Only a strong European mobilization can stop starvation

Emma Bonino
Notizie radicali

ABSTRACT: Italy's extraordinary intervention against starvation could prove useless if the other European countries do not take actions too. According to the author, it is necessary to reiterate the request for a special $5 billion appropriation on the part of the European Community, to be added to the 1% of GDP requested by the Brandt Commission by way of aid to developing countries. It is necessary to develop an initiative aiming to draw the attention of the UN Security Council on the problem of starvation, which should be considered as a serious threat to the peace and security of the world.
(Radical News N. 265 of 28th November 1985)

Italy's intervention could be completely ineffective not only because of the objective limits envisioned by law n. 73 - because the political class, failing to grasp the importance and proportions of this battle, has reduced its political scope as well as the economic and financial requirements - but also because the dimension of this battle is necessarily international, or at least European, and this is the necessary dimension if we consider the actual figures. First of all, the very size of the tragedy: in Africa alone, the number of malnourished people has by now toppled 100 million (and I wish to remind our slogan, "rescuing 3 million lives now"). 20% of Africans cannot find enough food to survive in good health and cereal production in producer countries has dropped 2% over the last 15 years. The size of the resources to be used in this war, therefore, calls for an international mobilization, failing which the exceptional effort of a single country would be completely useless, and would ultimately become one of the many fallimentary initiatives of the traditional "aid development" policy. All this will happen unless we succeed in overturning the very political approach which currently characterizes public aid and development: law n. 73 is yet another demonstration of this.

Forte is not responsible.
Clearly, the risk we face, and which reflects the tendency of the other countries or of the international bodies, is a diminution of the funds: law n. 73 could be incorporated into a fallimentary management, and lack the strength to urge other countries and overturn this tendency. Hence the need for our intervention and our political action. Obviously we expected more courage of those who were required to apply the political project developed during five years of struggles. Obviously we expected more courage of the under-secretary Forte. But I believe we cannot expect any heroic deeds. We must, on the contrary, demand and promote new laws allowing the current leading classes to also express a policy based on life, rather than collect a series of failures. This dimension is one of international or at least European mobilization. First of all, we must immediately clear the field from any alibis used by those who, right-wing or left-wing, tell us that the problem does not lie in the quantity of the resources and of the money. A few can easily unmask this alibi. Over the last ten years, despite the monetary growth of global aid to developing countries, which has climbed to some 100 million dollars, the real value of this aid has in fact seriously dropped owing to factors we are well accustomed to: inflation, reduced purchasing power of exports, rise of the dollar. But the scarcity of this aid on the part of the entire world, which totals 100 million dollars, is even clearer if compared not only, obviously, to the $800 billion spent in the world on armaments, but to the $895 of total debt of the developing countries.

5 billion dollars
We need to acquire the courage to repeat that the essential community aid for an extraordinary intervention against starvation amounts to some 5 billion dollars. Such figure has been indicated by us and by the European Parliament in the Pannella resolution passed in 1981. Such resolution called for an ordinary appropriation of five billion dollars, to which the appropriations of the single countries of the community were to be added, for a total value that was to represent 1% of the gross domestic product, as advocated by the Brandt Commission itself. If this is the size of the figures with respect to which we can perhaps hope to revert a tendency, you can easily realize that we have lain a brick in Italy, but that the wall of solidarity, the wall against war, starvation and the holocaust, needs yet to be built.
There is a second element I would like to draw your attention on: the link between struggle against death by starvation and underdevelopment, the threat to peace and therefore the struggle to acquire peace and to allow for the democratic development of those developing countries that would like to embark on this venture. There is nothing new: these same elements were contained in the report of the Carter commission, and to some extent contained also in the Brandt report and clearly expressed ("the new name for peace is development") in the Populorum Progressio. Therefore we need to be united. All cultures, from the catholics to the socialists, should agree on these theses. This is more difficult a task than would appear. This relation between starvation and war, between starvation and instability, between underdevelopment and need for an authoritarian and dictatorial management of the country has not been fully understood, for instance, by the entire European movement.

The pacifist movement
The pacifist movement of the North is, in actual fact, a Eurocentric movement, which has a Eurocentric vision of peace, and does not realize that it is unwillingly racist. If peace is the peace of Northern Europe, of the white race, then it is true that we are in peace. But if we consider peace not only as the absence of war in our small country, but as the opportunity to develop, and as the unarmed solution of conflicts, then we should consider the fact that in these thirty years of European and Northern peace, there have been 150 conventional wars in the Southern part of the world, which have claimed 20 million victims. With respect to this comparison, what is the threat to peace today, what are the wars under way? The struggle against nuclear weapons is a noble one: but realizing that in the face of this future catastrophe there is a war under way today, whether a war with conventional weapons or a food war, I can assure you that it matters little for those who die.

The security council
I would like to add another indication to this congress, which is the congress of the rule of law, and of the future new law. If the thesis according to which there is a link between starvation and instability and potential strife, then there is a precise, unique international counter-part: the security council of the United Nations. Here too we were the promoters of a historical resolution, to use the expression of the then French foreign minister Cheysson, of the European Parliament in 1981, whereby the Security Council was asked to examine the problem of hunger and underdevelopment in consideration of their representing a threat to international peace and security, thus placing the problem of starvation in the correct dimension and adequate political importance.
If we refer to art. 25 of the Charter of the United Nations, on the binding and compulsory measures for the countries of the United Nations which the Security Council can and must take to quell, settle or prevent armed conflicts, art. 25 says nothing, perhaps because it was written many years ago.
But we know that the legislation of the international court of The Hague endows the Security Council with further powers, i.e. the possibility of issuing binding decisions for any initiative aimed at reinstating peace and security. In other words, I believe it necessary for the jurists of the international law to develop a legislation capable of creating clear rules of coexistence that must be based on the rule of laws, and not on weapons. The question is not carrying out adjustments or improvements in one sector rather than another: we need to affirm a new political will, placing the extraordinary action aiming to rescue millions of people from death at least at the same level as the actions and preoccupation for military defense.

International cooperation
International actions must therefore be devised, and international organizations created, with a prestige adequate to the objectives we have indicated. Hence the attempt to create the International FD [Food and Disarmament] Council: i.e. the organization that is trying to evolve from the endorsement of the manifesto of Nobel prize winners to a political organization of Nobel prize winners, of heads of state, of political and religious personalities. FD operates as an international secretariat for groups in various nations, and so far the attempt has been to create this political organization having the capacity to open a serious political debate with the other international organizations such as the Socialist International, where the acme of width and depth of analysis was represented by the 1981 Brandt report or the Christian Democratic International.
Some twenty Nobel Prize winners, including Perez Esquivel, Leontief, Linus Fowley, Salam and many others, are already members of this organization; they have organized themselves and intend to work elbow to elbow with political personalities, first and foremost president Pertini (who has been a source of hope and whom I thank), who has pledged to act in future years as ambassador of the struggle against starvation and for peace, and to circulate the initiatives and proposals we shall develop.
The objective I have set for myself is the summons of an international conference in Rome in the first we weeks of 1986, which, five years after the Manifesto of Nobel Prize winners, will draw a balance on the situation and gather the heads of state of the most concerned or sensitive countries, the jurists and officials of the United Nations, and develop a political document which is to be the theoretical foundation as well as the indicator of objectives of the new, necessary international action. The first contacts with the highest political and religious authorities of our country and of several African and South American countries have yielded good results. At the same time, we are organizing a roll of parliamentarians from all over the world who are willing to support this and future initiatives in their countries, and act as point of reference for future groups at the national level. These are the deadlines and the objectives. Nonetheless, since I am talking to friends, to radical comrades, my problem is, will we make it? Where can we find the hundreds of millions necessary for this campaign? Whom can we ask for help? To this party, which is on the verge of collapse? Who else can we ask? How will we manage in terms of resources and territorial locations? It is a difficult choice, a challenge, but one that is necessary if we want to avoid a political failure, because failing this we risk reverting to a purely academic debate. Will we make it? The goal is distant, the path is no doubt arduous, but a poet once said that trying is an obligation. I hope we will try together. I wish you all a profitable work.