Interview with Jean Ziegler by Gilles Toussaint
Introduction and translation by Siv O'Neall
The victims are the poor, the former subsistence farmers in Africa who have been deprived of their land and whose countries now have to import food at exorbitant prices, due to the speculation in agricultural commodities resulting in the skyrocketing food prices today. The criminals are the World Bank and other banks and supranational organizations who collude with the Multinational Corporations to rob the poor all over the world in the most cold-blooded heist ever seen. The third-world countries are forced to grow what these all-powerful institutions want to buy from them in order to be able to pay off the interests on the poisoned loans that have been extended to them -- for the benefit of the West, certainly not of the poor countries themselves. What is left of their money after the payments on those loans have been made is far from enough to feed their people. Hunger and widespread malnutrition is the result of this Corporate theft.
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.
Jean Ziegler: "The cannibal world order"
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.
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 biofuels.
Should speculation in food commodity markets be limited?
Yes. 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.