[permaculture] Dangerous Liaisons: A Battle Plan from the United Nations and the International Financial Institutions to Fight Global Hunger

Wesley Roe and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network lakinroe at silcom.com
Wed Apr 30 22:35:28 EDT 2008

The Oakland Institute Reporter
Dangerous Liaisons
A Battle Plan from the United Nations and the 
International Financial Institutions to Fight Global Hunger

  UN agencies are meeting in Berne o tackle the 
world food price crisis. Heads of International 
Financial Institutions (IFIs), including Robert 
Zoellick, President of the World Bank (former 
U.S. trade representative) and Pascal Lamy, WTO's 
Director General, are among the attendees. Will 
the "battle plan" emerging from the Swiss 
capital, a charming city with splendid sandstone 
buildings and far removed from the grinding 
poverty and hunger which has reduced people to 
eating mud cakes in Haiti and scavenging garbage 
heaps, be more of the same - promote free trade to deal with the food crisis?

The growing social unrest against food prices has 
forced governments to take policy measures such 
as export bans, to fulfill domestic needs. This 
has created uproar among policy circles as fear 
of trade being undermined sets in. "The food 
crisis of 2008 may become a challenge to 
globalization," exclaims The Economist in its 
April 17, 2008 issue. Not surprisingly then, the 
"Doha Development Round" which has been in a 
stalemate since the collapse of the 2003 WTO 
Ministerial in Cancun, largely due to the 
hypocrisy of agricultural polices of the rich 
nations, is being resuscitated as a solution to rising food prices.

Speaking at the Center for Global Development, 
Zoellick passionately argued that the time was 
"now or never" for breaking the Doha Round 
impasse and reaching a global trade deal. Pascal 
Lamy has argued, "At a time when the world 
economy is in rough waters, concluding the Doha 
Round can provide a strong anchor." Dominique 
Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the IMF, has 
claimed, "No one should forget that all countries 
rely on open trade to feed their populations. [Š] 
Completing the Doha round would play a critically 
helpful role in this regard, as it would reduce 
trade barriers and distortions and encourage agricultural trade."

Preaching at the altar of free market to deal 
with the current crisis requires a degree of 
official amnesia. It was through the removal of 
tariff barriers, through the international trade 
agreements, that allowed rich nations such as the 
U.S. to dump heavily subsidized farm surplus in 
developing countries while destroying their 
agricultural base and undermining local food 
production. Reduction of rice tariffs from 100 to 
20 percent in Ghana under structural adjustment 
policies enforced by the World Bank, rice imports 
increased from 250,000 tons in 1998 to 415,150 
tons in 2003, with 66 percent of rice producers 
recording negative returns leading to loss of 
employment. In Cameroon, poultry imports 
increased by about six-fold with the lowering of 
tariff protection to 25 percent while import 
increases wiped out 70 percent of Senegal's poultry industry.

Developing countries had an overall agricultural 
trade surplus of almost US$7 billion per year in 
the 1960s. According to the Food and Agricultural 
Organization (FAO), gross imports of food by 
developing countries grew with trade 
liberalization, turning into a food trade deficit 
of more than US$11 billion by 2001 with cereal 
import bill for Low Income Food Deficit Countries 
reaching over $38 billion in 2007/2008.

Erosion of agricultural base of the developing 
countries has increased hunger among their 
farmers while destroying their ability to meet 
their food needs. The 1996 World Food Summit's 
commitment to reduce the number of hungry - 815 
million then - by half by 2015 had already become 
a far-fetched idea by its 10th anniversary. U.N. 
Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean 
Ziegler, reported last June that nearly 854 
million people in the world-one in every six 
human beings-are gravely undernourished.

So on who's behalf are the heads of the IFIs 
promoting the conclusion of the Doha Round and 
further liberalization of agriculture. While 
Investors Chronicle in its April 2008 feature 
story, "Crop Boom Winners" explores how investors 
can gain exposure to the dramatic turnaround in 
food and farmland prices, a new report from 
GRAIN, Making a Killing from the Food Crisis, 
shows Cargill, the world's biggest grain trader, 
achieved an 86% increase in profits from 
commodity trading in the first quarter of 2008; 
Bunge had a 77% increase in profits during the 
last quarter of 2007; ADM, the second largest 
grain trader in the world, registered a 67% per 
cent increase in profits in 2007. Behind the 
chieftains of the capitalist system are powerful 
transnational corporations, traders, and 
speculators who trade food worldwide, determine 
commodity prices, create and then manipulate 
shortages and surpluses to their advantage, and 
are the real beneficiaries of international trade agreements.
The vultures of greed are circling the carcasses 
of growing hunger and poverty as another 100 
million join the ranks of the world's poorest - 
nearly 3 billion people who live on less than $2 
a day. Agriculture is fundamental to the 
well-being of all people, both in terms of access 
to safe and nutritious food and as the foundation 
of healthy communities, cultures, and 
environment. The answer to the current crisis 
will not come from the WTO or the World Bank, but 
lies in the principles of food sovereignty that 
can ensure food self-sufficiency for each nation. 
It is time for the developing countries to uphold 
the rights of their people to safe and nutritious 
food and break with decades of ill-advised 
policies that have failed to benefit their people.

* Anuradha Mittal is the executive director of 
the Oakland Institute. www.oaklandinstitute.org. 
Learn more about the World Food Crisis at www.oaklandinstitute.org.


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