Demand a policy of life

Emma Bonino
Notizie radicali



ABSTRACT: The Food and Disarmament International initiative from the Manifesto of the Nobel Prize Winners of June 1981 to the Manifesto of the African Heads of State of February 1986.

(Notizie Radicali no.54 of March 5, 1986)


June 24, 1981 and February 15, 1986. Two dates. Two international political documents whose central theme is the heart of the Food and Disarmament action and of the Radical Party on the battlefront against hunger and for development.

The Nobel Prize Manifesto, that was launched in six capitals and signed five years ago by 53 Nobel Prize winners - who today have become 95 - pointed out simple truths which for that very reason were ignored by governments and political classes dominated by a "third-world culture" that impregnates the general model of public aid to developing countries. The Nobel winners affirmed that it was possible to defeat hunger - providing the necessary political will with all the means, including that of non-violence and the satyagraha - on the condition that new laws, new budgets, and new resources were furnished for punctual and co-ordinated intervention in the regions with the highest mortality rates. Beginning with the saving of human lives, it would have been possible to freeze the process of social and economic destruction that produces starvation and to get those regions and economies going again on a medium and long range basis. In other words to begin by saving those who today are in agony and to reach a real development which will benefit those countries instead of continuing along the traditional road of raining down investments on particular sectors of a country's economy in the hypothetical and often illusory hope that the increase in the economic production indicators would sooner or later result in the "physiological" absorption and resolution of the hunger problem.

A problem that the "experts" confronted only by sending food supplies completely cut off from other aid integrated into the logical framework. The Nobel winners' line sought to isolate the problem of hunger in a more general context of under-development and make it the central feature, not only of the aid system, but also of the foreign policy of each country because of the implications such phenomena have for economics and international security. The Radical Party has fought along this line during these last years by trying to turn into concrete action the new strategy that was taking shape recently in international conferences and meetings, among other places.

In this way the resolution of the European Parliament was obtained, which was the first to indicate the need of quantifying the number of people that could be saved, and by what means, and in how much time. Then, after alternations of hope and disappointment, came the Belgian and the Italian laws.

But these laws were the fruit of fundamental compromise between the proposals of the promoters and the majorities needed to pass them. Majorities, they were, that were tied to the old schemes, the old power centers, often incapable of understanding the deep meaning of the new proposals. The truth is also that diverse national laws are not sufficient to defeat hunger and realise that great initial effort necessary to rehabilitate the poorest countries and guarantee the right to life of those threatened with starvation.

What instead is needed are acts on the part of the United Nations which would legally bind the Eastern and Western countries to enter the lists in a co-ordinated and concrete manner. It is this double-barrelled idea that triggers off the manifesto of the heads of state launched on February 15, 1976 in the course of the IInd International Rome Conference and signed by 15 African States led by Senegal's Abdou Diouf, president at the time of the Organisation for African Unity, and by Felix Houphuet Beoigny, "the wise old man of the continent", president of the Ivory Coast. The analysis of the heads of state is in harmony with the Nobel Manifesto, to which, furthermore, their declaration expressly appeals. Misery and hunger persist because of the reigning international disorder. Science and human knowledge could defeat them if only they were guided by sufficient political will. In contrast to the possible nuclear holocaust, there is the daily holocaust of tens of thousands of dead from starvation and under- development and the wars that for a decade have shaken the Third World despite the dominating belief that the world has been at peace since 1945.

To defeat hunger and take development in hand means, above all, to win immediately the right to life and associate it indissolubly with the right to liberty, to peace and to justice. Co-operation with development should in fact be seen, above all, as a guarantor of the inalienable subjective rights of individual human beings.

The heads of state, consequently, ask that cogent force be conferred on the decisions made by the United Nations in this sector, and entrusts the effective application of such decisions to the Security Council.

Therefore, in the first place, make it legally binding by the end of 1986 to provide 0.7% of the gross national product for aid to life and to development as well as guaranteeing and favoring world-wide and inter-regional pacts that assure agricultural and food funds for integrated emergency programs (Lagos, Addis Abeba).
I believe that so ambitious a project can be made possible today. But I believe that it will be so only if the Radical Party - starting with this new manifesto - will want and know how to take up the fight and the campaign against death from starvation by demanding that the right to life become a policy: the policy of our government. It is a matter, that is, of no longer consenting to a logic and a praxis of "aid" but of demanding a policy of life.

This leap in the political perspective and will is what has been missing during these last months, apart from the errors - large or small - of administration and the temptations to corruption; and it is this that must be exacted from the government.

A few days ago I found myself in Paris for the meeting of the French-speaking nations (more than 50 delegations represented on the heads-of-state or foreign ministers level) and I tried to get new signatures on the manifesto: in little more than three months it was the third session convened and hosted by Mitterand.

They had, in fact, held a summit of French-speaking countries in the month of December and two North-South world conferences on forests and deserts in the month of February.

Once again on Mitterand's request, they are preparing the Paris conference of the UN on "Disarmament and Development" which will be held in June. Certainly Mitterand's "Third World" policy is questionable and, in certain of its aspects, negative. But it has one virtue: it exists.

For developing countries who are desperately seeking a point of reference outside the sphere of the USA-USSR blocks, France appears to be the only European country that offers a platform from which to speak and itself as a spokesman.

We have always heard it said that Italy should become the promoter of a policy of life on a national and Common Market level. Is it at all possible that in all these months the government has not called one conference on this issue? Is it conceivable that neither Andreotti nor Craxi has not called at least a meeting of foreign and co-operation ministers of the other European countries? That there has never been a meeting or a conference between Italy (the donor country) and Africa (the recipient)? And is it too much to hope for that Italy profit from the juridical margins to realise an initiative within the UN General Assembly or the Security Council - as has suggested judge Bedjaoui of the Hague's International Court of Justice - considering what Craxi himself has said, that is: "Hunger is a threat to peace "?