts. We will continue to be engaged in the strengthening of this organization and in its democratic practices.
I want to express in the name of the Brazilian people our wishes of great success to the FAO and of renewed support to its Director General, my dear friend Jacques Diouf. I wish long life to the Organisation and hope that we will be remembered as the men and women who mustered efforts to make hunger something of the past.
I wish to conclude by saying that hunger is not an economic problem, or a problem of food production, or a technological problem. It is a political problem. We have to transform hunger into a political issue and raise it in our meetings, particularly with the rich countries. At the same time, we poor countries must also give examples of honesty and ethics so that we deserve the solidarity of millions of people who sometimes fear that their contribution will not reach the ends for which they were donated."
Hunger a Global Political Problem - Chávez
It is a real affront to the human species and the most brutal expression of the savagery of the present world order that, every night, 300 million children go to bed feeling hungry; that every 3.6 seconds someone, at some place in the world, dies from the effects of hunger; and that, each year, 6 million children die before reaching the age of 5 due to malnutrition. In an impassioned address before the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome on 17October, 2005, the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, said hunger was not being accorded the political priority that it deserves. Under the present world order, with its neo-liberal and imperialist tendencies, the situation is not likely to improve. In fact, it could get worse, he said, citing growing threats from climate change, unfair trade conditions, massive agriculture subsidies in the North, among other contributing factors.
Following is an unofficial translation of President Chávezs address.
"I would like to begin by recalling someone who President Lula referred to, in his extraordinary words - an eminent Brazilian named Josué de Castro - who chaired the FAO Council from 1951 to 1955. I quote from that incomparable and yet unsurpassed book called Geografia del Hambre, of 1946. They are words that seem to have been written almost last night because the reality described is Brazils reality. But it is also the same reality of any country of the South. He wrote of the world, of South and North, to reflect and to take action. Josué de Castro said: "Hunger is only the expression, the darkest and most tragic expression of economic underdevelopment, expression that will only disappear along with the generalized impoverishment that determines it. Public authorities should condition development and direct it towards well defined objectives, the first of which should be food emancipation for the people. Public authorities should also ensure that our economies are aimed at social welfare." End of quote.
I take advantage of Josué de Castros quotation and the inspiration that moves us to congratulate colleague President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and the people of Brazil and all those in South America, Latin America and the Caribbean. I remember, Lula, your statement of January 1st, 2003, in Brasilia. You said that you would be happy the day that all Brazilians could have breakfast, lunch and dinner! I know that you will be able to accomplish it and we will accomplish it - no matter what.
Under the neo-liberal globalization and global colonialism, the only thing growing is economic underdevelopment. This determines our incapacity to solve the hunger problem. Only by breaking this domination logic, can we be able to find Josué de Castros path. This is a real political problem. It is a huge political problem. Without the intervention of public authorities, of politics, it will be close to impossible.
Food emancipation and collective social welfare depend on our capacity of define our own way, radically different. From Venezuela, we tell the dominant economic model that it is impossible to achieve the (socially desirable) goals with that economic model.
Director General, Excellencies and Friends, that is a political problem.
FAOs path in these 60 years has been difficult and rough. Its fundamental objective of contributing to expand the world economy and freeing humanity from hunger is far from being achieved. Jacques Diouf commented on, and I asked him, "How much is FAOs budget?"
Let us reflect on this - to acknowledge that this is a political problem. FAOs regular budget and voluntary contributions do not even amount to one billion US$ a year, not even $900 million, while subsidies granted by developed countries to support their agricultural production came to one billion US$ a day.
In a day, more is invested on subsidies than all what FAO has to invest in a year.
To compare with other data, next year, Latin America and Caribbean countries will have to transfer net resources to the North an amount of US $170 billion, even though we already paid our external debt. Or to have another data, Washington just announced the defence and military budget of the United States, some US$ 500 billion.
That can be enough to finance FAO for 500 years and more - just to see the magnitude of the problem and to what Lula Da Silva referred to - it is a global political problem.
Only a month ago, when we celebrated United Nations 60th anniversary and we assessed the very modest goals that we proposed 5 years ago, in the Millennium Summit, I said then, that the objective of eliminating by 50 per cent the 800 million hungry people by 2015, at the existing rhythm, would only be possible to achieve in 200 years.
That is, if the human species can survive the destruction that threatens the environment. We all know that the poor and the hungry will continue to grow and none here present, even if they are very optimistic, could be able to guarantee that humanity will be able to survive this tragedy. I want to make use of this invitation, which I highly appreciate Director General, to insist on this issue - the survival of the human species is in danger. There are not just scientific theories - we have seen the alarming effects. I want to call, on behalf of the people of Venezuela, to reflect on this.
Not long ago, Noam Chomsky wrote a new book, a brilliant new thesis - like every other of his thesis that, from my point of view, that good philosopher and North American intellectual writes. The title itself reflects the huge dilemma Hegemony or survival. Global warming, tell me about the hurricanes that now slash us in the Caribbean, wicked hurricanes with the strength of hundred, thousand atomic bombs, what are they the product of? The Caribbean waters and the ocean are warming. The polar ice caps are melting, see the pictures, the pictures of the Artic ocean are on the internet, giant blocks of ice that were solid for centuries are becoming apart. The planet is warming too much. It seems to be that in the Mars, traces of water have been found. Did the Mars have life? Why not? Gods hands are capable. Maybe in Mars they followed the guidelines of some Martian Monetary Fund and they ended that planets life.
We are ruining the planet. The civilization model that is wished to be imposed on us is contrary to Gods law. And it is sought to be imposed on us by interventions, threats, with violence. I accuse, here, the American empire of being the first threat to the survival of our present world.
It is a real threat to the life of the planet. In our reflections, we ask God to give us light, will and courage to save, not our lives, but the lives of the future generation, in the coming centuries. "Similar panorama, I continue to read, "results, particularly excruciating and inexplicable when technological and scientific advancement have been achieved, that if the have been used rationally and fairly, they could have eradicated hunger and poverty, they could have impeded the death of 11 million children, every year. It would have been possible, already in the 20th century, to teach to read and write to 876 million people, who, today lack these abilities and to guarantee basic education for the 114 million children that do not receive it today.
It is a real affront to the human species and the most brutal expression of the savagery of the present world order that, every night, 300 million children go to bed feeling hungry; that every 3.6 seconds (according to statistics) someone, at some place in the world, dies from the effects of hunger; and that, each year, 6 million children die before reaching the age of 5 due to malnutrition. Where do they want to take our nations? To sink, each time all the more, to exploitation and poverty.
Agriculture continues to be a key sector for most countries since it is the source of food production, employment creation and foreign currency. Nevertheless, the growth rate of the world agricultural population has been steadily decreasing since the 1960s; and FAO informs us that this will continue, at least, until 2010. While this happens, populations are becoming more numerous.
Peasant families have been deprived of their lands, their source of production, leaving agriculture producers excluded and hopeless. Neither national production nor trade of agricultural products is encouraged. On the contrary, power exercised by multinational food companies; production and trade subsidies in developed countries; the unfair distribution of land; unfavourable trade conditions and the high tariffs levied on products from developing countries have been encouraged.
Not long ago, a Caribbean Head of State told me that they have a banana production which gave employment to his people and gave them, until some years ago, US $120 or US $150 million as revenues. Now, due to WTO decisions, which are mechanisms of imperialism to secure the dominance of the powerful - like the IMF and many other institutions they need to be dismantled and created anew if we want to safe our lives on the planet. The WTO took decisions and that country no longer receives US $120 or 150 million as revenue from its banana production. It does not have a client to sell its banana. Now it receives US $10 million. There is growing incidence of hunger, poverty, misery and deaths in our countries of the developing world especially.
Due to protectionism and agricultural subsidies (by the North), developing countries lose US $24 billion a year. It is the same protectionist policy, applied to other world trade areas, that is at the origin of yearly losses of US$ 100 billion in the Developing World. This is the capitalist, imperialist and hegemonic economic order. This is the order that we, from Venezuela, would like to see end if we want to eliminate hunger and misery. That US$ 100,000 that third world counties lose because of subsidies and protectionism is double of what we receive as official aid for development.
Pollution and climate change, which historically have been the responsibility of the rich countries, destroys nature and undermines the productive capacity of the earth. Two thousand million hectares have been affected by erosion and salinity in the last 50 years. The world is becoming a dessert or it has intense rains, longer droughts or more violent hurricanes. These were less frequent 20 years ago. Nevertheless, the country that most pollutes the environment, that consumes 25% of energy, dedicates more than US$ 450 billion to make wars and send missiles to any corner of the planet, among other military expenses. It does not want to ratify Kyoto Protocol. It is an example of paradox that it offers itself as the self-styled symbol of human rights, democracy and individual liberties.
Excellencies, Director General, a revolution is taking place in Venezuela. The Bolivarian Revolution is making efforts and people have taken out their old anti imperialist flags. The anti-colonialists and the Bolivarian Government, pushed by the people, have dedicated a great amount or resources and energy to promote agricultural production and to improve the nutrition of low-income population. We are fighting against land-holding, which is not even a sign of the capitalist model but its precedent - feudalism. There is still feudalism in Latin America, properties of 100,000 hectares belonging to one person or a family. An important percentage of these lands are uncultivated, which leave the peasantry in absolute poverty.
We are engaged in a revolution to redistribute land and to give them to peasantry who have not had even one hectare to cultivate. And we have taken a series of measures that I will not detail here, to bring a fundamental change to the existing structures of domination and imperialism, which has made our Government to become part of the Axis of evil as described by the United States. They have organized coups detat, economic sabotage, terrorism, even a high official from one of the north American religious groups and personal adviser to President Bush, called for my assassination, because it will be cheaper to assassinate me than to make war against Venezuela.
This is open terrorism. The invasion of Iraq with that tale of weapons of massive destruction that never existed, and the massacre of people in Iraq. His Holiness, John Paul II - may God be with him called it "An immoral, unfair and illegal war," but they keep bombarding those towns, destroying cities and the world cannot help it, at least we cannot help it. I believe we cannot shut our mouths because it will be like death - to stay silent before this abuse. We have to raise the voice of peoples dignity, to ask for respect to the peoples dignity, the sovereignty of the people, peace, justice and life. Enough of imperialism! Enough abuses of the powerful against the weak.
Two thousand years ago came Christ I as Christian, catholic invoke him in this eternal city - to announce the kingdom of God between us, and the Kingdom of God is one of equity and liberty. We recall, too, some days ago, sociologist Jean Ziegler, who was named United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. In 2002, he came out with facts and conclusions, like the ones that Im going to give you, so we can see that there are resources in the world to solve this problem, which I insist, is a political problem.
Ziegler said: "Hunger and malnutrition still condemn millions of people to underdevelopment and death ... this silent massacre happens in a world richer than ever before and which already produces more than enough food to feed the global population. It is intolerable that we let a child under 10 years die every seven seconds in some part of the world from the direct or indirect effects of hunger. (End of Jean Zieglers quotation).
Food is a right. Complete consciousness is lacking to know that this is a battle for human survival and that political will needs to be implemented as soon as possible to be successful in our battle against this deadly scourge.
What will be ideal is to win this consciousness by attacking this evil from its roots - changing the existing international economic order, which I recalled last September, in the United Nations, was adopted 31 years. In the United Nations, 31 years ago, it was approved by vote in the General Assembly and was called "the New World Economic Order". But then, it was saved in a drawer and it was never established. We could have well advanced so much in the last three decades if the new global economic order was implemented and most of all, by the ones that have more power in this planet had they contributed with efforts, will and consciousness to change the dominant economic order. But that did not happen.
Now, let us not be pessimistic. This is useful to gain consciousness. Neither can we write songs far from reality. We have to recognize reality and then transform it, and go further. The knowledge of reality, the consciousness, said Victor Hugo in "Les Misserables" - consciousness is not the sum of science, but knowledge. That is why the statistics from the United Nations, one of the most respected organizations, are so important to give us consciousness. What can we save from the planet and live? I do believe it, I am optimistic every day, and every day more, most of all, of young people. I do not have anything against the ones that are older than 50 or 60, or those who have white hair - no, it is just that young people that are growing today feel that something rare is going on, something new. Jean Paul Sartre was right when he said "Only the youth has the necessary passion and purity to make revolutions." And I believe that we need a huge revolution in the world, as President Duarte called it: the first of those revolutions is a moral one - a new ethic is needed in the planet, a new morality is needed in the planet.
From Venezuela, we have called for a debate on socialism for the 21st century and no one has to be frightened. We have to be frightened of capitalism, is it not so, sir? The first capitalist of our era was Judas Iscariote, who sold Christ for some money. Capitalism sells the master, sells its mother, and sells its country for some money. And I believe, as did the first socialist of our era, Christ: "Love each other." We are all equal in the kingdom of equality, the kingdom of justice; we will have peace only with the path of socialism, a new, fresh and dynamic socialism to save this planet. I do believe it.
We propose the creation of the International Humanitarian Fund. Lula has made some interesting proposals. Venezuela is at the disposal of every one to support this kind of effort, all FAOs plans, programs that are born in Latin America, and in MERCOSUR, now that Venezuela is a Member in MERCOSUR with Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. We will join these programs to contribute to the development of global population. Pay attention, a Humanitarian Fund, we say, it can be made up of a percentage of the external debt that I was talking about a moment ago. We have already paid that debt.
Latin America has paid the double of what the original debt was. And we have, now, a five times higher debt than that one and it is increasing. This is terrible. We owe, now, US$ 800 billion and every year it is $170 billion. We will not be able to pay it. Fidel Castro once said: `"it is an eternal debt, not external but eternal." An eternal debt!
Now, look at Lula. He is right, that it is all a political problem. I call on the Heads of State of countries of the South, let us join efforts and on behalf of millions, and most of all, those who starve to death, let us demand a stop to it. But not by each one of us wanting to pay separately and looking for advantages. This could be done through a club of debtors, for example. We could demand the world a moratorium, not of one day for another - because that can impact the world economy. No, we could establish, Lula, a period of grace.
For how long will they charge us for the same debt? And most of all, now that the United States, the kingdom of the dollar is weakening, and the fiscal deficit of the U.S. is close to US $ 500 billion and their trade deficit is around US $ 600 billion. This will oblige us to raise the interest rates of the dollar. They raise their interest rate and our debts increase.
And what we paid in 10 years - it gets accumulated in one day. That is evil I say. Is it a political problem? Of course, it is political. Let us take decisions. Are they going to invade us all? Well, that is another problem. 20 or 30 South countries can join efforts. Venezuela raises her hand. For now, only we do that.
I remember that Peruvian government that took a decision. Do you remember? A Peruvian government, a decade ago, took the decision of paying (back in debts) only a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product. Well, every one came against him and he was demonized. But if you follow the Monetary Funds guidelines, you receive applauses!
Mugabe, if you, direct a process to recuperate land for your people, then you are a demon. There is Mugabe and he has been demonized. I greet Mugabe and the people of Zimbabwe, because they are fighting for justice. Black and white people have the same rights to land, work and to live. The external debt, how much we would be able to do if we direct a percentage of our external debt to the Humanitarian Fund, so we can act quickly against hunger, to produce food and distribute them. Or have a special tax for huge international financial transactions.
There have been discussions about this but there is not the will to impose it. FAO, as Jacques Diouf told me, has hundreds of projects to build wells and find water, and irrigation systems for Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and Asia. But they do not have resources to develop them - land distribution, irrigation systems, seeds, credits, agricultural machinery. We could achieve so much in a year! In a year! If they allow us a period of grace, for a year, or if we reduce the military expenses to zero, so everyone could say "Look, this year, we will not make missiles, not a bullet and all this money will go to fight hunger."
Only with the United States´ budget, we would have $500 billion, which, friends, is a significant amount. We can and we are obliged to fight these scourges such as hunger, poverty and misery.
Let us put all our energy into fighting for the survival of the world which we inhabit and for the progress and well being of its entire people. I deeply believe in the power of humanity and in its capacity to change course. I strongly believe in Gods enlightenment and in Christs inspiration.
Last night, we arrived in Rome, with a beautiful full moon. We came from Santiago de Compostela, that lovely and holy city, where the remains of Santiago, one of Christs favourites, lies. A beautiful full moon in Rome and we went directly to the Sacred Mountain, a hill where 200 years ago came a young Venezuelan. He was 22 years old but he suffered since he was a kid. He lost his parents and then he became widowed. He was very rich, one of the richest young man of the Spanish America. He came to Europe and he absorbed all the revolutionary ideas of the French Revolution and he spearheaded those three lights that still illuminate, today, the hope of people: equity, liberty and fraternity.
One day, Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, came not from Venezuela but from the American continent. He guides our revolution, alive in the heart and soul of the Venezuelan people. Nearby, he swore, he pronounced an oath. He said that he swore in front of God, his friends, his master for the honour of his Land not to take even a breath until he break the chains that oppressed the Venezuelans because of the Spanish imperial power.
Today, please allow me, inspired by Bolivar, who gave his life for Venezuela, whom accomplished his oath 25 years after the oath pronounced in the Sacred Mountain and who died in the Colombian Caribbean coasts without a penny. He even managed to say it: "Jesus Christ, Don Quixote and I: three greatest fools of history. But he left a country and he left a path, a light.
The Bolivarian people salute this meeting, salute FAO and engage the commitment of my country to search for paths of light, hope and life. As Bolivar said, let us work very hard until the future of humanity is safe. Long live life! Long live peace. Thank you very much."
Hong Kong Ministerial A Test of Commitment on Agriculture - Mugabe
The forthcoming World Trade Organization ministerial meeting, to be held in Hong Kong in December 2005, provides developing countries with the opportunity to translate words into action regarding our commitment to developing agriculture. Addressing the 60th anniversary celebration of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome on 17 October, 2005, President Robert G. Mugabe of Zimbabwe said, "It puts our collective political will to the test. However, in a more specific way, it challenges the resolve of the developed countries to substantially reduce, if not totally eliminate, trade distorting export subsidies and credits, as well as domestic supports." Subsidized agricultural production in developed countries has had a crippling effect on the development of agriculture in developing countries, he pointed out. Following is the prepared text of his address.
"We meet to celebrate a historic landmark in mankinds history, the 60th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. We however do so with still fresh memories of the challenges that have characterized this year, which has seen disasters, conflicts and various crises affecting vulnerable communities. It has been a year of thousands of victims of the South East Asian Earthquake, the Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, subsequent hurricanes in South America, and the millions threatened by drought-induced starvation in sub-Saharan Africa. Add to these natural disasters the recent tragic earthquake devastation in Pakistan and Kashmir - claiming upwards of 38 million deaths. Then there are those who have faced terror, violence, and conflict in different parts of the world. What a year and what human loss!
Mr. Chairman, our meeting here is meant to remind us of the shared obligation we have to fight the root causes of hunger and poverty. None of us, neither man nor country, is an island, insulated from the threats and challenges of the 21st century.
In the case of Africa, where the majority of our population lives in the rural areas, there is no doubt that investment in sustainable agricultural production should be the centrepiece of providing food and employment, both critical components in the in the fight against hunger and poverty.
Mr. President, it is for this reason that in 2004, the African Union Assembly agreed to implement NEPADs Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) which commits our governments to allocate at least 10 per cent of our national budgetary resources to agriculture within 5 years. In this regard, I am happy to report that five years ago, the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe embarked on a Land Reform Programme that not only is an economically empowerment programme of its people, redressing the past gross imbalances in land ownership which were institutionalized by British colonialism, but it is also the provision of a wealth-creating resource. The Constitutional Amendment we have recently adopted has now brought finality to the previously long-protracted legal process of land acquisition and provided greater clarity to the question of land tenure. In turn, this should guarantee greater security to the new farmers.
As a result of our Land Reform Programme, my government has been allocating substantial budgetary resources to agriculture, directed at the provision of crop and input support, tillage, mechanization and dam construction.
In response to food insecurity arising from persistent droughts, my government is now focusing on the establishment of irrigation schemes in all the countrys provinces based on existing dams and other water resources and those planned for the future. We are also investing in training and the provision of agricultural extension services. At the same time, we are investing in research and development towards the application of more scientific methods in improved agricultural production, processing and marketing. We are committed to achieving high quality standards in our production cycles including the area of food safety.
I wish to take this opportunity, Mr. President, of thanking the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization for convening the Regional Conference on Food Safety for Africa, which I had the pleasure of officially opening in Harare on the 3 rd of October 2005. If implemented, the recommendations arising from that conference will go a long way in the development of Africas agricultural and agro-industrial production.
Mr. President, the forthcoming World Trade Organization ministerial meeting, to be held in Hong Kong in December 2005, provides developing countries with the opportunity to translate words into action regarding our commitment to developing agriculture. It puts our collective political will to the test. However, in a more specific way, it challenges the resolve of the developed countries to substantially reduce, if not totally eliminate, trade distorting export subsidies and credits, as well as domestic supports. As we are all aware, subsidized agricultural production in developed countries has had a crippling effect on the development of agriculture in developing countries.
Mr. President, climate change has a great impact on agricultural production and food security. A recent study by the Food and Agricultural Organisation has concluded that food security in sub-Saharan Africa is progressively being adversely affected by climate change. The unrelenting recurrence of droughts and floods has affected not only production systems but also wreaked havoc on vital transport and communications infrastructure, often straining to the limit, the capacity of most developing countries to cope with such emergencies and humanitarian disasters. While I commend the response of the international community to these disasters, let me also note that there have been very unfortunate instances where the provision of humanitarian assistance has been politicized, often on the basis of ideology, race or religion.
We need an urgent multilateral response to address the challenges of climate change. In this regard, we call upon all countries, especially the developed ones, to accede to the relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements and to meet their obligations as well as the full implementation of the Action Plan of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. We also need to depoliticize the provision of international humanitarian assistance.
Mr. President, another challenge to sustainable agricultural production and food security, particularly in Africa, is HIV/AIDS. This pandemic has affected mostly the productive age groups, thereby depriving the agriculture sector of vital skills, expertise and labour. There is still need for a comprehensive and robust global response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic so as to promote greater access to affordable anti-retroviral drugs as well as balanced nutrition. The world should respond to the HIV/AIDS menace with the same zeal, resolve and resources as we have deployed on the war against terror.
Mr. President, let me conclude by acknowledging the central role that the Food and Agriculture Organisation has played and continues to play in promoting sustainable responsible agricultural policies and practices. There is no doubt that a well-resourced Food and Agriculture Organisation can play a critical role towards the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals, especially Goal 1, which challenges us to halve absolute poverty and hunger by 2015, and Goal 7 on ensuring environmental sustainability. Let me pay particular tribute to the Food and Agriculture Organisation Director General, Mr. Jacques Diouf, for his leadership and the passion with which he has executed his mandate. He is indeed most deserving of our continued cooperation and support.
As the Food and Agriculture Organisation celebrates its 60th anniversary, let our countries recommit themselves to the development of agriculture as a core activity in our pursuit of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Zimbabwe is indeed committed to maintaining and enhancing its cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organisation. As a member of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, we will continue to play an active role in the Organisation and to work tirelessly towards its continued success.
I thank you."
Creating the UN of the 21st Century
"The United Nations does not pretend to create paradise on earth, but it tries to make the world a better place, and prevent bad situations from getting worse." Speaking on the above topic in Geneva on 21 October, the UN Under-Secretary General for information, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, noted that today the UN itself does more than any other single organization in the world to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the globe. "I am not pretending that the United Nations is perfect," he said. "Far from it, we make mistakes, we stumble." He quoted the second Secretary-General Dag Hammersjold, "the United Nations was not created to take humanity to heaven, but to save it from hell" and said "And that it has done innumerable times." Following are Mr. Tharoors views as presented during a conference on "The United Nations and the Future" organised by the World Federation of United Nations Associations.
"Let me begin by thanking WFUNA, and particularly Bruna Faidutti, for arranging this very important event. I think it is highly appropriate that we discuss the UNs future under the auspices of one of our oldest and strongest civil society partners. Civil society has, after all, done much to drive the international agenda since the foundation of the UN, and even before. My thanks are also due to my UN colleague, Under-Secretary-General Sergei Ordzhonikidze, and his staff, for hosting us today.
And it is very apt that we have this discussion in the city that was home to the first great attempt to build a world organization. I trust that the spirits of Sir Eric Drummond and Joseph Avenol, and perhaps even Woodrow Wilson himself looking down and seeing us meeting here in the UNs 60th year and talking energetically about the future will feel that their faith in the power of international cooperation has somewhat belatedly been vindicated.
It is, of course, our 60th Anniversary, but it is also the 400th anniversary of the great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. One of the wonderful things about Cervantes is that you can find in his work an aphorism to suit almost any state of mind, or any occasion. This seems the right occasion to recall Don Quixotes optimism. I like the line that is translated into English as "There is no greater folly in the world than despair."
I like it because I am, by inclination and by profession, an optimist. I fear, however, that most of those who work in that most noble of fields journalism -- are, at least by profession, pessimiists. Mind you, my definition of an optimist is someone who regards the future with uncertainty. Where the pessimist sees things as bad and getting worse, the optimist says they just might be good and could perhaps get better.
Perhaps it is that innate pessimism that led many media commentators with some notable exceptions to present a "glass half empty" assessment of the outcome of the World Summit held at UN headquarters a little over a month ago. The Economist described the outcome document as "full of fudges and omissions", but "better than nothing" hardly a ringing endorsement! The US daily Newsdays headline ran "UN reforms inconsequential; Theyre a symbol of all thats wrong." Argentinas Clarin called the outcome a "disappointing document." In my own country, India, The Statesman headed its editorial "Cant change at 60". And the Gulf News called it "Nothing to get too excited about."
Perhaps needless to say, my own view is a little different. But let me begin by stating unequivocally, as Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose ideas inspired the event, himself said in his address to the assembled dignitaries in the General Assembly Hall, "we did not achieve everything." Indeed, there are several serious and important gaps in the document most notable, perhaps, its failure to redress the international communitys stalemate on disarmament and proliferation issues, and the disappointing absence of a clearly accepted definition of terrorism. I am sure we can all point to one or two
But the Summit was about reforming the international system, of which the UN is the linchpin, to equip it face the challenges of the twenty-first century. As Mahatma Gandhi put it, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." The UN is all about trying to change the world to make it a better place. And it is no exception to Gandhis dictum. To change the world, we must change too. And the Summit outcome document sets the stage for many of the changes that are needed.
Now for a United Nations official to discuss reform of the international system is rather like an Englishman talking about the weather -- we do it all the time, it is a staple of daily conversation, although it sometimes seems that real change is always a little over the horizon. I rather shudder to think how many of my predecessors and colleagues have stood in these very halls and used the term "reform".
United Nations reform has a long pedigree. You all know, I am sure, that the UN was founded in 1945, but you may not know that the first discussions of reform began in the General Assembly in 1946, and whats more -- the first debate about UN reform in the United States legislature took place at around the same. These discussions have continued in fits and starts ever since.
Indeed, when Kofi Annan was elected Secretary-General in 1997 reform was already very much a byword. Undaunted, he embarked upon a major process of reform that was widely applauded within the UN Secretariat and by Member States. But at the time he was wise enough to say that "reform is a process, not an event."
And that it is. Some reforms are revolutionary, but most come by increments, and are only truly visible over time. But I want to say that, as a long-serving UN official I am conscious of how much the United Nations has changed since I joined the Organization some 27 years ago.
If I had suggested to my seniors at that time that the UN would one day observe and even run elections in sovereign states, conduct intrusive inspections for weapons of mass destruction in a sovereign State, impose comprehensive sanctions on the entire import-export trade of a Member State, or set up international criminal tribunals and coerce governments into handing over their citizens to be tried by foreigners under international law, I am sure they would have told me that I simply did not understand what the United Nations was all about.
And yet in my twenty-seven years the UN has done every one of those things during the last two decades, and more: it has administered territory, conducted huge multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations with nearly 80,000 soldiers in the field at one time, and deployed human rights monitors to report on the behaviour of sovereign governments. The United Nations, in short, has been a highly adaptable institution that has evolved in response to changing times.
Some of the new reform imperatives that world leaders faced at the Summit, and perhaps the impetus to tackle them, can be traced back to the divisions over the Iraq war. In the summer of 2003, a poll conducted by the Pew Organization in 20 countries around the world revealed that the UNs standing had gone down in all 20. It had gone down in the US because the UN did not agree to support the US Administration on the war, but it had also gone down in the 19 other countries, because the UN was unable to prevent the war. So we got hit from both sides of the debate. We disappointed both sets of expectations. Some famous and rather powerful voices began to speak loudly and publicly of the UNs irrelevance.
Of course, the UN was never irrelevant not even for the worlds sole remaining superpower, and not even over Iraq, to take only the most obvious example. Immediately after the Hussein regime was toppled, the US and its allies were back in the Council to seek the international communitys blessing for what followed. And during the same period of disagreement over Iraq, the same countries on the Security Council were agreeing on a host of other issues East Timor, Somalia, Afghanistan, Congo, Liberia, Côte dIvoire all life and death questions. The UN is often irrelevant in a war but extremely relevant in the ensuing peace. We have seen this time and again, from Kosovo to Afghanistan.
That said, Iraq undoubtedly plunged the UN into a crisis of confidence. The Chinese character for crisis is made up of two other characters the one for danger and the one for opportunity. With his eye firmly on both, at the peak of this intense scrutiny of the UN and at a time when the UNs potential and its deficiencies had never been more in the public eye, Secretary-General Kofi Annan saw the danger and seized the opportunity.
In an historic speech to the General Assembly, he said that we had come to a fork in the road: we could either continue with business as usual, which could lead us to disaster, or we could review the entire architecture of the international system that had been built up since 1945, and build a more effective house of global governance for the twenty-first century.
The Secretary-General named a High-Level Panel of eminent persons to look into issues of peace and security, while a parallel group of economists, under the leadership of Jeffrey Sachs, studied in detail what the world needed to do to fulfil the commitments made on development by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000. The High-Level Panel reported last December and the Millennium Project last January. And in March, the Secretary-General synthesized their key recommendations for change in a report he titled In Larger Freedom.
The title, as you know, comes from the preamble to the UN charter, which speaks of the UN striving "to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom". By that magnificent phrase our founders clearly implied both that development is possible only in conditions of freedom, and that people can only benefit from political freedom when they have at least a fair chance of reaching decent living standards. Human rights, development and security are mutually interdependent and, taken together, they add up to larger freedom.
Of course, the UN often falls short of its noble aspirations, since it reflects the realities of world politics, even while seeking to transcend them. The UN, at its best and its worst, is a mirror of the world: it reflects our differences and our convergences, our hopes and aspirations as well as our limitations and failures.
But political freedom has made headway, as first the peoples of Asia and Africa won freedom from colonialism, and then more and more peoples shook off dictatorship. When I joined the UN, it was almost unthinkable for the UN to take sides between democracy and dictatorship, or seek to intervene in the internal affairs of its members. Even human rights were by no means universally agreed, with some States still dismissing them as a tool of Western neo-imperialism.
Today, by contrast, the UN itself does more than any other single organization in the world to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the globe. In the past year alone it has organized or assisted in elections in over 20 countries, often at decisive moments in their history in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Burundi.
I am not pretending that the United Nations is perfect. Far from it, we make mistakes, we stumble. But more than 50 years ago, our great second Secretary-General, Dag Hammersjold put it best when he said, "the United Nations was not created to take humanity to heaven, but to save it from hell". And that it has done innumerable times. The United Nations does not pretend to create paradise on earth, but it tries to make the world a better place, and prevent bad situations from getting worse.
The fact is that the United Nations is the only indispensable global organization in a globalizing world. Our world is full of what Kofi Annan once called problems without passports problems that cross all frontiers uninvited - problems of human rights, terrorism, climate change, drug trafficking, we can each name several examples problems that also require solutions that cross frontiers. Because these are problems that no one country or one group of countries, however powerful or rich, can solve on their own. They require international cooperation. They need the United Nations.
Which brings me back to what elements of the Summit outcome document I think will stand the test of time, and serve as the motors for the next phase in our development. Let me give you just a few of the headlines.
First and foremost, and despite many late night, last minute fears that it would not do so, the document reinforces the commitment by both the North and the South to work together to promote development.
It contains strong and unambiguous commitments by all governments, in donor and developing nations alike, to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and a promise of an additional $50 billion a year by 2010 for fighting poverty.
Will all that money come in? Will all of it be put to the best possible use? We live in an imperfect world, and experience teaches us that the answer to both those questions will be "no". But have no doubt that if governments even come close to meeting this commitment, the money and political will will help to make the world a fairer and a safer place.
The document also includes agreement, by both the richest and the poorest, on mechanisms that should make successful and sustainable development more likely that developing countries will develop national "management" plans to enable them to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2006, and from the wealthy, commitments in principle to liberalize international trade and to thereby reduce the barriers and inequities that prevent poorer states from selling their goods and services in the markets of the North. [I am sure that you, like me, have heard that agricultural subsidies in Europe would pay for every cow on that continent to fly business class around the world.]
Much has been made of the failure of the document to deliver a formal legal definition of terrorism that is acceptable to all. But what few seem to have noticed is that for the first time ever we have a clear and unqualified condemnation by all governments -- of terrorism and I quote -- "in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes."
We have clearly come a long way from the quagmire of endless debates over the justness of the cause, rather than the innocent lives lost. And there is now a strong political push for a comprehensive convention against terrorism within a year.
Another development incremental but vitally important is the acceptance, for the first time, of a collective international responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. And it was this that Genevas Le Temps one of the rare exceptions to media pessimism I mentioned at the outset described as "une révolution" an assessment that far more surprisingly was echoed by one of the UNs most aggressive media critics in the U.S., The Washington Times, which described it as a "revolution in consciousness in international affairs."
This acceptance will, I hope, make it much more difficult for States to stand behind a protective shield of sovereignty and legal ambiguity while people are slaughtered en masse. The proof of the pudding, of course, is in the eating, but we now have, at least, a recipe that should work.
And the document also sets the timer for the creation of much stronger UN machinery to identify and gain international agreement to address human rights violations, including the creation of a smaller and more focussed Human Rights Council which could replace the hugely-politicized Human Rights Commission by 2006. I leave it to Ambassador Mike Smith to tell you more about this. But the good news is not just for my colleagues in Geneva but also for oppressed people the world over the Summit pledged to double the resources and staff of the UNs High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, who leads the operationalization of the United Nations human rights work around the world.
At present far too many countries fall back into conflict within five years of the withdrawal of UN peacekeeping missions. So a detailed blueprint for a new Peacebuilding Commission is also included in the outcome document. This body will be tasked with ensuring that international interventions to help countries emerging from conflict are coherent and enduring. We need to ensure that when the peacekeepers have done their work, there is an effective transition to building the institutions of democracy, rule of law and development, so that peace can be sustainable.
And the Summit created a fund to support democratisation (Democracy Fund), to which some $42 million has already been pledged since the Summit. These are but a few of the initiatives the outcome document contains. I urge you to read the entire document which is available on our website at www.un.org/summit2005.
Much flesh must be put on the bones of these commitments before we can say, with any certainty, that the world will be a better place because a group of well-fed men -- and a handful of women -- met in New York from the 14th to the 16th of September, 2005.
And before two weeks had passed since the end of the summit, the General Assembly, led by a very energetic and determined President, Swedens Jan Eliasson, had already begun formal discussions what must be done to make the promise of the Summit a reality. I can assure you that the September commitments are being taken very seriously. If we can give substance to these commitments, and I believe we can, then the rebirth and renewal of the UN will be just beginning, and with its renewal, we will also renew our hope for a fairer and safer world.
And that is why I, like the Secretary-General, see a glass half full and the tap is still flowing."
FAO to Undertake Reform Programme
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is to embark on a programme of reform so as to play an increasingly effective role in hunger eradication, in the development of sustainable agriculture, in food safety, in the control of transboundary plant and animal pests and diseases, and in the negotiation of a more equitable regime of trade for agricultural commodities. Speaking on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the FAO, its Director-General Jacques Diouf said the proposed reforms will be put before the Conference in November and are far-reaching in scope. "They aim to better direct FAOs technical programmes towards the main priority areas of its Member Nations and to consolidate its functions of exchange of knowledge, policy assistance, transfer of technology, building of capacity and raising of awareness in a context of enhanced synergy with its partners in the United Nations system, especially at country level." Following are extracts from his address.
"Allow me to open with a citation that has undeniable historical significance.
The idea of freedom from want expresses an aspiration as old as mankind ... But in this generation freedom from want has been taken out of the realm of utopian ideas. [...] If this can be done within and among nations by their separate and collective action, some of the worlds worst economic ills, including hunger and extreme poverty, will be on the way to extinction.
These words could have been written today, but were in fact written 60 years ago by Frank McDougall, an Australian farmer, in an extraordinary paper entitled The Work of FAO, prepared for the first FAO Conference, held in Quebec City, Canada. It was there, on 16 October 1945, that FAO was founded and its Constitution approved.
Today, on our Sixtieth Anniversary, let us pay tribute to the wisdom and far-sightedness of all those who contributed to the foundation of FAO.
If, on entering FAO, you look to your right at the top of the steps, you can read the Preamble to our Constitution, etched in marble in various languages. It reminds us that FAO was set up within the United Nations system as a forum in which all nations would "contribute towards an expanding world economy and ensuring humanitys freedom from hunger".
One of the most remarkable but largely unsung achievements of the second half of the twentieth century is that, with the help of scientists and engineers, it has been possible to satisfy the demands for food and forest products of a global population that has tripled in FAOs lifetime. Since 1960, the proportion of the worlds population that is undernourished has fallen from 35 percent to 13 percent.
As envisaged in its mandate, FAO has contributed to this successful enterprise that has had a profound impact on human welfare in the twentieth century.
But, in spite of this achievement, we have still fallen short of our founders expectations, for 852 million people continue to suffer hunger. The fact that anyone should have to face hunger in this world of abundance and technology defies rational explanation. In addition, some of the intensive agricultural systems that have permitted such growth are not sustainable and have negative environmental, economic, social and cultural consequences.
FAO must therefore address two central issues as the twenty-first century unfolds. First, it must increase the effectiveness of its work with its Members towards eradicating hunger, as reflected in the first Millennium Development Goal. Second, it must foster the satisfaction of future global needs for food and forest products without compromising the sustainability of the earths fragile natural resources or its climate.
Some encouraging progress has been made on both fronts. More and more countries are signalling their determination to formulate and implement large-scale national food security programmes. There is also a growing awareness of issues relating to the environment and natural resources. FAO has thus succeeded in orchestrating the process of negotiation that led to the approval of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 2003. The vital role of water for reliable and sustainable agriculture is starting to be acknowledged. The report of the Commission for Africa calls for a redoubling of irrigated area in the region by 2015, with an emphasis on the small-scale irrigation of farm holdings.
The need for a neutral global forum in which nations can come together to address food and agricultural issues is quite as great today as it was on 16 October 1945 when its founder Members declared: "If there is any one principle on which FAO is based, it is that the welfare of producers and the welfare of consumers are in the final analysis identical." The Organization must, however, adapt to the changes of the last 60 years if it is to rise to new challenges and profit from emerging opportunities.
That is why I have just proposed a programme of reform that will enable the Organization to play an increasingly effective role in hunger eradication, in the development of sustainable agriculture, in food safety, in the control of transboundary plant and animal pests and diseases, and in the negotiation of a more equitable regime of trade for agricultural commodities.
The reforms that will be put before the Conference in November are far-reaching in scope. They aim to better direct FAOs technical programmes towards the main priority areas of its Member Nations and to consolidate its functions of exchange of knowledge, policy assistance, transfer of technology, building of capacity and raising of awareness in a context of enhanced synergy with its partners in the United Nations system, especially at country level.
These reforms will translate into a restructuring of the Organization to achieve a better balance between its units and into the adoption of a more streamlined structure. Working methods will be introduced that allow greater flexibility, more appropriate staff redeployment and greater delegation of authority, responsibilities and operating resources. The network of decentralized offices will be re-engineered to provide countries with more effective assistance.
The Millennium Summit last month reaffirmed the common interest of the worlds nations in putting an end to poverty and hunger and in conserving the earths natural resources for future generations. A new determination was expressed at this years G-8 meetings and reiterated by speakers in New York in September to engage in large-scale practical programmes of poverty reduction. On the occasion of its Sixtieth Anniversary, FAO solemnly restates its commitment, within its mandate, to contribute vigorously to the international effort to give renewed impetus to the fight against poverty, by concentrating in particular on the root causes of hunger in the world."
Cosmetic Concessions by the US-EU in Agri Trade Talks
"What the US has done is deceptive and misleading", a delegate of a small country to the WTO is reported to have said, denouncing the public relations spin that the US and EU had made huge concessions in the agricultural negotiations. In the following article, Aileen Kwa of the Focus on the Global South assembles reactions from the African and Caribbean government delegates, who are apparently, angered by US Package being portrayed as "progress." The piece was prepared on 20 October, 2005.
In informal conversations with African and Caribbean delegates to the WTO, many countries have expressed anger at the public relations spin of the United States and EU - portraying their offers as huge concessions. And they have reason to be. The current WTO defined "trade distorting subsidies" provided by the United States amount to about $21.5 billion per year. With the implementation of the US proposal, the US would still be able to provide up to about $23 billion in annual trade-distorting supports. (This does not include the $51 billion US provides annually in the unlimited "Green Box", and the Dispute Panel on Cotton between US and Brazil, has already established that certain payments even in this box are trade-distorting.)
What the US is offering is basically the maintenance of the status quo. Yet for that, they are demanding ridiculous cuts in tariffs to gain more market access - up to 80 90% cuts for tariffs above 60%. African and Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Kenya, Jamaica, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Mauritius, to name only a few, would, for example, have to cut a 100% tariff down to 10 or 20%. To top it all, even the small amounts that developing countries provide in supports have been proposed to be cut by the US.
The EU is playing a similar game. The "cuts" they have "offered" amount to paper cuts. In fact, even after undertaking these "cuts", the EU would still be able to provide up to 15 billion Euros in "trade distorting" domestic supports above their current applied levels. This is because with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform, 80-90 per cent of their subsidies are already being shifted into the currently unlimited "Green Box". (As with the US-Brazil cotton case, EU subsidies housed in the Green Box have been ruled by the WTO Dispute panel on sugar as having significant components that are "trade distorting"). EU subsidies to farmers in total, is in the range of $90 billion per annum. This will remain unchanged with the EU "offer".
Two instruments that have allowed this "deception" to take place are:
The sacrosanct Green Box, where the bulk of subsidies will be housed, has been left untouched in these proposals.
The US wants an expansion of the Blue Box which will allow them to announce cuts in the Amber Box, but shift a large portion of those reduced subsidies around 5 billion into the New Blue Box.
The result? Whilst export subsidies are said to be on the way out, hidden export subsidies have taken their place, and dumping in developing country markets continue.
It is small wonder then that African and Caribbean delegates are incensed that these cosmetic concessions have been given so much fanfare at the WTO and in the press in the past week. Swirling all around them at the WTO is talk by the prominent players that "progress has been made".
These are some comments heard in the corridors made by the Africans and Caribbean delegates, gravely concerned by these developments:
"There seems to be this notion of progress. But I dont think in reality that progress is there. I dont think developing countries should be rushing into contributing to the process. The picture is being portrayed that we are moving. Everybody should come on board to move. We should say, "There is no movement". US seems content that the proposal has increased momentum, that if not for their proposal, nothing would have moved. They are expecting us to congratulate them. But there is nothing to congratulate them about".
An African delegate, worried about the demands placed on them regarding market access cuts said:
"What is worrying is that the level of ambition (in market access / tariff cuts) is rising from the US and EU. I dont know if this is where some developing countries want to head. Those who feel it should go down, should come in and say something. We are not seeing commensurate levels of ambition rising in export subsidies or domestic supports. We have no justification to raise levels in market access."
Many delegates have also expressed concern that whilst the market access talks have accelerated, discussion on the defensive instruments for developing countries (Special and Differential treatment S&D) have not:
"The prominent players are arguing that we need to knock together the main components, and then deal with S&D (referring to the Special Products and Safeguard Mechanisms) because they dont know what the commitments by developing countries will be. But that is dangerous. Given the time factor, we will be rushed into S&D components, but not really get what we are looking for. We need to have these commitments addressed in parallel; otherwise, the results would be detrimental".
The African delegates have also underlined that they want cotton and commodities two key concerns of theirs - to be addressed. Yet, there has been no progress in these areas. One delegate also expressed great concern and anger that the Chair of Agriculture had suggested to those who had put forward a paper on commodities that this issue could be deferred till after Hong Kong.
An African delegate characterized the events as a "backward movement, not a forward movement".
A Caribbean delegate underlined, "Im disappointed in what is being sold as concessions", and an LDC African country, referring to the date of 2010 given by the US regarding the elimination of export subsidies, wondered why we should be content with five more years of export subsidization. "We should ask for the immediate removal of export subsidies", he said indignantly, referring to the farmers in his home country who have lost their livelihoods as a result these supports.
The U.S. WTO Agriculture Proposal of 10 October, 2005
As the single biggest player in the business of international trade, the United States has major stakes in the WTO negotiations. Perhaps with that in mind, it made its proposals on 10 October, 2005 to untangle the most knotty issue agriculture. But the proposals have raised eyebrows in a number of circles, including developing countries. A Briefing Paper published 20 October by Sophia Murphy of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), based in the United States, makes a critical evaluation of the US proposals. The paper, reproduced below, also presents what the bottom line positions should be in various critical strands of the agricultural negotiations.
The U.S. proposal ignores a number of the most sensitive issues that will need careful handling to bring about an acceptable compromise in Hong Kong. Most glaring is the lack of acknowledgement of differentiated responsibility among WTO members for building a more transparent and fair global trade system for agriculture. This round was supposed to focus on development and on righting the perverse imbalances of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture that allowed rich countries to increase their spending on support to agriculture and to maintain their ability to dump unmanaged production in world markets. The U.S. proposal fails to even go as far as the 2004 July Framework in acknowledging the need for effective special and differential measures for developing countries.
The U.S. offer is conditional on a number of unlikely trade-offs. The offer only stands if countries make commitments they have already explicitly rejected (e.g., both Japan and the EU have said they cannot cut their domestic support by 83 percent) and with several new requests that have already been strongly denounced (particularly the call to renew the Peace Clause, which protects countries that use subsidies from retaliation).
The U.S. does not address its lack of timely notifications of domestic support (their last notification was in 2001). Without these numbers, it is impossible to fully understand the impact of the proposal made to cut U.S. spending. Any new agriculture agreement must require complete and independently audited annual notifications. Before a Doha Agreement on Agriculture can be finalized, WTO members should insist on seeing notifications of the post-2002 Farm Bill spending on agriculture.
The U.S. is refusing to acknowledge widespread criticism of existing WTO categories for domestic support, particularly the lack of effective criteria to define legitimate Green Box spending. Moreover, although the U.S. has offered to reduce the cap on Blue Box spending by half from what was agreed in the July Framework of 2004, it is refusing to consider criteria to restrict the kind of payments that would be eligible for inclusion in the Blue Box.
The U.S. suggests it is in favor of a zero-tariff, zero-trade-distorting support model of agriculture. The visionwhich is not supported by Congress or U.S. farm organizationsdoes not challenge the distortions created by highly concentrated commodity trading and processing. The model also leaves food production to be driven by import and export commercial interests rather than by public interest priorities, such as food security, jobs and the need to protect an already stretched and damaged natural resource base.
The U.S. continues to ignore dumping, which is the single most damaging aspect of agricultural trade today. Under the U.S. proposal, dumping by U.S.-based multinational corporations will continue and could even accelerate.
On October 10, the U.S. trade representative presented a new proposal for agricultural trade rules at the World Trade Organization. The proposal is made in the midst of negotiations on the Doha Round: it is not yet the final offer. However, it does give a clear statement of what the U.S. claims to want: the full liberalization of agricultural trade. The U.S. proposal appears to follow the main elements of the World Banks full liberalization scenario, including a stated goal of 100 percent reduction of tariffs, trade-distorting domestic support and all explicit export subsidies. Of course, the resulting liberalization would in practice only be partial: the U.S. continues to expect to use what it considers to be non-trade distorting domestic support, although decoupled income support payments in particular have been shown to have trade-distorting effects, as have some of the less obvious forms of export support, such as export credits and sales of food aid.
This vision is of questionable merit and dubious validity, and it does not have political support in the United States. After the U.S. proposal was announced, the powerful chairs of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees warned U.S. Trade Representative Portman in a letter that "the negotiations and modalities should not preempt the responsibilities and prerogatives of Congress," and that "they should not write the next farm bill." Congress is following developments with concern. The U.S. proposal, while not forcing signifi cant cuts today, would curtail the level of expenditures currently authorized under existing farm legislation in the future.
As IATP has consistently documented in its analysis, eliminating tariffs and trade-distorting support will not end dumping: most commodities (subsidized and unsubsidized alike) are over-produced and sold at prices below the cost of production, impoverishing farmers around the world. Subsidies complicate the picture, but are not alone responsible for the problem. Global agricultural trade rules need to recognize some inherent features of agriculture, including a tendency toward over-production and depressed prices, interrupted by brief periods of scarcity accompanied by sharp price peaks that can lead to hunger and even starvation. Agriculture does not need expensive programs of support nor should it sanction the distortions that arise from highly concentrated control of processing and distribution. Appropriate regulation of agricultural markets, sound marketing structures and more careful investment in the future of agriculture would all contribute to a fairer, more stable and more economically viable sector for all concerned. Unfortunately, the U.S. proposal ignores these needs and the underlying reality of agricultural markets.
More specifically on the U.S. proposal:
A calendar of the U.S. proposal on timing looks like this:
2007: Coming into effect of Doha Agreements.
20082012: Five-year implementation period.
20132017: Five-year hiatus to assess effects of the Doha round.
20182022: Second five-year implementation period to eliminate all remaining tariffs and trade-distorting domestic support. Of course, this assumes the only negotiations required would take place alongside the assessment, which seems highly unlikely.
The proposed timing reflects the tentative nature of the proposal. Under this proposal, full implementation would not occur until 2022. For administrations with a four-year time horizon, this sounds like Never-Never Land. Industrial tariffs have been under negotiation for over 50 years, after all, and the world has still to see zero tariffs there. Of course, there is also the question of whether a zero-tariff and zero-trade-distorting support world is something many other WTO members are even interested to pursue. Given how many countries are resisting the changes now proposed, it seems doubtful the vision will rally much support.
It is important to point out that the end of the first five-year implementation coincides with the 2012 U.S. Farm Bill and the end of hiatus (2017) would coincide with yet another scheduled Farm Bill renewal (the legislation is usually renewed every five years). The language for the second stage of implementation leaves open the opportunity to "change course." If the U.S. were to decide to reinstate domestic support programs in the U.S. in one of the Farm Bills (as it did with countercyclical payments in 2002), after developing countries have cut and bound their tariffs, it could prove disastrous for developing countries. If a change of course is to be considered, then the possibility of future increases in tariffs should also be explicitly on the table.
Bottom line: The timing proposed by the U.S. includes remarkable flexibility to change course midway. Such flexibility leaves developing countries negotiating in uncertainty. Overall, the calendar is not credible: we are now five years since the expiry of the last implementation period for agricultural reform at the WTO, and even an optimist would say we are at least two years away from a new agreement coming into place.
The U.S. proposal looks at support in its various WTO categories: the aggregate measure of support or AMS (the Amber Box), the Blue Box, the two forms of de minimis exemptionde exemptions and the Green Box. The first three elements are also considered jointly, with a proposal for an overall target to reduce trade-distorting supports (all support not in the Green Box).
There are three main types of domestic support for U.S. agriculture: loan deficiency payments (also called marketing loans), direct payments and countercyclical payments. Loan deficiency payments are classified in the Amber Box, while direct paymentsbecause they are decoupled from current production and current prices - are classified in the Green Box. The U.S. tried to classify countercyclical payments in the Green Box, but a WTO dispute panel ruled they properly belong in the Amber Box. The proposal says the U.S. will cut its Amber Box support by 60 percent.
Numbers for total trade-distorting domestic support vary significantly each year because a number of support programs are price-related. When U.S. prices fall, a number of program supports are automatically triggered and spending rises, although no new budgetary authorization is made. Additionally, a few programs (sugar, dairy and peanuts) do not give farmers subsidies but instead fix a minimum domestic price, which is higher than the world price (called the external reference price). The difference between the fixed domestic price and the external reference price is calculated and added to the Amber Box total. Obviously, the value of the market price support fluctuates as world prices fluctuate. These factors cause the value of domestic support to fluctuate considerably and make it hard to assess the U.S. offer. They also make the choice of base years for spending cuts critically important (spending can rise or fall by billions from year to the next).
The reported cost of U.S. support categorized in the Amber Box has therefore fluctuated wildly. In 1999 it reached $21.5 billion, up from about $7.5 billion in 1997 and $12.3 billion in 1998. In 2002 and 2003, higher prices for commodities meant support payments fell to about $13 billion in 2002 and $16.4 billion in 2003.4 The U.S. government says its current Amber Box support is about $15 billion. Since the proposed 60 percent cut to Amber Box support is from the $19.1 billion bound level, a 60 percent cut would result in a new Amber Box ceiling for the U.S. of $7.6 billion.
The U.S. won agreement from WTO members to expand the criteria for the Blue Box in the 2004 July Framework. The new criteria will allow the countercyclical payments to be moved there, out of the Amber Box. The USDA estimates countercyclical payments will reach $3.9 billion in 2005 and $5.9 billion in 2006.  If countercyclical payments are removed from the Amber Box (as the U.S. intends to do), and we assume a countercyclical payment total of $4 to $5 billion, the U.S. is left with between $10 and $11 billion of Amber Box support, depending on which year is used to make an estimate of likely cuts: in other words, cuts would be required equivalent to $2.4 to $3.4 billion.
The U.S. has not notified its expenditures since the passage of the 2002 Farm Billan omission that should be rectified before WTO Members will have sufficient information to make an informed judgment on the quality of the U.S. offer. The point cannot be stressed enough: A simple and essential demand to be made on the U.S. (and EU) is to require complete and independently audited notifications within a calendar year (365 days) of each fiscal years end. Any agreement on new agriculture rules must be contingent on annual notifications; otherwise it will be impossible to hold countries accountable for their commitments.
The U.S. proposal also suggests a new product-specific cap on AMS spending, a proposal that came first from some groups of developing countries. The U.S. proposes such a cap should be based on 19992001 spending levels. The proposal does not say what the cap should be. The base years chosen were expensive years in recent U.S. spending on agriculture, which suggests the U.S. is offering a nominal concession rather than to actually constrain its product-specific spending levels.
Bottom line: WTO members should not finalize a deal on Amber Box reductions until the U.S. submits notifications that indicate how the U.S. has classified its domestic support since the 2002 Farm Bill. As best as can be determined, actual U.S. spending would hardly be affected by the proposal, but if implemented, the new rules would curb existing U.S. farm programs by limiting their capacity to respond to fluctuations in domestic prices (which in the U.S. are generally close to world prices). The WTO ceiling on elements of program spending would be lower than current Farm Bill ceilings.
The U.S. won a major concession from WTO members with the inclusion in the 2004 July Framework of an agreement to expand the current Blue Box. Under the Uruguay Round rules, the Blue Box is restricted to production-limiting programs based on historic acreage or livestock counts. With the July Framework, programs that are decoupled from production but still linked to price can also be included. The U.S. did this to be able to move countercyclical programs from the Amber Box, where spending is constrained, to the Blue Box, which is currently unconstrained, and where the U.S. has no existing programs to accommodate.
The G-20, the G-33 and some other countries continue to seek further restrictions on the expanded Blue Box, including a criteria to ensure Blue Box programs are less trade-distorting than Amber Box programs and an explicit obligation to include only programs with a production-limiting objective. The U.S. refuses these further conditions. Instead, the proposal offers a lower cap than had been envisaged for total Blue Box spending (2.5 percent of the total value of agricultural production, rather than the 5 percent set out in the 2004 July Framework).
The 5 percent cap proposed in the July Framework would mean a Blue Box cap of just under $10 billion for
the United States. The U.S. proposal would now lower that cap to more like $5 billion. According to the USDA, countercyclical payments were $1.7 billion in 2003 and $0.8 billion in 2004. The proposed Blue Box ceiling could accommodate the countercyclical payments at the levels estimated for 2005 ($2.5 billion).
The 2002 Farm Bill allows as much as $7.6 billion in countercyclical payments, although this amount has not yet been spent in any year. The new proposed cap on the Blue Box would constrain this spending. The Farm Bill is due for renewal in 2007, before the Doha Agreements are likely to come into force, but the proposal would force Congress to make a more modest proposal for countercyclical support if these payments continue. Countercyclical payments give farmers some degree of income predictability and are supported by U.S. farm organizations as a safety net against low commodity prices. However, a substantial and growing number of farm groups would prefer a price floor and production limits that would allow them to obtain more of their income from the marketplace, i.e. from the agribusinesses they sell to rather than from taxpayers.
Bottom line: The expanded Blue Box gives the U.S. a new category for allowed trade-distorting domestic support. Current levels of countercyclical payments are below the proposed Blue Box spending limit. The proposed cap on the Blue Box is lower than the spending authorized for countercyclical payments under the provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill.
The current de minimis exemptions are set at 5 percent of the total value of production for non-commodity specific support and 5 percent of the total value of a given commodity for commodity-specific support. For the U.S., this means up to $9.9 billion in general support and up to $9.9 billion in aggregate product-specific support. For 2001, the U.S. notified $6.8 billion in non-specific de minimis eligible support. A large part of this spending was for so-called emergency payments, which the U.S. government then instituted more formally as countercyclical and loan deficiency payments in the 2002 Farm Bill. Non-product specific spending also includes public support for irrigation, subsidized insurance programs and grazing on public lands.
To meet the de minimis criteria, the total value of each commodity-specific program cannot exceed 5 percent of the total value of that commoditys production. Additionally, to be eligible the commodity in question cannot receive more than the 5 percent limit in Amber Box support payments. Many of the major U.S. commodities, including rice, sugar, soybeans, cotton, canola and corn, receive more than the 5 percent limit, so their product-specific support is not eligible for any product-specific de minimis exemption. Wheat, barley, oats, rye and tobacco do qualify for the product-specific de minimis. For 2001, the U.S. notified $216 million in product-specific de minimis support (far less than the almost $10 billion it is allowed to spend).
The U.S. proposal calls for a 50 percent cut to de minimis levels. No mention is made of a special and differential exception, suggesting developing countries would have to cut their de minimis exemption from 10 to 5 percent of their total value of production. The 2.5 percent threshold for developed countries would cap the de minimis (both general and product specifific) for the U.S. at about $4.95 billion for each category. The new ceiling on product-specific support would push wheat and barley programs into the Amber Box. The EU has proposed eliminating the de minimis altogether for developed countries because little of its agricultural spending is eligible for the category anyway. It withdrew this proposal after bilateral talks with the U.S. in September 2005. A 50 percent cut for developing countries would be drastic since the de minimis is often the only mechanism available to developing countries to provide support to their agriculture.
Again, given the U.S. failure to submit notifications since 2001, the actual effect of such a cut is difficult to calculate. Using the most recent notifications, the U.S. strategy seems to be to move the countercyclical payments to the new Blue Box, thereby relieving the pressure on the non-product specific de minimis spending. Product-specifific de minimis is much less used, but the new ceiling would affect wheat and barley programs in particular. Other commodities receiving product-specific de minimis support would meet the proposed 2.5 percent of total value spending limit.
Bottom line: A de minimis ceiling of 2.5 percent of the value of production would not force cuts to the current programs now included in non-product specific de minimis (or their addition to the Amber Box) if the U.S. is successful in shaping the revised Blue Box to accommodate its countercyclical payments (which now make up the bulk of this category of support). The product-specific de minimis is barely used by existing programs; using the 2001 notifications, a reduction to 2.5 percent of the value of production will affect spending in only two commodities: wheat and barley.
A cap on total trade-distorting support
The U.S. proposes to cap total trade-distorting support (all support not in the Green Box, including de minimis). The U.S. falls into the second of its three proposed tiers, implying that it would cut its total trade-distorting support by 53 percent (the highest overall cut, for the European Union and Japan, would be 75 percent). The G-20 counterproposal has called for a cut of 75 percent for the U.S. and 80 percent for the top-tier spenders (who spend over $60 billion a year in trade-distorting support). The base total of trade-distorting support allowed to the U.S. is $48.2 billion, while its actual spending (in 2001) was $21.5 billion. A 53 percent cut would allow the U.S. a new ceiling of $25.6 billion (i.e. no change to current expenditure) while a 75 percent cut would force cuts in actual spending.
The bottom line for U.S. domestic support under U.S. proposal
Amber Box cuts: New ceiling of $7.6 billion real cuts: $2.4 to $3.4 billion
Blue Box: New ceiling of $4.95 billion real cuts: Zero but ceiling may be too low for countercyclical payments in some years.
De minimis: New exemption: $4.95 billion for each of general and product-specific; high enough ceiling for the latter, but not for the 2001 notified level of non-product specific support. This could increase the Amber Box and imply larger cuts to those programs.
Green Box: Unchanged
Until the U.S. gives up-to-date notifications, the numbers can only be indicative. And in any case, they will vary significantly from one year to the next because of the nature of some of the programs, which are designed to move with world prices.
The U.S. proposal calls for the Green Box to be left unchanged and rules out the possibility of a cap on Green Box spending. The Green Box is where the U.S. and EU have moved the bulk of their domestic support. For 2001, the U.S. notified almost $50.7 billion in Green Box spending. A rough breakdown shows about $9 billion is spent on the bureaucracy that works on agriculture, including research, extension, inspection and statistical services.
About $34 billion is spent on domestic food aid, especially the food stamps provided to low-income Americans. In 2001, decoupled income support was just over $4 billion and emergency relief was around $1.5 billion. The remainder of the spending was on environmental programs (around $300 million) and programs that pay farmers to take their land out of production.
The U.S. has said it hopes to shift still more of its agricultural expenditures into the Green Box as part of the 2007 Farm Bill. Presumably, this reflects their intention to continue and even expand decoupled income support, which is the most controversial element of Green Box spending allowed by WTO rules. The congressional budget process this year targeted a number of the least trade-distorting Green Box programs, such as conservation payments and domestic food assistance, for the largest cuts in overall spending on agriculture.
The G-33 and the G-20 have made specific proposals to tighten the criteria for what can be included in the Green Box. They are concerned about the mounting evidence that decoupled income support affects production and therefore trade. The July Framework referred to these concerns, although no action was promised in this trade round. The U.S. is refusing to take these concerns into consideration in its proposal, missing an opportunity to build confidence and show its commitment to removing trade distortions in global agricultural markets.
Because of the expectation that the U.S. and the EU will move still more spending into the Green Box, any new agreement on agriculture should include some more general criteria to enable assessment of the possible damage to developing countries domestic producers and exporters from continued support that results in dumped agricultural exports. The proposal by the G-33 to automatically make any commodity that receives export subsidies or Amber or Blue Box domestic support eligible for special product status in affected developing countries is an important step in this direction.
Bottom line: The U.S. refuses to address the criticism that its decoupled payments do not properly meet the minimally trade-distorting criteria required for inclusion in the Green Box.
A renewed Peace Clause
This is an extraordinary request from the U.S. - to renew one of the most controversial elements of the Uruguay Round, which lapsed in December 2003. The restoration of so-called protection from litigation in the Agreement on Agriculture would renew the tension between it and other WTO agreements, particularly the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM). Effectively, a Peace Clause would grant agricultural subsidies a privileged place at the WTO, even if the subsidies are found to nullify and impair another members expected benefits from signing a round of agreements.
The inclusion of this provision comes at the request of the U.S. Senate and House agriculture chairs, who are frustrated with losing several WTO dispute resolution cases, in particular the Brazilian cotton case. They would like assurances that future Farm Bill programs will not be challenged through the WTO dispute resolution process. Given that the Brazilian challenge was not impeded by the existence of the Peace Clause, it is unclear how much assurance Congress can expect.
The response to date from developing country members has been hostile - rightly so. Such an exemption from WTO disciplines dramatically undermines U.S. credibility as a country that seeks fair rules for agriculture that treat all countries alike. Countries using billions of dollars to support agriculture, like the U.S., are not the countries that need an additional advantage by exempting their subsidies from all challenge. This demand for an exemption from WTO disciplines is all the more outrageous given the failure of the U.S. to meet notification requirements. The U.S. is three years behind in notifying its domestic support spending and has rejected all proposals to tighten notification requirements.
Bottom line: The U.S. proposal to renew the Peace Clause should be rejected.
The U.S. is proposing a 75 percent cap on developed country agricultural tariffs and a cap (unspecified) on developing country tariffs. The U.S. proposes that developed and developing countries face the same tiers for the tariffs, grouping tariffs of 0 to 20 percent, 20 to 40 percent, 40 to 60 percent and tariffs over 60 percent, with each group facing a graduated percentage cut that rises as the tariff rises.
The proposal breaks with the July Framework agreement, which promised to take developing countries tariff structures into account in the cuts and to require proportionately less reduction from their tariffs. In developed countries, tariffs are quite varied, with a few products very heavily protected (tariffs in the hundreds of percent) and most products with comparatively much lower tariffs. For developed countries, an approach that makes relatively large tariff cuts with room for exceptions (such as the sensitive products) is suitable. But the majority of developing countries have bound most of their agricultural tariffs between 50 and 130 percent. This tariff profile means developing countries need the tiers for reduction commitments to have higher average starting points.
Developing countries need more tariff flexibility not only to meet development needs but also as a defense against the dumped agricultural production that plagues world markets, much of it originating in developed countries.
The U.S. proposal does not mention preferences, tariff escalation and tariff peaks, or possible exemptions for recently acceded WTO members, all of which are issues that have been the subject of a number of proposals. The U.S. language on special and differential treatment under market access is so grudging ("slightly lesser reduction commitments and longer phase-in periods" and "developing counties must make meaningful commitments which reflect their importance as emerging markets") that it betrays a total lack of interest in effective special and differential measures that would respond to development needs.
Market access is the most aggressive section of the U.S. proposal and is where its demands are least likely to be accommodated by the EU, G-10 and the G-33. For example, on October 10, the G-10 again rejected the notion of capped tariffs, and proposed very different tiers for the cuts they would make to their tariffs (0 to 20 percent, 20 to 50 percent, 50 to 70 percent, and 70 percent and over). While the U.S. proposal is credited in the press for "jumpstarting" stalled talks, in truth the lack of U.S. compromise in the area of market access is going to make agreement in time for Hong Kong very difficult.
Another fight is looming on the narrow definition of sensitive products offered by the U.S., which wants to allow only 1 percent of tariff lines to be eligible for the more lenient tariff reduction proposed. In practice, this will allow the U.S. around 40 product exemptions (a given product, such as rice or sugar, will have more than one tariff line, depending on the type and degree of processing that has taken place).
The U.S. also requires that any product designated as sensitive also be given an increased tariff rate quota (TRQ , an amount of import that has to be let in at lower or zero tariffs). Few developing countries have any TRQs in the first place. The U.S. insists that where there are no TRQs, even sensitive products must cut according to the formula, although some additional flexibility at the margin could be possible. This means that sensitive products will offer little by way of policy space to developing countries.
The main demands of a large group of developing countries in market access are for the establishment of a category of special products (SPs) and the creation of a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) exclusively for developing countries. The U.S. proposal does not accept the basic premise for these demands.
The proposal suggests these would provide "transitional protection... while still providing meaningful improvement in market access," undermining the purpose of both tools. Special products are intended to deal with structural challenges confronting developing country agriculture, including food security concerns, the high proportion of employment still provided by agriculture and the importance of rural development for generating growth in the economy as a whole.
None of these are transitional issues for most developing countries, certainly not in a fi ve-year time span envisaged by the U.S. proposal. These are challenges many developing countries can expect to face for a long time to come; for some, food security and other concerns may mean full agricultural trade liberalization is simply not a desirable path. The U.S. either does not understand or has chosen to ignore this reality.
Bottom line: The U.S. proposal for market access shows no interest in accommodating developing country concerns (nor those of the G-10 developed countries, whose agricultural sectors are generally small, highly protected, and for the most part not especially trade-distorting as exporters, although market access for would-be exporters are tightly controlled in a number of products). The proposal insists that even special products for all non-least developed countries should be subject to significant tariff cuts.
In effect, the end of the Doha Round as the U.S. proposes it would see the U.S. with an unlimited Green Box that includes decoupled payments, de minimis exemptions worth almost $10 billion, a Blue Box worth almost $5 billion and Amber Box spending up to $7.6 billion. On top of this, the U.S. would have a renewed Peace Clause to head off possible challenges to subsidy use under existing WTO rules in other agreements.
In exchange, developing countries are given no concessions for their different tariff structure or needs, no support for their carefully crafted proposals for special and differential treatment, and are expected to "pay" for the so-called cuts to support with deep tariff reductions. This payment is demanded of countries whose reliance on agriculture for food security, employment and foreign exchange earnings is much greater than that of the developed world, and whose policy options are severely constrained by the scarcity of public funds to support agriculture directly.
The U.S. does not spend more than a few million dollars a year on export subsidies. Its proposal for a full elimination by 2010 is directed at other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries (and possibly the tiny handful of developing countries) that use export subsidies.
State trading export enterprises
The U.S. proposal to eliminate monopoly export rights would effectively kill both the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and the AWB Ltd. (formerly the Australian Wheat Board). No exception is made for developing countries, however the proposal is targeted on export enterprises, not agencies, such as Indonesias Bulog, which manage imports. The elimination of the CWB and AWB Ltd would do nothing to increase export competition for grains; the giants of the industry (Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Dreyfus) will basically absorb the Canadian and Australian supply into their existing global grain processing and trading businesses.
It is disappointing that the issue of monopoly power generally, and the more complex but possibly more disturbing issue of oligopoly power, in agricultural commodity markets continues to be ignored by WTO negotiators. The issue should not be ownership - public or private - but the trade-distorting impact of the companies market power. CWB and AWB Ltd. offer an effective second-best solution to the market failures and imperfections inherent in bulk commodity trading. Their private counterparts are much less constrained by public oversight and, at least for the producers they deal with, offer less benefit.
Food Aid 
Food aid should strive to meet legitimate humanitarian and development objectives with minimal displacement of commercial trade (whether of local or imported food) through careful targeting. The problems with U.S. food aid are well known and well documented in the literature.  In brief, the U.S. restricts a large percentage of its food aid to in-kind donation of commodities, reducing flexibility and considerably increasing the average cost for each bushel of food delivered. The U.S. allows a considerable portion of its food aid to be sold in recipient markets, both in programs that offer budgetary support to developing countries, and in the practice of monetization, in which food aid is sold on local markets in recipient countries to generate funds for development projects. The end result is food aid that is slow in arriving, twice as costly, and that competes directly with farmers in the countries receiving the aid. The U.S. even sells a portion of its food aid, using export credits to subsidize the sale. Most other food aid donors around the world have switched to a grant-only, predominantly cash-based system, that allows the country to source aid locally where possible.
The U.S. food aid proposal sidesteps these real issues, and invents a few that simply confuse the debate.
1. The U.S. proposal puts food aid in three categories: emergency food aid; food aid to net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs) and least-developed countries (LDCs); and the rest. This is an absurd categorization. None of the literature looks at food aid in this way. The suggestion made is that NFIDCs and LDCs are too poor to have local The U.S. WTO Agriculture Proposal of October 10, 2005 13 producers and commercial importers with an interest in their local and national markets. There is a presumption that displacement of local farmers cannot take place, which is absolutely contradicted by the empirical evidence. Even in emergencies, displacement can and does take place. For many NFIDCs and LDCs, protecting local producers from dumped competition is essential, as production needs to be stimulated not depressed.
2. NFIDCs and LDCs together comprise 76 countries, many of them with very significant numbers of farmers and rural laborers dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Food aid is not about national GDP levels. It is especially in the poorest countries that every effort must be made to avoid displacing local producers in their own markets.
3. The reference to the Food and Agriculture Organizations Consultative Subcommittee on Surplus Disposal (CSSD) makes no sense, given that very few transactions are now registered there and most food aid officials now dismiss the committee as irrelevant. In 1993, 80 percent of all food aid transactions were reported to the CSSD; by 2001, less than 5 percent of transactions were. It is not coincidental that the international body for food aid oversight chosen by the U.S. is one that barely functions, and one that condones the sale of food aid and monetization to generate development program funds. These practices are widely condemned by the food aid community and its international bodies.
4. In section III, D of its proposal, the U.S. suggests that perfect avoidance of commercial displacement through food aid is possible. It is not. The point should be to ensure the most effective targeting possible so as to increase the proportion of addition consumption to displaced purchases. The U.S. proposes what appears to be a new test - a CIR - to test that the food aid will not displace local production or commercial importers. The current test for U.S. food aid distributors - the so-called Bellmon analysis - has been widely discredited for being easy to manipulate and not subject to independent verification. Any new standard should at a minimum test all non-emergency food aid for trade-displacing impact using an independent third party verification system that measures the displacement of local and regional production, not just of imports.
Ultimately, emergency food aid also needs this kind of verification, as emergency food aid has been proven to disrupt local markets, particularly when it is poorly timed or targeted.
The most recent crisis in Niger again exemplifies the kind of problems that arise when U.S. food aid arrives at the same time as local producers are harvesting their crops. If food aid undermines local markets by depressing prices, it contributes to insecurity and poverty. Understandably, WTO members will want to tread carefully around rules for emergency situations. However, involving the appropriate multilateral authorities could help ensure that the WTO is not making judgments in areas outside of its competence.
Bottom line: The disciplining of poorly designed and implemented food aid with a prohibition on all food aid not made in grant form is an obvious goal for the new Agreement on Agriculture, particularly as part of negotiations that style themselves a "development round." WTO members should firmly reject the U.S. proposal and continue to push for meaningful disciplines on U.S. food aid.
The seemingly straightforward proposal to treat export credits on commercial terms in the October 10 proposal is contradicted by the U.S. attempt to exempt credits made available to LDCs and NFIDCs. Furthermore, the U.S. rejects any disciplines on subsidized interest rates and other terms of credit arrangements, a crucial element for an importer deciding whether to borrow at higher domestic interest rates or to buy from Cargill and other firms operating in the U.S. at the subsidized rate.
The full implications of the U.S. proposal on agriculture depend on notifications that are not yet available to the WTO membership. The proposal, if implemented in full, would considerably lower the ceilings on allowed domestic support, and would introduce some constraints on actual spending. In exchange for this modest offer on domestic support - remember, the U.S. would keep a minimum of $22 billion in permitted trade-distorting support, with unlimited Green Box support alongsidethe U.S. is asking developing countries for very big concessions in market access.
The U.S. proposal requires both considerable tariff reductions from developing countries and ignores the proposals for strong special and differential measures that would take account of food security, livelihoods and rural development concerns.
The U.S. proposal ignores the most trade-distorting problem of all: unmanaged production sold at less than cost of production prices into world markets, resulting in dumping, the impoverishment of commodity growers and the rapid consolidation of food processing and retailing at the expense of affordable food for consumers and fair prices for producers.
The world must recognize the right of countries to curtail costly and unsustainable overproduction; to forge international agreements that curtail dumping on world commodity markets and raise world prices; and, to protect their local markets from imports dumped at below the cost of production that threaten food security and rural livelihoods.
New thinking is needed on how to manage world commodity markets that, both in subsidized temperate products and largely unsubsidized tropical products, are characterized by very low returns to producers and concentrated ownership of processing capacity. A small number of firms overwhelmingly dominate trade in agricultural commodities. Governments urgently need to turn their attention to how to manage the distortions arising from this market power.
The U.S. proposes a vision of zero-tariffs and zero trade-distorting support that seems neither sincere nor desirable. Let us hope that emerging from Hong Kong, WTO members find a less impoverished and more comprehensive vision for agriculture, which after all is first and foremost responsible for feeding the worlds six billion people using a resilient but limited natural resource base.
A number of background documents can be found at www.tradeobservatory.org
1. U.S. Trade Representative. "U.S. Proposal for WTO Agriculture Negotiations," October 10, 2005.
2. Senator Saxby Chambliss and Representative Bob Goodlatte letter to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman. Posted on Inside US Trade, October 14, 2005.
3. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, WTO Agreement on Agriculture: A Decade of Dumping, United States Dumping on Agricultural Markets. February 2005.
5. From the 2006 Budget Estimates, available at the USDA website. http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dam/bud/
6. This commentary is a response to the U.S. October 5, 2005 proposal specifi cally on food aid.
7. Sophia Murphy and Kathleen McAfee. U.S. Food Aid: Time to Get it Right. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. July 2005.http://www.tradeobservatory.org/library.cfm?refi d=73512
The Politics of Farm Technologies
To avoid the blunder of previous revolutions in agricultural production, the politics behind the new agriculture technologies, including biotechnology and nano-technology, and farming systems like like contract farming and corporate agriculture, should first be examined and analysed in depth, before they are pushed on to unsuspecting farmers. That is the view of Devinder Sharma , an agricultural analyst based in New Delhi. In the following piece, published on 9 October, 2005 by India Together, Mr. Sharma argues that much of the agrarian crisis is the result of unwanted and cost-intensive technologies that have been forced on the farmers.
The controversial Seed Bill 2004, which has now been referred to a Parliamentary select committee, lays emphasis on ensuring improved quality in seeds being supplied to farmers. It seeks to make it mandatory for farmers to grow seed that is registered, therefore, but this proposal has come under severe criticism from the farmers themselves, as well as from civil society.
Seed quality is an important aspect of crop production. For ages, farmers have traditionally been selecting and maintaining good quality seed, since it is in their interest to do so. They knew and understood the importance of quality seed in production. However, with the advent of green revolution technology, based primarily on the high-yielding dwarf varieties of wheat and rice, the mainline thinking changed. Agricultural scientists, for reasons that remain unexplained, began to doubt the ability of farmers to maintain seed quality themselves. Aided by the World Bank, the Ministry of Agriculture launched a National Seeds Project in 1967. Under the project, spread into three phases, seed processing plants were set up in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa. Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh were covered under phase III. All that the huge processing plants were supposed to do was to provide certified seeds of food crops, mainly self-pollinating crops, to farmers.
A majority of these plants have since emerged as white elephants. It was primarily for the lack of demand for certified seeds of self-pollinating crops that a majority of these seed processing plants slid deep into red, and often remained burdened with carry-over stocks. Farmers refrained from buying the certified seeds, and instead preferred to save and clean a part of the grain harvest of each season for sowing in the next season.
Studies have subsequently shown that there is hardly any difference in the quality and productivity of processed certified seeds compared to the normal seed of self-pollinating crops like wheat and rice. In fact, the 18,000 tonnes of dwarf wheat seed imported in 1966 from Mexico, which ushered in the wheat revolution, was not certified processed seed. It was cleaned wheat grain collected from Mexican farmers. If the cleaned grain could bring about record production what was the need to push expensive certified seed to the farmers?
Not only the quality of seeds, even the traditional method of sowing paddy was dubbed as inefficient, and thereby considered to be the cause for low yields. Agricultural scientists urged farmers to discard their traditional way (broadcasting) of sowing paddy. Farm extension machinery was mobilised to disseminate the improved technology of transplanting from a paddy nursery. Within a few years of the advent of the high-yielding varieties of rice, paddy transplantation changed the rural landscape.
Transplanting paddy required additional farm labour and therefore increased the cost of production. The crop was transplanted in rows which made it easier for the tractors and other mechanised instruments to operate in the rice paddies. It also forced farmers to go in for more irrigation thereby resulting in the increased withdrawal of groundwater.
In mid-1980s, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines concluded in a study which showed that there was hardly any difference in the crop yields from transplanted rice and from the crop sown by broadcasted seeds. Puzzled, I asked a distinguished rice breeder: "If this is true than why in the first instance were the farmers asked to switch over to transplanting paddy?" He thought for sometime, and then replied: "We were probably helping the mechanical industry grow. Since rice is the staple food in Asia, tractor sales could only grow if there was a way to move the machine in the rice fields. " No wonder, the sales of tractors, puddlers, reapers and other associated equipment soared in the rice growing areas.
Farmers spraying insecticides on crops have also been a usual feature of modern farming. Pesticides on rice (and others crops) were deemed necessary since the fertiliser-responsive dwarf varieties would attract horde of insects. To make the pesticides reach the target pest, farmers were advised to use knap-sack sprayers mounted on their backs. These sprayers came with varying kinds of nozzles - different sizes for different crops. Tractor driven sprayers were also promoted for various crops.
Although David Pimental of the University of Cornell had concluded in early 1980s that only 0.01 per cent of the pesticides reached the target pest, whereas 99.9 per cent escapes into the environment, yet farmers were asked to go in for more sprays. IRRI, which now publicly accepts that pesticides on rice was a waste of time and effort, also came out with a study on the efficiency of pesticides application. The study concluded that there was no difference in pesticides efficiency from knap-sack sprayers and if the chemical was kept at the source of the irrigation flow in a crop field.
Much of the agrarian crisis therefore is the result of such unwanted and cost-intensive technologies that have been forced on the farmers. Isnt it obvious that scientists were unknowingly trying to promote the commercial interests of the seed, tractor and the pesticides industry? Blindly introducing alien farm technologies without ascertaining its utility under the Indian farm conditions has cost the farmers dearly. In fact, the lure of such unwanted and expensive technologies, has fleeced the farming community. The savings from crop harvests have actually gone towards the cost of purchasing and maintenance of these irrelevant technologies. This has compounded the plight of the farming community, thereby aggravating the farm crisis.
The politics of technology cannot be overlooked. To avoid the blunder of previous revolutions the politics behind the new agriculture technologies, including biotechnology and nano-technology, and farming systems like like contract farming and corporate agriculture, should first be examined and analysed in depth, before they are pushed on to unsuspecting farmers.
Rice in a Private Grip
The attempt by the Swiss giant Syngenta to gain proprietary control via Intellectual Property Rights on rice, the staple crop of Asians, can have severe implications for the future of rice research, food security and hunger, say Devinder Sharma, a well-known analyst on food and trade policy. For countries like India or Japan, one of the seats of origin of rice, it is an ominous sign, he argues. "Biological inheritance of the worlds major food crop is now in the hands of a Swiss multinational. If Syngentas application for global patents is accepted, the Asian countries will lose all control that comes through sovereign control over genetic resources (as defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992) of the staple grain." The following article was published last month on the India Together website.
Swiss biotech corporation Syngenta has tightened its monopoly control over rice. Seeking global patents over thousands of genes in rice, the multinational based in a country that produces no rice itself, is set to own the worlds most important staple food crop, saysDevinder Sharma.
The journey of rice, beginning with the emergence of wild rice some 130 million years ago, transcending through the Himalayas, passing through southern China, hopping to Japan, travelling to Africa, traded to Middle East and the Mediterranean, shipped to Mexico and America, has finally ended at the banks of river Rhine in Basel, Switzerland.
Swiss biotech giant Syngenta, based at Basel in Switzerland, has tightened its monopoly control over rice. Seeking global patents over thousands of genes in rice (a single grain of rice contains 37,544 genes, roughly one-fourth more than the genes in a human body), the multinational giant is all set to "own" rice, the worlds most important staple food crop.
Interestingly, Syngenta and another seed multinational, Pioneer Hi-Bred, were earlier agitated when the European Patent Office (EPO) on May 6, 2003 upheld the European Patent No. 301,749, granted in March 1994, which provided Monsanto exclusive monopoly over all forms of genetically engineered soybean varieties and seeds -- irrespective of the genes used or the transformation technique employed. It appears Syngentas objection to Monsantos claim over soybean was only to ensure that the proprietary control over food crops remains with them.
The trade negotiators who have been relentlessly winding and unwinding the complex maze around intellectual proprietary at the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) negotiations, and the international scientific community had refused to see the signs on the wall. With the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) clearly and steadily backing the biotechnology industrys agenda of private control of the worlds food supply, and with the governments of major rice producing countries of Asia refusing to wake up to the emerging threats, Syngenta has been allowed to take control.
Delivering a keynote at the inaugural ceremony of the International Year of the Rice 2004 at Basel in Switzerland, which for reasons understandable was jointly organised by the Swiss government, this writer had warned against the strengthening of the private control over rice: "The celebration of the year 2004 as the international year of the rice is a toast to acknowledge the emergence of Switzerland on the worlds rice map". Incidentally, Switzerland does not grow any rice.
A year later, Syngenta spilled the beans. In August 2005, in a communication to four NGOs -- Berne Declaration (Switzerland), Swissaid (Switzerland), the German NGO "No Patents on Life" and Greenpeace -- Adrian Dubock, head of Biotechnology ventures in Syngenta, stated: "Syngentas original commercial interest (discontinued for now, but not necessarily for ever) was for sales in the industrialised countries of nutritionally enhanced crops, included, but not limited to rice." Accordingly, the patent on the GE rice will not be dropped because "Our shareholders wouldnt thank us if we had forgone that possibility." Yet the company claims there are no commercial interests in this technology at the moment.
The civil society groups had asked Syngenta to drop some of its rice patent claims. The proprietary claims are also aimed at other important food crops like wheat, corn, sorghum, rye, banana, fruits and vegetables besides others. The company claims that most of the gene sequences that it has invented are identical in other crops and therefore the patent needs to extend to those crops also. In all, Syngenta has filed for mega-patents on 15 groups of gene sequences covering thousands of genes, peptides, transgenic plants and seeds, method of genetic engineering etc. One patent application, for patent 1 through 6, belongs to the same patent family (application # 60/300, 112) and runs into 12,529 pages.
Syngenta claims it invented more than 30,000 gene sequences of rice. Syngenta in collaboration with Myriad Genetics Inc of USA had beaten Monsanto in the game of mapping the genetic structure of rice by sequencing more than 99.5 per cent of the rice genome. Top executives of Syngenta had then told the New York Times that while the companies would not seek to patent the entire genome, they would try to patent individual valuable genes. They categorically stated that Syngenta and Myriad were well on their way to finding many of those.
True to its words, Syngenta finally filed for global patents before the European Patent Office, US Patent and Trademark Office and the World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation (WIPO). Thanks to the untiring efforts of four civil society organisations, which have been on a hot trail of the patenting follies, the world would have never known the patently unfair designs of the private companies. While the company does acknowledge that the scope of many of these patents will be reduced as the examination of patents proceeds, but the mere fact that the scientific community and the Asian governments have turned into mute spectators is worrying enough.
Syngentas efforts to seek control over rice have severe implications for the future of rice research and its resulting impact on food security and hunger. For countries like India or Japan, one of the seats of origin of rice, it is an ominous sign. In other words, biological inheritance of the worlds major food crop is now in the hands of a Swiss multinational. If Syngentas application for global patents is accepted, the Asian countries will lose all control that comes through sovereign control over genetic resources (as defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992) of the staple grain.
Staple food for more than half the worlds population, rice is part of the Asian culture, rice is the unstated religion of Asia, and in essence rice is the life of Asia. It is in Asia still that more than 97 per cent of the worlds rice is grown. Nearly 91 per cent of worlds rice is produced in Asia, and 92 per cent is eaten in Asia. Rice is the principal food of three of the worlds four most populous nations: Peoples Republic of China, India and Indonesia. For more than 2.5 billion people in these three countries alone - rice is what they grow up with. For centuries, rice has been the sociology, tradition and lifeline for the majority world.
Syngenta has already made it clear that the patents will restrict access to the genomic map and expects proprietary control over any research carried out with the information. By denying access to these genes of commercial value, the company will in reality block public sector science in the developing countries. At the same time, it raises serious questions over the validity of the sui generis legislations that a number of developing countries are formulating to protect the rights of the researchers and farmers. This writer has time and again warned that the sui generis laws being framed under the trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) regime is merely a strategy to allow the passage of time while the seed multinationals tighten their private control over public property.
In essence, it is the beginning of a scientific apartheid against all Third World countries.
GMO Technology & Farmers Interest in India
It has been a bumpy road for genetic engineering in Indian agriculture. International gene giants and local civil society groups have often been at loggerheads. Meanwhile, those farmers, like the Bt cotton growers, who embraced the genetically modified seeds, have often faced terrible times by taking loans to invest in the new seeds getting indebted only to find that they had lower yields. An analysis of the Indian experience with its highlights and short-comings is provided in the following article by Narender Kumar, written for FTN-Asia the Food Trade and Nutrition (FTN) coaltition of Asia.
One of the most argued and debated developments in the area of agriculture and food security in recent years is the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). While on the one hand, GMOs are considered a boon to agriculture; on the other hand these are at the center of a critical debate involving ethical values and environmental problems of agricultural biotechnology. Commercial seed supply and seed monopoly is already pushing Indian farmers into debts and suicides. Their situation would worsen if seeds and plants they need to grow are patented and they have to pay the royalties. This debate is particularly important for developing countries. Many issue regarding GMOs remain unaddressed, which relate to genetic pollution through cross-pollination, impact on health and environment, farmers income, food security and livelihood and conservation of bio-diversity. A word of caution has been sounded by Mr. M S Swaminathan, the chairman of the Indian government expert panel on biotechnology, otherwise quite a sympathizer of the GM Tech, that "trials on GM crops should not take place at centers that are rich in biodiversity since precautionary measures are required to endure that no pollen grains are transferred from GM crops to non-GM crops. Adequate bio-safety measures are necessary in trials and commercialization of GM crops in India"
GM Crops in India
India entered the portals of being a GMC producing country in March 2002 when the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) approved the large scale production and commercial release of three varieties of Bt cotton in 6 central and southern states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra, Karnataka and TN. Bt cotton, widely grown around the world, contains a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium species. When ingested by bollworm, a pest, it causes lethal paralysis in the digestive tract. This permission was granted to Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Corporation), of which 26% is owned by Monsanto, for three years after which the GEC would review the performance of Bt cotton for extension of approval. The results from the field have been varied and inconclusive as the surveys done by the government and independent NGOs came out with conflicting verdict in some case.
In the first year of commercial cultivation, 2002-03, reports from different parts of the country indicated a "failed" or "unsatisfactory" harvest of the first round of commercial transgenic Bt cotton crop. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture asked the Center to re-evaluate the economic viability of Bt cotton. Meanwhile, the GEAC rejected the use of the MECH 915 Bt cottonseed in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
The 55,000 farmers who sowed cottonseed on over 72,000 hectares across the country were an unhappy lot. This was corroborated by studies conducted by the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, as also by independent agencies. Following widespread complaints of failure of Bt cotton in Madhya Pradesh early 2003, the GEAC commissioned a seven-member team of scientists to evaluate the performance of the crop. The study showed that Bt cotton failed in Madhya Pradesh "due to wilting and large-scale drying of the crop at the peak bolling stage, accompanied by leaf-dropping and shedding, as also forced bursting of immaculate bolls". According to the study, non-Bt plants performed much better.
A six-member panel set up by the Gujarat government under S.K. Sangami Joint Director, Agriculture (Oil seeds), to evaluate the performance of Bt cotton in the State said that "it is unfit for cultivation and should be banned in the State".
The Andhra Pradesh government set up a team under Dr. Abdul Qayoom, former Joint Director of Agriculture, to evaluate the performance of Bt cotton after Agriculture Minister Vadde Sobhandrewara Rao announced in the Assembly that "the overall information is that farmers have not experienced positive and encouraging results" and hence they had to be compensated. The study showed that "Bt cotton has totally failed" as crop yields were lower than those in the case of non-Bt cotton, besides the staple being shorter and of lower weight. In several villages in Andhra Pradesh, the majority of farmers reported Bt cotton yields of 15 quintals a hectare against 35 quintals a hectare of common hybrid varieties. (The company has said that it will compensate farmers only for the failure of the seeds to germinate and for the absence of the genetic purity promised, and not for yield losses.)
In Karnataka, studies by Greenpeace India showed that not only were Bt yields lower than yields in the case of other hybrid varieties, but input costs were much higher and crop quality quite poor. A Bt cotton evaluation study carried out in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh by Gene Campaign, reported complete failure of the crop in both the States. The study showed that 60 per cent of the farmers did not recover costs. A study conducted in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, a Delhi-based non-governmental organization (NGO), yielded similar results. According to the study, not only did the Bt seed not protect the plant from bollworm attack, but also the plant was subject to a 250-300 per cent increase in attacks by non-target pests such as Jassids. Bt plants also fell prey to a fungal disease, fusarium. Apart from low yield, the fibre harvested was very short and fetched poor prices. Compared to non-Bt varieties, Bt seeds are more expensive and the Bt crop needs more fertilizers and water. The study concluded that Bt cotton was not suited for Indian conditions.
Despite the abysmal record of Bt cotton 2002-2003, the Union government went ahead and approved the commercial cultivation of the fourth Bt cotton variety, RCH 2 succeeding year.
Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology
In 2004 union government appointed a task force on agricultural biotechnology headed by Mr. MS Swaminathan. In its report submitted to the Government, the task force raised serious questions on the competence of the GEAC to give final clearance for commercial cultivation and large-scale release of GMOs. It recommended constitution of a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority (NBRA) with two arms, one for agricultural and food technology and the other for medical and pharmaceutical technology. The authority would replace the GEAC under the MoEF, and the final clearance of the GMOs may go to ICAR pending the set up of NBRA. Among others, the report recommended and evaluation of the field performance of genetically modified crops be transparent. Unfavorable results should also be highlighted and evaluation mechanism should enjoy functional independence and high scientific and public credibility.
Though the report itself was mired in the controversies for adopting sounding caution and promoting GMOs at the same time and discouraging public discourse on the GMOs, it definitely highlighted the inability of GEAC with regard to giving final clearance to the GMOs which may have significant bearing in life of the people and also for the economy and food security of the country. The government has accepted the recommendations and assured constitution of NBRA.
National draft Biotechnolgy Development Strategy
Released by Indias Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, on April 1, 2005 the policy envisages the establishment of a single high-powered regulatory authority, and changes in the rules to provide for faster and more efficient clearance of all biotechnology products.
The draft document calls for the development of transgenics in 18 crops including rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, pigeonpea, chickpea, moong bean (green gram), groundnut, mustard, soybean, cotton, sugarcane, potato, tomato, cole crops (cool-season crops belonging to the Cruciferae, or mustard, family) banana, papaya and citrus fruits. It says that priority target traits in crop plants promise increased yields, pest and disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance and enhanced quality and shelf life, engineering male sterility and the development of apomixis (the naturally occurring ability of some plant species to reproduce asexually through seeds).
In the case of hybrids, research on the introduction of genetic factors for apomixis would be supported so that resource-poor farmers could derive benefits from hybrid varieties without having to buy expensive seeds every cropping season. The draft document also proposes the development of transgenic animals, aquaculture and genetically modified foods. Other highlights of the document include a proposal to exempt all biotech units from the requirement of compulsory licensing, and allow 100% foreign direct investment through the automatic route. It also proposes the funding of biotech parks promoted by private industry or through public-private partnerships, in the form of a grant of up to 30% of the total cost, or up to 49% in the form of equity.
The draft document notes: "Majority of the genes under use -- about 40% -- are currently held by multinational companies and have been received under material transfer agreements for R&D purposes without clarity on the potential for commercialization." It proposes that at least 30% of government-funded programmes should invite the private sector, in order to commercialize research and development.
The draft policy plans to continue all existing fiscal incentives for the industry up to 2010, and a scheme to facilitate the flow of incentives applicable to export-oriented units to units in biotech parks. It also contains several other contentious issues that have invited the ire of civil society organizations, particularly those provisions relating to regulations. It says: "An event (construct) that has already undergone extensive bio-safety tests should not be treated as a new event if it is in a changed background Where adequate evidence is available that the recurrent parent genetic background of a notified/registered genotype is nearly restored (through field data/molecular data), only the agronomic performance and the level and stability of the transgenic expression may be analyzed by two-year trial data by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)."
It adds that in the case of a structurally altered transgene with no significant modifications in protein conformation, toxicity and allerginicity tests need not be carried out provided the predicted antigenic epitope remains the same and the level of expression of the transgene is within defined limits.
Criticism of the draft bill has come from none other than a member of the drafting committee, Dr Suman Sahai, head of the Delhi-based Gene Campaign. Sahai is the sole representative in the panel from the NGO sector. She said: "This policy has included practically all the suggestions of the industry and has ignored many areas of public concern. I had suggested that there should be crop-specific strategies for developing transgenics, taking into account the export factor, environmental and health aspects. The need for keeping out biodiversity-rich regions from the influence of transgenics should be emphasized."
The draft proposes the implementation of the recommendations of the M S Swaminathan panel on agri-biotech and the R A Mashelkar panel on recombinant pharma. Accordingly, it proposes the setting up of "a competent single National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority with separate divisions for transgenic crops, recombinant drugs and industrial products, transgenic food and feed, transgenic animals and aquaculture".
Pending the setting up of the new regulatory authority, the draft document suggests the setting up of an inter-ministerial group in 2005 chaired by a reputed scientist to address anomalies and issues that arise in biotech regulation from time to time. The promoter agency -- the Indian department of biotechnology -- will provide administrative support to this inter-ministerial body, the document suggests.
Current Status of Bt Cotton
The GEAC has gone ahead with its decision of allowing commercial cultivation of Bt cotton in northern states of India viz. Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan despite vehement protests by the farmers organizations, civil society groups and NGOs. Allegedly no trials have been conducted in any of these states to assess the viability and suitability of the Bt cotton to the climatic and soil conditions in these states.
The total acreage of Bt cotton hybrids has risen from 72,000 acres in 2002 to 1.1 million acres in 2004.Monsanto estimates nearly 3,50,000 Indian farmers planted Bt cotton last year. The GEAC has approved 18 varieties of Bt cotton for planting in India. The approved hybrids are made by three firms, Rassi seeds, Ankur Seeds and Mahyco. While Mahyco Mosanto Biotech is a joint venture of the US seed multinational Monsanto, Rassi Seeds and Ankur Seeds are sub-licensees of Monsanto.
Besides cotton, transgenics developed for at least 13 crops in the country are under going contained limited field trials and multi locations trials and are waiting for approvals for commercial cultivations. There are over 22 transgenic food under various stages of research. There are as many as 35 public sector institutes and universities and 18 private sector companies engaged in developing transgenic crops. The transgenic developed for 13 crops which are approved for contained limited field trials and multi-location trials are:
At present there are guideline in place for testing GM crops and seeds but not for a finished product, which may contain traces of genetically modified organism. It is alleged that genetically modified canned (imported) food is available in the supermarkets of the metros without any warning to the consumers on their GM status.
Amongst the various issues circling the GMOs the most important remain the lack of effective regulatory mechanism. The presence of unauthorized GMOs in Gujarat and other states in India are enough evidence to manifest its lack of efficacy. It is alleged that GMOs are present in a larger geographical area that has been permitted by GEAC. Lured by the promises of higher yield, farmers have developed new varieties by mixing GM and non GM seeds so that it is physically impossible to tell a GM from a non GM variety. Failure of these seeds will take the hapless farmers beyond the realm of compensation.
Regulatory System in India
The EP Act 1986, and the Rules 1989 of MoEF deal with rules and procedures handling GMOs and hazardous organisms. The GEAC established by the Ministry acts as a statutory body for review and approval from environment angle involving large scale use of GMOs and their products in R & D, industrial production, environmental release and field application. The MoEF has issued a draft notification in July 2001 as an amendment regarding the permission and approval of foodstuffs. This notification restricts a person from importing, manufacture, transport, store, distribute and sale of any food, feed, raw or processed or any ingredient of food, food additives or any food products that contains GM material without the approval of GEAC. A Biotech Coordination Committee under the GEAC functions as a legal and statutory body with judicial powers to inspect, investigate and take punitive action in case of violation of statutory provisions under the EP Act. Issues for action include review and control, and monitoring of large-scale use of GMOs in R & D and industrial production, environmental release and experimental field trials.
Besides the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) under the Department of Bio Technology, Ministry of Science & Technology (MoST) monitors the safety related aspects of ongoing research projects involving GMOs. It brings out manuals of guidelines specified procedure for regulatory processes, activities involving GMOs, in research, use and application from environmental safety angle. (Recombinant Safety Guidelines 1992 and Revised Guidelines for Research in transgenic plans 1998). The mechanism of implementation of the guidelines is through the recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RDAC) and Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBSC). The RDAC takes note of development at national and international levels in biotechnologies and recombinant research, use and application, While the IBSC is the nodal point for interaction within an institute, university, commercial organization included in rDNA research or implementations of rDNA guidelines. The IBSC is constituted in all centers engaged in genetic engineering research and production activities. Such committee should also include a representative from the health sector. In addition, there is a provision of State Biotechnologies Coordination Committee (SBCC) and District Level Committees.
Limitation of the Regulatory System
While there is a seemingly adequate provision for biosafety regulation in place, in fact it is not so. Some other major limitations are detailed as below:
· Lack of adequate standards for risk assessment
· The procedure and information required for a full environmental risk assessment and appropriate safety and emergency responses are not laid down.
· Instructions and conditions for use on labelling and packaging of products containing GMOs are yet to be specified.
· Detailed safeguards as embodied in the Cartagena Protocol are yet to be incorporated.
· Lack of infrastructure for risk assessment.
· Shortage of skilled personnel from laboratory researcher to extension service officers.
· Although food safety studies are fairly rigorous as prescribed by the RCGM, there are always uncertainties in the risk assessment process because this is a novel technology.
Besides health, safety and ethical issues which accompany genetic engineering and cause concern around the world, there are few concerns which need to be taken in account in India before going all out for GM technology.
The history of GMOs in agriculture in India is marked by lack of debate, transparency and full of controversy. Reports of earlier field trials were never made public and there is litigation in the Supreme Court on this subject. The performance of Bt cotton has been remained far from satisfactory. The Standing Committee of Parliament (on agriculture) has noted, "Bt cotton did not appear to be significantly better, both in terms of productivity and also resistance to the green or American bollworm, which was supposed to be its USP".
The regulatory mechanism in the country is absolutely weak and no further stance should be taken before repairing it to the peoples satisfaction. The GEC had no control when thousands of acres of Bt cotton were detected in Gujarat (in 2001) even before the approval of GEAC.
The Governments focus on biotechnology is at variance with its emphasis on the organic farming in the 10th Five Year Plan. States are being encouraged to adopt sustainable agriculture and reduce the dependence on the chemical pesticides. Cotton accounts for the use of more than 50% of the pesticides when the area it occupies is only 5% of the cultivated area. Before laying undue stress on Bt cotton commensurate returns should be assured.
Last but not the least, Indian agricultural products have created a niche markets for themselves by the virtue of being GM free certified. India is the only country producing non GM soybean. It also exports Rs. 6,000 crore worth GM free rice. By going GM way India is definitely going to lose that GM weary market. Despite the EUs decision to allow import of GM food and feed, GM is not very palatable to the taste of the civil society in European countries.
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6. Regulatory regimes for GM foods the way ahead (April 2005) ICMR
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10. The Financial Express, March 5, 2005
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12. http://www.ifad.org Jan 25, 2005
13. Kumar Arun, GMOs in India; an overview, PAIRVI, 2004
NAM Information Ministers to Meet after 8-year Gap
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 24 (Bernama) -- It has been more than eight years since Information Ministers of the 114-member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) met in Abuja, Nigeria and much water has flowed under the bridge.
Because of the long gap in holding the meeting, the ministers will have a loaded agenda given the developments taking place in the field of information and communication when the sixth Conference of Ministers of Information of Non-Aligned Countries (COMINAC VI) gets underway here from Nov 19 to 22.
At the Abuja conference in Abuja, five issues were raised:
The overview of world information and communication, evaluation of New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO), the Broadcasting Organisation of Non-Aligned Countries (BONAC), the Non-Aligned News Agencies Pool (NANAP) and the Statute of the International Information Centres of Non-Aligned Countries.
According to the COMINAC secretariat, the ministers agreed that advanced countries were relentlessly employing their media to perpetrate the dissemination of discriminatory and distorted information of events taking place in developing countries.
Noting that the present situation of lopsided information places the
vast majority of mankind at a disadvantage, the ministers re-affirmed the need for urgent
redress of the imbalance.
They also called for enhanced pace of development of information and communication processes in developing countries and for more dynamic action by their governments in making investments for their national interest in the field of information and communication.
On NWICO, the ministers to agreed to reduce dependence on the media of the industrialised nations by initiating and supporting co-operative activities through fresh and dynamic approaches to programming, message content and networking in the media systems of Non-Aligned states and other developing countries.
The ministers also called for increased investments in human and material resources in the area of information and communication.
Expressing concern about smear campaigns which developing nations had suffered from biased and distorted Western media reports, the ministers noted the sustained efforts of BONAC, NANAP and other regional media organizations to combat this threat.
In view of this, the ministers re-affirmed their belief in the potency
of BONAC as an effective medium for transmitting factual news of events of the developing
countries to the world.
They acknowledged the need to re-position and re-vitalise BONAC in order to enable it attain its primary goals and objectives.
They expressed full support for plans by NANAP to strengthen and
streamline the present configuration of its communication network to enhance news flow
among NANAP members.
This would lead to the setting up of International Information Centres to improve information flow on regional level among developing countries, to achieve the goal of a more just, equitable and balanced global information and communication system.
The coming COMINAC VI is expected to come up with a declaration to further strengthen co-operation in the field of information and communication.
South Centre News
Women, Development, And The UN This is the title of a new book by Devaki Jain, a member of the South Commission, the precursor to the establishement of the South Centre. With a forword by Amartya Sen, the book was released in India on 25 October, 2005 by the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was the Secretary General of the South Commission. Devaki Jain is a founding member of the Indian Association of Womens Studies. She advised the National Commission on Women of the Government of India and her academic research and advocacy were influenced largely by Gandhian philosophy - focused on issues of womens rights, democratic decentralization, and people-centered development. She lives in Bangalore.
Prof. Johan Galtung
Prof. Johan Galtung will be delivering a lecture entitled "The Six Basic Conflicts of the 21st century: are solutions possible?" on Tuesday, 29 November 2005 at 15:00 hrs at the Palais des Nations, room XXVI. The lecture is sponsored by the South Centre.
The Executive Director
Prof. Yash Tandon, the Executive Director of the South Centre spoke at the 13th Globalization Lecture organized in Amersterdam on "China & Globalization: Two Contending Perspectives & Their Application to Africa."
Trade and Development Programme
Recent research and publications
As part of a new strategy aimed at improving outreach, the Analytical notes have been replaced by the Trade-Related Agenda, Development and Equity (TRADE) Analysis series. These publications provide pro-active analyses on issues of key developmental interest to developing countries. Three such papers were released during October:
Policy Choices, Flexibility and Diversity in Development Strategies (SC/TADP/TA/GEG/1). This TRADE Analysis emphasizes that the recognition of "policy space" and the placement of development goals can be used to form the core of a more positive "Coherence" agenda in favor of developing countries development interests in the WTO and the Bretton Woods institutions.
The WTO Dispute Settlement System:
Issues to Consider in the DSU Negotiations
(SC/TADP/TA/DS/1). This TRADE Analysis discusses selected aspects of the WTO dispute settlement system that developing countries should consider as they continue to engage in the DSU negotiations.
The Agenda For Transfer of Technology:
The Working Group of The WTO on Trade and Transfer of Technology (SC/TADP/TA/IP/1). examined the current status of the Working Group, revisit the expectations of developing countries form the Working Group, and evaluates options and strategies to in the lead-up to the Sixth Ministerial Conference. Taking into account the last submission of developing countries that advances two of the work areas identified by WT/WGTTT/W/6, the discussion in the upcoming meeting of the Working Group and the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the WTO should result in the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group with the focus on examination of concrete recommendations to foster technology transfer to developing countries. The priority action area, as a result, constitutes the raising of the profile of the discussions in the Working Group to a level where there is a sufficient basis for moving into negotiations or substantive discussion on technology transfer issue during the forthcoming Hong Kong Ministerial Conference.
South Centre and CIEL Intellectual Property Update, Third Quarter 2005was released on 20 of October 2005. It discusses the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological diversity and the case for disclosure requirement, and provides a brief factual update of international intellectual property-related developments in the third quarter of 2005.
South Centre Quarterly on Trade Disputes, Third Quarter 2005
This issue discusses the historic public WTO dispute settlement panel hearing in the context of the DSU negotiations, recent Appellate Body pronouncements on the rules for interpreting treaties and Schedules of Commitments, and two other notable WTO disputes.
Expanding National Policy Space for Development:
Why the Multilateral Trading System Must Change
(TRADE Working Paper 25, September 2005) was publicly released on 13 October 2005 on the occasion of the 52nd meeting of the Trade and Development Board (TDB) of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland. It examines the concept of "policy space" by illustrating how a developing countrys development policy options may be limited by, for example, by WTO agreements
All TADP publications are available at the following link:
Meetings outside the centre The South Centre staff:
attended a meeting organized by Quakers on African Groups interests in domestic regulation in services on 26 October
presented a paper on EPAs and WTO Compatibility at a meeting of EU Member States representatives (Informal MS EPA Network) on 19 October 2005 in Berlin, Germany.
Program of work with delegations in Geneva
On developments in the Services negotiations, particularly the "complementary approaches."
A South Centre- International Institute for sustainable development (IISD) meeting on Bilateral Investment Agreements and the Challenges for Development was held on 26 October 2006. The potential risk of investment agreements outweighs their supposed benefit in terms of promoting investment, to which no convincing evidence is available. In addition, the investment agreements are noted to have been negotiated and signed without strong legal analysis at the same time providing an open invitation for investors to challenge states in a very wide range of issues. Participants emphasised the need to review investment agreements and increase awareness of their impact.
Meetings in the Centre
On the 19th October with Mr. Ndiagou Fall, from the Réseau dOrganisations Paysannes et des Producteurs Agricoles de lAfrique de lOuest (ROPPA), with Mr. Marek Poznanki and with Mrs. Nora McKeon from Colléctif Stratégies Alimentaires (CSA) to exchange information about the state of play of agriculture negotiations in the WTO and about the Seminar that South Centre is organizing on Commodities and Development, in Hong Kong, on the 12 December 2005.
On the 27 October with Aldo Caliari, from the Rethinking Bretton Woods Project of the Centre of Concern to discuss areas of the WTO negotiations related to trade, debt and finance and to identify areas of common interest for future research
Absorbing the Statistics on Hunger
The statistics on the number of people going hungry around the world today is truly mind- boggling. The Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) latest estimates of the number of undernourished people confirm an alarming trend - progress in reducing hunger in the developing world has slowed to a crawl and in most regions the number of undernourished people is actually growing. On 17 October, 2005 the FAO celebrated its 60 anniversary in Rome.
Most of the headlines that emanated from the event singled out mainly the references made by President Chavez and President Mugabe of the worlds only superpower. But the Presidents of Brazil, Venezuela and Zimbabwe did take time out of their busy schedules to focus on the scourge of hunger and the shame that it brings in the name of humanity today.
Worldwide, the latest estimates indicate that 840 million people were undernourished in 1998-2000. This figure includes 11 million in the industrialized countries, 30 million in countries in transition and 799 million in the developing world. The latest figure of 799 million for the developing countries represents a decrease of just 20 million since 1990-92, the benchmark period used at the World Food Summit (WFS). This means that the average annual decrease since the Summit has been only 2.5 million, far below the level required to reach the WFS goal of halving the number of under nourished people by 2015. It also means that progress would now have to be accelerated to 24 million per year, almost 10 times the current pace, in order to reach that goal.
Closer examination reveals that the situation in most of the developing world is even bleaker than it appears at first glance. The marginal global gains are the result of rapid progress in a few large countries. China alone has reduced the number of undernourished people by 74 million since 1990-92. Indonesia, Viet Nam, Thailand, Nigeria, Ghana and Peru have all achieved reductions of more than 3 million, helping to offset an increase of 96 million in 47 countries where progress has stalled. But if China and these six countries are set aside, the number of undernourished people in the rest of the developing world has increased by over 80 million since the WFS benchmark period.
When the number of undernourished is considered as a proportion of a countrys total population, the picture is somewhat more encouraging. In the majority of developing countries, the proportion has actually decreased since the WFS. In 26 of the 61 developing countries that achieved a proportional decrease in undernourishment, however, the absolute number of undernourished people has continued to rise as a result of rapid population growth. One of those 26 countries is India, where the ranks of the undernourished have swollen by 18 million, despite the fact that the proportion fell from 25 to 24 percent.
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the highest prevalence of under nourishment and also has the largest increase in the number of undernourished people. But the situation in Africa is not uniformly grim. Most of the increase took place in Central Africa, driven by the collapse into chronic warfare of a single country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the number of undernourished people has tripled.
West Africa, with Southeast Asia and South America, has reduced significantly both the prevalence and the number of undernourished people. But prospects are troubling for Central America, the Near East and East Asia (excluding China), where both of these elements have increased. Out of the glare of news headlines is a recurrent tragedy. Millions of people, including 6 million children under the age of five, die each year as a result of hunger. Of these millions, relatively few are the victims of famines that attract headlines, video crews and emergency aid.
Far more die unnoticed, killed by the effects of chronic hunger and malnutrition, a "covert famine" that stunts their development, saps their strength and cripples their immune systems. All the good intentions and grandiose targets national and international mean little if this scenario of the politics and economics of hunger is not changed quickly enough.
At first sight, it is not apparent enough but there is a web of interconnection that runs through a host of issues being discussed today. Hunger and malnutrition are directly related to issues of food security that developing countries are raising in the WTO. As indeed are the fate of the millions of small peasant farmers in the developing world who cannot compete with dumped agricultural products from the rich world which subsidizes its agriculture to the tune of a billion dollars a day! Hunger is intimately linked with poverty and is alleviated with better land reforms and the development of rural infrastructure. But above all, hunger needs a frontal attack to kill it. It should become a l benchmark to test political will as some world leaders have shown the way.
Attached please find the latest issue of the South Bulletin
in pdf and word formats. No. 113 - focus on Hunger. Best regards, See attached file: bulletin113.pdf
See attached file:South Bulletin 113Word.doc Someshwar Singh Senior Editor South Centre Ch. du Champ d'Anier 17 1211 Geneva 19 Switzerland Tel-(4122)7918044 Fax-(4122)7988531
Latest issue of the South Bulletin no. 113Attachment:
bulletin113.pdf (0.22 MB)
SouthBulletin113Word.doc (0.28 MB)
Wednesday, November 2, 2005