By René Wadlow
On May 23, the United Nations (UN) Security Council will hold a special briefing to address the issue of food insecurity under the chairmanship of Mr. Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation. During May, the rotating chairmanship is held by Switzerland led by the Swiss Ambassador to the UN in New York, Ms. Pascale Baeriswyl. The meeting will have as background a May 3 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concerning early warning on areas facing acute food insecurity. The report highlights that some 250 million persons are living in this situation of acute food insecurity with the Democratic Republic of Congo leading the list with some 27 million persons due to armed violence and the breakdown of governmental structures. The Congo is followed by Ethiopia, largely due to fighting in the Tigray area. The war in Ukraine is also having a negative impact limiting production and export of food goods – a principal export of Ukraine. In addition to armed conflict, there is the growing impact of the consequences of climate change.
Today, cooperation on food insecurity is needed among the UN family of agencies, national governments, nongovernmental organizations, and the millions of food producers to respond to this food crisis. These measures will have to be taken in a holistic way with actions going from the local level of the individual farmer, the national level with new governmental policies, to measures at the multi-State regional level such as the European Union and the African Union, and at the world level with better coordinated action through the UN system.
There is a need for swift, short-term measures to help people now suffering from lack of food and malnutrition due to high food prices, inadequate distribution, and situations of violence. Such short-term action requires additional funding for the UN World Food Program and the release of national food stocks. However, it is on the longer-range and structural issues on which we must focus our attention.
The Association of World Citizens has taken a lead in the promotion of a coordinated world food policy with an emphasis on the small-scale farmer and a new awareness that humans are part of Nature with a special duty to care and respect for the Earth’s inter-related life-support system. As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World (1952), “Since the hungry in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.”
A central theme which Citizens of the World have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that such a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs. John Boyd Orr, the first Director General of the FAO, proposed a World Food Board to stabilize food prices and supplies. He resigned as Director General when the food board proposal was not accepted and then devoted much of his energy to the world citizen movement.
For World Citizens, the emphasis must be placed on creating a world food policy which draws upon improving local self-reliance while not creating nationalistic policies which harm neighbors. Food is a key aspect of deep structural issues in the world society and thus must be seen in a holistic framework. The briefing and debate of the UN Security Council may give us strong elements on which to promote a world food policy.