Tag: <span>Josué de Castro</span>

Stringfellow Barr Rapprochement of Cultures.

Stringfellow Barr. Joining the Human Race.

Featured Image: Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash.

By Rene Wadlow.

Stringfellow Barr: 15 January 1897 – 3 February 1982)

Stringfellow Barr;  whose birth anniversary we mark on 15 January;  was a historian;  largely of the classic Greek and Roman Empire period and an active world citizen.  

He served as president of the Foundation for World Government; from its start in 1948 to its closing in 1958.  He  was president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland (also home of the U.S. naval academy;  which turns out sailors). The aim of St. John’s; under Stringfellow Barr was to turn out well-read liberals;  who would have studied a common set of “Great Book” starting with the Greeks such as Plato.  The Great Books approach to learning developed community reading circles across the USA; very popular in the 1950s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZI0gUEzuEo

Stringfellow Barr had the good luck or a sense of the right timing to publish a short 36-page booklet; Let’s Join the Human Race in 1950. (1)  In his 30 January 1949;   Inaugural Address on becoming President of the U.S.A. Harry Truman set out four policy ideas; which he numbered as Point One to Point Four.

Presidential portrait of Harry Truman

Official Presidential Portrait. Notice the Capitol Building in the background. Truman, who was a two-term senator from Missouri and as vice-president presided over the Senate, wanted to emphasize his legislative career rather than his executive and the constitutional emphasis of the former over the latter. (1945). By Greta Kempton, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. 

Point Four.

Point Four  was really an afterthought as some mention of foreign policy was needed for balance. Point Four was “a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.”

While the first three points dealing with domestic policy were quickly forgotten; Point Four caught the interest of many Americans as had the earlier Marshall Plan for Europe.  For some Americans; Point Four as the idea was called had an anti-Russian coloring.  U.S. technology to raise the standard of living of poor countries would prevent them “from going communist”.  For others; such as Stringfellow Barr;  the effort of raising the standard of living of the poor was a good thing in itself; and it should not be the task of the U.S.A. alone.

Barr  wrote “The people of the world are alone able to take on what is the main economic problem of every single national group – the problem of rebuilding their common world economy.  They can hope to do it only by the massive use of public funds.  America cannot do it for them… The nearest thing to a suitable agency that already exists is the United Nations.  And the United Nations is the nearest thing that exists only because the people of the world lack a common government.”

Citizens of the World.

Barr  called for the United Nations to create a World Development Authority: 

calling in all neighbors from the Mighty Neighborhood.”

However;  he developed the idea in a full-length book in 1952; Citizens of the World (2).

 

He places the emphasis on hunger; which at the time was the public face of underdevelopment.  Robert Brittain’s Let There Be Bread and Josué de Castro’s;    The Geography of Hunger were among the most widely-read books by people interested in development at the time.

Josué de Castro

Josué de Castro speaks in the Chamber of Deputies, 1940. By Brazilian National Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Today we have a broader view of what development requires; however food and rural development remain critical issues.  The efforts of the United Nations system for development are not integrated into a World Development Authority.   There are repeated calls for greater coordination and planning within the U.N. system. The 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals are an effort to provide an over-all vision;  but common action remains difficult.

As Barr pointed out at the time; most of the proposals to improve the U.N. have focused their attention on the elimination of war; obviously important in the 1950s; when war between the USSR and the USA was a real possibility; highlighted by the 1950-1953 Korean War.

However; world citizens have tried to look at the total picture of the social, political and economic life of all the people of the world.

Today the focus of citizens of the world is more on the need for world-focused attitudes and policies rather than on new political structures.  Yet the vision of Stringfellow Barr remains important as we highlight his birth anniversary.

 

Notes.

1)Stringfellow Barr. Let’s Join the Human Race (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1950, 36pp.).
2) Stringfellow Barr. Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1952, 285pp).

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of Citizens of the World.

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.