At UN debate, President Lula of Brazil urges action against hunger

19 September 2006

Asserting that the widespread hunger prevailing in the world today lies at the root of a host of other global ills, the President of Brazil today urged leaders gathered at the United Nations for its annual general debate to tackle the problem by providing funds and fostering fair trade.

Asserting that the widespread hunger prevailing in the world today lies at the root of a host of other global ills, the President of Brazil today urged leaders gathered at the United Nations for its annual general debate to tackle the problem by providing funds and fostering fair trade.

“Hunger nurtures violence and fanaticism,” President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said. “A world where people starve will never be safe,” he warned.

President Lula argued that the international community has the $50 billion needed to combat the hunger now plaguing 840 million people worldwide. “Think of the cost of wars and other conflicts. All here know that that the second Gulf War may also have cost hundreds of billions of dollars to date. With much less we could change the sad reality of a large share of the world's population,” he said. “We could save millions of lives.”

He hailed initiatives such as the plan for a “solidarity levy on international air tickets,” as well as the creation of an International Drug Purchase Facility to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

But the Brazilian president argued in favour of further measures, particularly in the area of trade. “It is essential that we break the bonds of protectionism,” he said. “Subsidies granted by richer countries, particularly in agriculture, are oppressive shackles that hold back progress and doom poor countries to backwardness.”

He said that “while trade-distorting support in developed countries amounts to the outrageous sum of $1 billion a day, 900 million people get by on less that a dollar a day in both poor and developing countries” and called this situation “politically and morally untenable.”

Negotiations through the World Trade Organization (WTO) offer hope for change, he said, while warning that failure of the “Doha Development Agenda” would have negative repercussions in both the political and social fields.

On the need for reform of the UN, he called for an expansion of the Security Council to include developing countries as permanent members. “This would make that body more democratic, legitimate and representative.”

Vicente Fox, the President of Mexico, called attention to the rights of indigenous people and pledged his country’s support to upholding them. He quoted Isabel, an indigenous Mexican Raramuri, as having told him that “all human beings are equal in dignity and stature.” This statement, he said, reflects the voices of “all Mexican women and men fighting discrimination.”

He also urged the leaders present to endorse the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “On behalf of indigenous peoples of Mexico, I call upon each and every one Member State of this Organization to adopt this Declaration; to grant it the necessary status to promote the respect to the rights of the indigenous peoples.”

Evo Morales Aima, the President of Bolivia, also referred to the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples. Privatization amounted to a “violation” of their human rights, he said, calling for efforts to address marginalization and exclusion. Natural resources were historically pillaged, looted and given to transnational corporations, he said. “The time has come now to recover our natural resources.” At the same time, he said private property would be respected. “We need investments, we need partners, not bosses, not owners of our natural resources.”

He also spoke out against criminalizing coca, holding up a coca leaf before the Assembly for emphasis. “Here’s a coca leaf – you see it? It’s not white like cocaine. This coca leaf represents the Andean crops it represents the environment and the hope of peoples. It is not possible for the coca leaf to be legal for Coca Cola and to be illegal for other consumptions in our country and throughout the world.”

A real and effective alliance was needed to combat drug trafficking, not a war on drugs that was used to subject the people of the region, he said. “I invite the Government of the United States to form a real alliance to combat drug trafficking, and not just to have excuses and pretexts to dominate us, to humiliate us or to try to establish military bases in our countries under the pretext of combating drug trafficking.

Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales spoke out against what he called ‘commercial tyranny” by people promoting protectionism. Protection was needed not just for investment, but also for vulnerable people, such as children, small farmers and business people unable to get onto the ladder of global trade. “We all want a free market, but an ethical free market,” he said.

Central America, which had historically experienced war, was now in the vanguard of those who sought to address the world’s problems. “Central America opens itself to the world so that the world can open itself to Central America,” he said. As “the waist of the Americas” it was prepared for investment in various areas, including tourism, and to stand as a bridge between the world’s markets.

Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan, the President of Suriname, said building a global partnership for development will require the involvement of not only governments but also players from the private sector and civil society. “This partnership should enhance the involvement of the private sector taking into account the redefinition of the role of the private sector in society, based on a common understanding of the influence of business in spurring development and improving the human condition,” he said.

He welcomed UN leadership in this area, adding that the Organization’s Global Compact – an initiative aimed at fostering corporate responsibility – should collaborate with the partnership for development. “Civil society should contribute actively to the partnership for development at all levels,” he added.

Elias Antonio Saca Gonzalez, the President of El Salvador, decried the emergence and rising threat of gangs and gang-activity in the region. El Salvador was actively engaged in broad efforts to cope with all forms or organized crime and would call on the UN and other international organizations to cooperate with it and other Central American countries in the region to address the problem, including through identifying youth programmes and awareness raising initiatives, he said.

He also said that the high price of oil was having an adverse affect on El Salvador’s economy and argued that oil should not be used as leverage, but as a tool to boost development. Based on this, he called for a more stable oil regime and increased efforts to ensure that low- and middle-income countries did not adversely suffer from shocks in the oil market.

The President of Paraguay, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, called for rich countries to support the efforts of poorer States to achieve development. In particular, he advocated ensuring access to international markets, fair trade and fair prices for goods.

He also spoke out against farm subsidies, protectionism, and distortions in world trade and called for the removal of customs duties and other tariffs.


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.