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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ce fléau n’est pas une fatalité

by R.A. (interviewer)

Jean Ziegler: There is Nothing Inevitable about World Hunger

Translated Monday 18 December 2006

Jean Ziegler holds the position of UN special envoy for The Right to Food and is the author of the recently-published book "L’Empire de la honte" (The Empire of Shame) [1]

HUMA: In a world that is getting richer and richer and that produces, in the Northern countries, enormous food surpluses, to the point of not knowing what to do with them, 850 million people in the world are hungry, according to recent statistics reported in the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). How is this possible?

ZIEGLER: You are right. The world could easily produce food to feed 12 billion human beings – twice the current population. But 850 million people are permanently and seriously underfed. This is an unacceptable scandal, principally caused by third-world debt, European and the United States’ subsidies to export agricultural products, and the massive exclusion of which these 850 millions people are victims. All these causes are man-made. There is nothing inevitable about this: a person dying today of hunger is being murdered.

HUMA: Is this a recognition of the failure of the market place in agriculture (produced for export) of which the international institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, - not forgetting those nations that follow them – have become the major advocates?

JEAN ZIEGLER: Absolutely. The World Bank and the IMF have imposed their conditions for many decades: liberalization, privatization, maximization of profits for capital. These policies have had and continue to have dramatic consequences for the whole planet. The mountain of martyrs is getting higher and higher! Yet, these same conditions are being reimposed on the countries of the southern hemisphere, through the World Trade Organization and other bilateral agreements, imposed by the European Union or by the United States. The capitalist, global world order does not only kill, it is also absurd: it is a killer, but it kills unnecessarily.

HUMA: For the developing countries, is "national food sovereignty" the answer to this failure of the market economy?

ZIEGLER: Sovereignty in food production is a requirement not only for Third World countries but also for the European and international civil society (notably for the Confédération paysanne in France and the Via Campesina [2]. This consists of the following: every sovereign state has the right to refuse the requirements imposed by the IMF (for example, mandatory privatizations) or by the WTO (forced liberalization of the economy and elimination of border tariffs and quota requirements), if these norms threaten the capacity of the population to feed itself.

At the same time, the WTO and the Bretton-Woods institutions (IMF and World Bank), like the majority of the western countries, and, of course, the large transcontinental agro-industrial and water corporations reject outright this notion of food sovereignty. It is therefore essential that democratic public opinion in western countries become mobilized and create effective solidarity with the economies of countries of the Third World.

[1Jean Ziegler is the author of various books on globalization and on the crimes committed in the name of global finance and capitalism, condemning in particular the role of Switzerland in these crimes.

[2Via Campesina: the international Peasant Movement operating out of Rome.

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