Hunger and starvation is back in the news again. This time in Syria. It shouldn’t be. For decades the world has produced more than
enough food to feed every man, woman, and child. Yet today, 16 years past the due date for
ending hunger, we still have to read about it on the front page. This is sad and bad on so many levels.
First, even on a day when hunger is not on the front page or
any page, 17,000 children will die from easily preventable malnutrition and
infectious related diseases. And for
each child that dies, 10 more will live on with permanent mental and/or physical
While some in the world suffer from the ‘terrorism’ we hear about
daily, terrorism experts argue about a functional definition. And, politicians continue to debate the best
way to defeat it. But there should be no debate about the
ultimate terror -- a parent’s loss of a child, or their fear in losing a child
from a lack of food, one of the most basic of human needs. Nutritious food is rightfully one of the most
basic of all inalienable human rights. It
should be hard to understand why most people get upset when such fundamental rights
But, sadder still is our failure to learn after decades of presidential
commissions, scientific studies, intelligence reports, and righteous scriptures,
that when people are hungry and their children die, all humanity pays a monstrous
price in the war, disease, revolution, terrorism and economic instability that
are fueled by hunger. What’s crazy is
that this cost in lives and dollars is always preventable. Given the unbelievably low cost in preventing
it, this policy failure should be criminal.
President Jimmy Carter has been chastised for his perceived
ineptness at foreign policy but in hindsight his administration was the most
wise and insightful, Congress just didn’t listen. In 1980 his Presidential Commission on World Hunger
concluded that unless we ended the worst aspects of hunger by the year 2000, we
would not be able to avoids hunger’s lethal, debilitating, humiliating and destabilizing
forces. Our lives, our economy, and our
national security would be threatened. A
word search of the Commission and its recommendations noted the phrase “national
security” 17 times. All but three were
used in the context of our need then to expand our definition of ‘national
security’ to include the links to hunger and poverty and the insecurity and
instability that inevitably follows.
Everyone on that bipartisan Commission were “firmly
convinced that a major worldwide effort to conquer hunger and poverty, far from
being a gesture of charity to be offered or withheld according to temporary
political whims, holds the key to both global and national security.” And, that “Military force is ultimately
useless in the absence of the global security that only coordinated
international progress toward social justice can bring.”
They go on to state, “The most
potentially explosive force in the world today is the frustrated desire of poor
people to attain a decent standard of living. The anger, despair and often
hatred that result represent real and persistent threats to international order…
environmental hazards, pollution of the seas, and international terrorism.
Calculable or not, however, this combination of problems now threatens the
national security of all countries just as surely as advancing armies or
Carter’s Commission offered the foundation
of a more peaceful, healthy and prosperous future and Congress ignored it. Welcome to the world we have today! Other Commission’s on national security
since then have offered similar wisdom.
But the most recent, is also the most insightful and specific.
In June of last year, the Commission on Global Security,
Justice and Governance released its report
titled “Confronting the Crisis on Global Governance”. This Commission was co-chaired by former US Secretary of State
Madeline Albright and former UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs,
Ibrahim Gambari. It offered a
two word conclusion “just security”. From
their perspective without global justice we will have no security. It should be obvious to all that the systems
and structures should have been strengthened decades ago. As they are, they are incapable of managing
the growing array of the threats we see today.
And no winner of the 2016 Presidential election can change things
even with a House and Senate on their side without urgent and substantial
transformation of existing global systems and structures. If this new
commission’s recommendations are not taken seriously by the next US President,
Congress and other nation’s leaders around the world, the craziness we see in
the world today, will only get worse. Far worse!
Urgency is too lax a word in calling for action given the three simple
but profoundly related factors. First is
the exponential growth of technology with unprecedented power. Second is US voters and candidates thinking
only of short term national interests. And last, an absence of any global police force
and a complete lack of enforceable human rights or adequate living standards globally
that would lay the foundation for maximizing future freedom and security. Imagine what Syria would look like today if
that nation’s leadership was held accountable for the hunger of those farmers
who migrated to the capital because a three year draught had devastated
capacity to feed themselves.
Wars, terrorism, climate change, pandemics are all related to
hunger as both cause and consequence. We
are immune to none of these threats regardless of our income level, race,
nationality, or political party. Until we
understand this basic reality as those who drafted and unanimously approved the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the horrors of World War II (in
hopes of preventing another world war), we will never achieve peace, security
or prosperity for ourselves or our children.