Tag: <span>John Boyd Orr</span>

World Hunger Appeals

 U.N. Security Council Focus On World Hunger.

Featured Image: Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash.

On 23 May, the United Nations Security Council will hold a special briefing to address the issue of food insecurity under the chairmanship of Mr Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation. During May, the rotating chairmanship is held by Switzerland led by the Swiss Ambassador to the United Nations, New York  Ms Pascale Baereswyl.  The meeting will have as background a 3 May 2023 report of the Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) concerning early warning on areas facing acute food insecurity.

Some 250 million persons are living in this situation of acute food insecurity.

The report highlights that some 250 million persons are living in this situation of acute food insecurity with the Democratic Republic of Congo leading the list with some 27 million persons due to armed violence and the breakdown of governmental structures.  The Congo is followed by Ethiopia, largely due to fighting in the Tigray area.  The war in Ukraine is also having a negative impact limiting production and export of food goods -a principal export of Ukraine.  In addition to armed conflict, there is the growing impact of the consequences of climate change.

European Union, African Union and United Nations system.

    Today, cooperation on food insecurity is needed among the U.N. family of agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations, and the millions of food producers to respond to this food crisis.  These measures will have to be taken in a wholistic way with actions going from the local level of the individual farmer, the national level with new governmental policies, to measures at the multi-State regional level such as the European Union and the African Union, and at the world level with better coordinated action through the United Nations system.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano escorts H.E. Mr. Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, during his departure at the Vienna International Centre. Vienna, Austria, 8 January 2018. By IAEA Imagebank, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Additional funding for the U.N. World Food Programme and the release of national food stocks.

    There is a need for swift, short-term meaures to help people now suffering from lack of food and malnutrition due to high food prices, inadequate distribution, and situations of violence.  Such short-tem action requires additional funding for the U.N. World Food Programme and the release of national food stocks.  However, it is on the longer-range and structural issues on which we must focus our attention.

The Association of World Citizens has taken a lead in the promotion of a coordinated world food policy with an emphasis on the small-scale farmer and a new awareness that humans are part of Nature with a special duty to care and respect  for the Earth’s inter-related life-support system.  As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World (1952):

“Since the hungry in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some some die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.”

    Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash.

Stringfellow Barr. Joining the Human Race.

A central theme which Citizens of the World have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that such a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs.  John Boyd Orr, the first Director General of the FAO proposed a World Food Board to stabilize food prices and supplies.  He resigned as Director General when the food board proposal was not accepted and then devoted much of his energy to the ,world citizen movement.

   For World Citizens, the emphasis must be placed on creating a world food policy which draws upon improving local self-reliance while not creating nationalistic policies which harm neighbours.  Food is a key aspect of deep structural issues in the world society and thus must be seen in a wholeistic framework.  The briefing and debate of the U.N. Security Council may give us strong elements  on which to promote a world food policy.

Photo by Zen Chung on Pexels.   

John Boyd Orr: A World Citizen’s Focus on Food.

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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John Boyd Orr Rapprochement of Cultures.

John Boyd Orr: A World Citizen’s Focus on Food

Featured Image: Photo by Zen Chung on Pexels.

There can be no peace in the world;  so long as a large proportion of the population lack;  the necessities of life and believe that a change of the politicl and economic system will make them available. World peace must be based on world plenty.

Lord Boyd Orr

A specialist on food policy

John Boyd Orr (23 September 1880 – 25 June 1971) was a specialist on food policy;  an ardent Scots regionalist;  and a devoted world citizen. He was knighted in 1935 for his outstanding work on nutrition and was made a Life Peer as Baron Boyd Orr;  at the time 1950;  when he became a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

After the First World War in which he had served as a medical doctor;  he had helped to found and then direct the Rowett Institute;  one of the world’s leading centers for the study of nutrition. He had begun his work on animal nutrition;  but then shifted to the problems of human nutrition and food supply.

John Boyd Orr

John Boyd Orr, Nobel Peace Prize 1949 By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The first Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

John Boyd Orr came to realize that nutrition is a question of public policies;  and is indicative of a whole social climate;  especially the differences among social classes. His study of the hungry during the 1930s, depression-era Britain Food, Health and Income was to raise the issue of hunger as a public policy challenge.

During the Second World War; John  Boyd Orr became increasingly preoccupied by the food problem at the world level. Thus he was a natural choice  to become the first Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);  located in Rome.

From the start;  he proposed world structures;  that would be adequate to meet the critical food problems that faced;  not only the war-devastated countries of Europe;  but that existed at a chronic level in most of the rest of the world.

Food_and_Agriculture_Organization_(FAO)
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. By CAPTAIN RAJU, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The World Food Board

Boyd Orr’s plans for a World Food Board;  that would give the FAO sufficient executive powers to meet the emergency of the world food;  crisis were adopted in principle by the government experts at the first FAO Conference in 1946, in Copenhagen. The World Food Board would have had the power to buy, hold, and sell stocks of agricultural commodities. It would have helped the stabilization of agricultural prices;  by working out price ranges and in keeping famine reserves.

However; once the proposal of a World Food Board went beyond the view of the agricultural experts;  who had been largely represented at the first FAO Conference;  and fell on the desks of the political hand; , the world government aspects of the ideas were noted.

The United States and the United Kingdom frankly rejected the idea;  the USSR ignored them. (1) Faced with the impossibility of creating the structure;  he felt was absolutely necessary;  he resigned from the FAO and took up leadership in the World Citizen movements;  and to work against the start of the East-West arms race that was literally “taking food from the mouths of the poor.”

The Association of World Citizens

From his long experience with governments and their slowness;  Boyd Orr remained confident in the possibilities of the pressures of citizens of the world. He wrote ” While governments are loth to change their ideas, the people of the world have changed. They have begun to realize that a spurious nationalism supported by a contorted national history which tries to make it appear that each nation is a nation of supermen is nonsense…The hope of the world lies with those private international organizations which must create a strong and well-informed world-wide public opinion which will force governments to agree to a comprehensive world food policy.”

The Association of World Citizens has continued his efforts to create a comprehensive world food policy. In recent years, the Association has stressed in meetings at the United Nations 3 critical areas:

  1. Fostering a people-centered policy framework.
  2.  Building human and institutional capacities.
  3.  Protecting the environment.

Non-governmental organizations with consultative status with the U.N. are rising in status and influence. They are taking a “place at the table” with States in international decision-making and gaining leverage on States to embrace new norms. Lord Boyd Orr set a clear path which we try to follow.

Note

1) For a good account of Boyd Orr’s World Food Board proposal see the memoires of a later FAO Director: B.R. Sen Toward a Newer World (1992)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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hungry Book Reviews

Michelle Jurkovich. Feeding the Hungry: Advocacy and Blame in…

Photo by Steve Knutson on Unsplash.

(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020, 169pp)

The Association of World Citizens has taken a lead in the promotion of a coordinated world food policy; with an emphasis on the small-scale farmer and a new awareness that humans are part of Nature;  with a special duty of care and respect for the Earth’s inter-related life-support system.   As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World (1952):

Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we all can eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.”

The plan for a World Food Board.

  Sir John Boyd Orr;  the first Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); had proposed a World Food Board to stabilize food prices and supplies.  The plan for a world food board was rejected following the lead of the US delegate;  who said “Governments are unlikely to place large funds needed for financing such a plan in the hands of an international agency over whose operations and price policy they would have little direct control” (1) Boyd Orr resigned when the food board proposal was not accepted by government representatives; and then devoted much of his energy to the world citizen movement.

World Citizen Josué de Castro;  who served as the independent Chairman of the FAO Council;  was a leader in calling attention to world hunger;  and for the need for strong governmental action to provide food security;  and highlighted the need to combine a world; a national, and a local approach to the fight against hunger.

The Green Revolution.

However  from the start;  the FAO and government agricultural ministries put an emphasis on technical aspects of greater food production: better seeds, appropriate fertilizers; “the Green Revolution”. There was also a growing realization of cultural factors: the division of labor between women and men in agriculture and rural development, the marketing of local food products, the role of small farmers, land-holding patterns and the role of landless agricultural labor.

As Jurkovich points out; there has been a growing emphasis on the right to food. Typical of this approach is the General Comment 12;  on the Right to Adequate Food of the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:

The Covenant clearly requires that each State party take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that everyone is free from hunger and as soon as possible can enjoy the right to adequate food.  This will require the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all, based on human rights principles that define the objectives, and the formulation of policies and corresponding benchmarks.”  (2)

Humanity’s Freedom From Hunger.

Non-governmental organizations have played a vital role in efforts to ensuring humanity’s freedom from hunger. NGOs have been active both at the national level and in some of the world conferences organized by the FAO;  such as the 1996 World Food Summit.  As then FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in his talk;  United Against Hunger:

Responding properly to the hunger problem requires urgent, resolute and concerted action by all relevant actors at all levels.  It calls for the need for all of us to be united. It underlines that achieving food security is not the responsibility of one single party; it is the responsibility of ll of us.” 

NGOs have also highlighted the specific problems of indigenous peoples, landless peasants, and the forced evictions of small farmers.

 

A Mother’s Milk Substitute.

What is new in Michelle Jurkovich’s approach is asking can one pinpoint blame for violations on the right to adequate food. In dealing with the violations of political rights NGOs;  such as Amnesty International are able to analyze who is responsible;  and to whom one should appeal to change the situation: the Minister of Justice, the director of a prison, the chief of a local police.  The violation is generally fairly clear;  and one can find the names of the higher up in the chain of command.  With food issues;  it is more difficult.  There is often no agreement on who is responsible for a situation;  and to whom to appeal.

There are exceptions.  A major effort developed;  in part from the Graduate Institute of Development Studies in Geneva;  where I was teaching. It was the International Baby Food Action Network;  that stressed breastfeeding  as against milk substitutes and baby food;  largely produced by Nestlé.  Nestlé had a widely used poster of a woman dressed in white;  (who could be taken as a medical worker);  advocating a mother’s milk substitute. Thus;  it was decided to direct a boycott of Nestlé products.  The advantage in the effort was that all the major decision-makers – Nestlé;  the World Health Organization (WHO) and the boycott organizers were around Lake Geneva.  The aim was to get a WHO Code on marketing and to get Nestlé to change its policies.

The “Big Ten” transnational Food.

The effort took 10 years;  with strong opposition to a code within WHO;  led by the USA, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany and a few other conservative allies.  Wanting to maintain “consensus” and remove fears of financial consequences for WHO;  which depends largely on contributions from governments in addition to the regular budget;  WHO Secretariat members were not going to push for a code.  Finally a general and watered-down Code was finally set by the WHO.

Such victories are few.  There are few cases where a product is concentrated in only one company;  where blame can be centered on a common target. There are at least the “Big Ten” transnational food  and beverage companies.  Of course;  these companies are not the only ones responsible for hunger in the world.  Governments are primarily responsible for agricultural policies.  For NGOs wanting to influence governments;  there are varied understandings of the cause, responsibility, blame and solutions.  Jurkovich gives no set answers;  but she raises useful questions. A book worth reading closely.

Notes.

1) For an analysis of Boyd Orr’s proposal see Ross Tabot The Four World Food Agencies in Rome (Ames: Iowa State University  Press, 1990, 188pp.)

Also see the memoirs of a later FAO Director General B.R. Sen. Towards a Newer World (Dublin: Tycooly Publishing, 1982, 341pp.)

2) UNCESCR General Comment 12, UN Doc. ECOSOC E/C12/1999/5.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.