War on misery

Ernesto Sabato said, "The decision to get involved in the terrible crisis through which the world is going cannot wait. The foundation for some hope will rise from that involvement. We must penetrate into the night and, like wardens, stay on guard for those who are alone and suffer the horror caused by this worldwide perverse system. We have the duty to resist and to be partners to life even in its dirt and poverty. A gesture of absolute confidence in life and of commitment to others. That way we will build a bridge across the abyss."
Every year, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) publishes a report of the situation in which the world population lives that makes its reading riveting. What prevails is speaking less of the cooperation with "the Third World" and of the reasons why the developing nations of the south are hunger for food, lack health and education. It is the duty of the governments to control the injustices of the powerful and to instil in the citizens a basic social conscience. What we do not do through justice will be taken away from us by force or by terror.
In the 1998 report, the UN already pointed out that 18% of the world's population controls more than 80% of the earth's resources while the 20 poorest percent only has access to 1% of that production.
More than a billion people survive with less than one dollar each day, and 20,000 people die of hunger everyday. In the summit the UN held in New York in 2000, the member states vowed to reduce this number in half by 2015. Four years have passed and little has been done.
Some days ago, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, at the Summit for "Action against Hunger and Poverty" initiative, classified hunger as "the worst of the weapons of mass destruction".
The text highlights that with the current technological progress, the perpetuation of this plague is "irrational, unacceptable and disgraceful." It has been calculated that to overcome this fight, 50 billion dollars will be needed every year. Not only poverty, but also the deepening of the rift between classes, societies and even nations of the planet make up a time bomb that does not need fundamentalist ideologies to explode in the developed world. A fed up minority and a majority that watches it through the media cannot coexist without serious problems.
The hunger in the world constitutes 900 million empty stomachs, most to be found in Asia and Africa, according to the latest UN report. The number of malnourished people grows each year by five million, which has let the FAO diagnose a clear "recession in the war on hunger". The number of people living in conditions of extreme poverty is even greater: one billion.
The United Nations approved eight measures to eradicate poverty by 2015. World peace in the 21st Century depends on these measures. The effort needed is small if we compare it to the results it can bring to all the people in the planet: a world with more justice, a world that is more humane, prosperous and safe.
The measures to generate the needed resources are: Tax on movement of capital. Tax on arms deals. A public debt program to finance future increases of development aid. Fighting against tax evasion and tax havens that equal the funds that developing countries collect. Improvement of immigrants' consignments, which amount to 86,000 million dollars annually, beating the world total for aid and has a direct effect on growth. It is necessary to accelerate them and lower their price. Credit card donations associated with the goals of the Millennium, which allows users to automatically donate a small sum for each transaction they make. To increase the investment in ethical funds, or socially responsible funds (SRI), linked to the goals of advancement of employment, ecological respect and other social responsibilities. Spain and other countries are open to the possibility of dropping the debt of the countries that use aid for development purposes.
If these aims seem difficult, the UNDP report of 1998 had already stated that the yearly cost to cover all these basic needs was 40,000 million dollars annually over a period of ten years in developing countries. Basic education for all: 6,000 million. Reproductive health for all women: 12,000 million. Health and basic nutrition: 13,000 million. Water and sanitation for all: 9,000 million.
To achieve these figures, which today have reached 50,000 million dollars a year, the report pointed out that the following had been spent: Cosmetics in the USA, 8,000 million. Ice cream in Europe, 11,000 million. Perfume in Europe and the USA, 12,000 million. Food for pets in Europe and the USA, 17,000 million. Cigarettes in Europe, 50,000 million. Alcoholic beverages in Europe, 105,000 million. Narcotic drugs, 400,000 million. Military expenditure in the whole world, 780,000 million. It is enough to say, in the USA alone, military spending has doubled since that date with the consequences that we all suffer.
When presenting this report to the public opinion the UN labelled it as "subversive information", which we must consider in order to reverse and undermine the unjust social system.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 02/28/2005