Interview with Jean Ziegler by Gilles Toussaint: Introduction and translation by Siv O'Neall
Bank and other banks
and supranational organizations who collude with the
heist ever seen.
source of unimaginable
suffering and marginalization of the poor. Among other perfectly inhuman
effects of poverty and subsequent malnutrition is the
noma, which Professor
Ziegler has exposed in a separate report to the United Nations.
has become the
nets that have been
existing, even in the United States to some extent,
eroding, whereas the
Corporations are busy devouring the money that’s pouring in from the selling of
wars and the exploitation of cheep foreign labor.
The Corpocrats, the speculators, the ones who are busy
making the world into a casino, have no intention of ever considering the fates
of the people. The only thing they are set on is amassing huge wealth, even if
it will be the end of the world we live in.
"The cannibal world order"
October 16 marks the World Food Day. Hunger is not
inevitable, says Jean Ziegler.
Jean Ziegler was passing through Brussels on Friday
to promote his new book "Mass Destruction – The Geopolitics of
Hunger" (Editions Seuil) in which the former UN Special Rapporteur for the
Right to Food delivers an uncompromising analysis of the roots of world hunger.
Interview with Gilles Toussaint
This book seems to be the assessment you have made from your eight years as Special Rapporteur to the UN. The impression that emerges is of a certain disillusionment ...
This book should provide a plan for how to save the victims of hunger and expose the enemies of the right to food, the cold monsters of the agri-food trade. Today, ten companies control the food trade in the world. I try to provide the weapons for fighting those companies and also provide elements of hope. But also, on a more intimate level, I am trying to say where I have been a traitor.
The final outcome is not encouraging ...
It is quite contradictory. Hunger in the world is the scandal of our time. Thirty-five million people die each year from hunger or its immediate aftermath. As we are speaking, a child under 10 dies of hunger every 5 seconds. Nearly one billion people are permanently severely malnourished and the situation is becoming increasingly catastrophic. And this is happening on a planet where agriculture is capable of feeding 12 billion people. This is therefore a personal failure. This is not today a question of inevitability. A child who dies of hunger is a child murdered. On the other hand, the awareness of this horror is increasing. There are more and more people who understand that hunger is man-made, that we live in a cannibal world-order maintained by multinational companies and their mercenary organizations, that is, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. I think we are close to a wide-spread rebellion of conscience.
Do you think the hunger in the world today is the result of a choice, one that stems from neo-liberal economics?
Totally. Historically, we had three stages. Until the Second World War, the theories of pastor Malthus saying that there was a law of necessity that prevailed. He said the wars and famines are horrible, but necessary, otherwise there would be overpopulation. It was a sort of natural self-regulatory mechanism. This theory has been accepted into the church because it magnificently justified Western colonialism and the ruling oligarchy of the world. Then, thanks to Hitler, horrible though it sounds, there was an awakening of conscience. Because the Nazi monsters used the weapon of hunger to kill Europeans who thus learned about hunger themselves. At the end of the war, there was a political awakening that led to the recognition of the right to food in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). But now the obscure laws of neoliberal economics are seen as being innately natural and the market decides. According to this theory, liberalizing the market, privatizing the public sector, the forces of production will increase and hunger will ultimately be eradicated. This is obviously an absolute lie. Globalization and liberalization of every shade and color have made extraordinary progress over the last twenty years and, at the same time, hunger has increased, whereas it should have been the opposite, according to the neoliberal hollow rhetoric. We must intervene and destroy this cannibalistic world order to put an end to all the mechanisms that kill. We must, for example, ban the burning of food to make bio-fuels.
Should speculation in food commodity markets be
Since the financial crash of 2008, sovereign funds, hedge funds and big banks
are now turning to the stock exchanges of agricultural materials for profit and
this has made prices skyrocket. In Geneva, which is the Ali Baba treasure cave
for these speculators, if you go to the UBS investment bank, they offer you
investment in rice certificates that will guarantee a 37% capital gain! All
this in a completely legal manner, even if it is morally unacceptable. These
speculators should be brought to justice for crimes against humanity! While
nations have mobilized in order to bail out the banks by pouring into their
empty coffers billions of dollars, the World Food Programme (WFP) lost half of its funding in 2008. Today, in East Africa,
12.4 million people are on the verge of collapse from hunger. The UN refugee
camps are turning away hundreds of families every day for lack of resources.
And speculators are two times responsible for this. Indeed, not only has the WFP lost half of its budget,
but it must also buy 85% of the food it distributes on the world market where
prices have gone through the roof due to speculative activities.
Another worrying trend is that of land grabbing ...
year, 41 million hectares of arable land were appropriated by investment funds
and multinational companies in Africa alone. The result has been the expulsion
of small farmers. What must be denounced is the role of the World Bank, but
also that of the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank,
which financed the land thefts. In order to justify this theft they hide behind
a shameful theory, which says that agricultural productivity is very low in
Africa. This is true. But this is not because African farmers are less
competent than French or Walloon farmers. It is because these countries are
strangled by their foreign debt. So they have no money to build up reserves in
case of disasters or to invest in subsistence agriculture. It is entirely false
to claim that the solution will come from the sale of land to multinationals.
What must be done is put these countries in a position to invest in agriculture
and give their farmers the minimal tools to increase productivity: tools,
irrigation, improved seeds.
What are finally the reasons for hope?
Hope is twofold. There is firstly the emergence of a
peasant uprising represented by the movement Via Campesina, which represents
nearly 135 million small farmers around the world. This movement has come up
with a very concrete project, a Convention on the rights of farmers, and
brought it to the United Nations. This proposal will be debated in March by the
Council of Human Rights, which must decide whether to make it an instrument of international
law. This is obviously a difficult and uncertain process, but I am convinced
that this agreement will eventually be realized and it will become a powerful
weapon. On the other hand, the dominant countries are democracies, even if
their democratic values stop at their borders to make way for the laws of
multinational corporations. However, these democracies are not powerless. Any
of these mechanisms can be broken by the democratic will of public opinion. We
could vote right away on total debt relief for the poorest countries. You can
also decide that only the actual players can trade in the agricultural
commodity markets, those who deliver the goods [and not the speculators]. Hunger can
easily be removed democratically and peacefully in a short period of time.
Jean Ziegler is a professor emeritus in sociology at the University of Geneva and at the Sorbonne, Paris. He has been leading a long and passionate fight for justice and humanity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2000 to 2008 and, since then, as a
UN Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee, where
Professor Ziegler is a prolific author of books at first in particular dealing with the dire situation of hunger in Africa. Since 1964 he has written innumerable books, among which "Sociology of the New Africa", "The Living and the Dead", "Pillage on Africa", "Turn the Guns Around", "The new rulers of the world and those who resist them", "The Empire of Shame" (not translated into English), "Hatred of the West" (not translated into English), and most recently, published October 13, 2011, "Mass
- Almost half the world—over 3 billion people—live on less than $2.50 aday.
The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.
Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world). 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).