World’s poor at the receiving end!

Published: April 15, 2019
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The writer is former ambassador of Pakistan and ex-Assistant Secretary General of OIC

The writer is former ambassador of Pakistan and ex-Assistant Secretary General of OIC

In an epoch in which every known paradigm has been turned on its head, it may perhaps be worthwhile to spare a thought for the poor and the deprived of this world. For instance, the phrase “wiping out poverty from the face of the earth” has become the stock slogan for the multilateral diplomatist. Multilateral diplomatic experts have wined and dined in exotic locations in between expressions of profound concern for the deprived of the world.

The singular tragedy is that the “paper solutions” thrown up at these special summits have gone the way of all similar pious platitudes. Multilateral talks on economic issues invariably end up with similar platitudes, only for them to be duly sacrificed in due course at the altar of multilateral expediency. Makes a person wander if it would have been more expedient to save the money spent on such fanfare and to distribute it among the world’s hungry and deprived souls!

It is a rather sad state of affairs when rich states, after having made ‘solemn’ promises in international forums to ‘eradicate poverty’, actually take such economic measures as are expressly directed towards undermining the economies of the poor nations around the world. The overall impact on the international economic scene thereby amounts to a net transfer of resources from the Third World to the developed world, rather than the other way round as should be dictated by logic.

The problem of hunger and deprivation is still nowhere near an equitable resolution. What is evident even for the man in the street to see and understand is the fact that rich nations are markedly reluctant to make even a token sacrifice to live up to their high-sounding precepts as expounded in multilateral economic forums.

Despite the diversion provided by the War on Terror, such talks keep on going merrily ‘forward’ producing enough hot air to exacerbate the blessed planet’s ongoing global warming problem to alarming limits.

The UN would do well to wake up from its slumber and face up to the realities. The world organisation appears to have rediscovered the wonderful benefits of ‘virtual’ frenetic activity, while doing nothing. Having taken pains to spread the ‘gospel’ of world peace, all to no effect, the organisation could perhaps redeem its lost reputation by doing something worthwhile for the world’s poor. If it is not capable of producing results, then how about calling off the charade of global economic conferences and using the money thus saved to subsidise the poor for a change?

Let us take a closer look at the matter of tackling the all too prevalent problem of hunger in this world. Instead of gabbing about the philosophy of hunger and the desirability of reducing it by half, how about doing something practical for a change? Could the world body not act to set up a ‘world food reserve’ aimed at providing timely succor to any country or community that faces the threat of famine or food scarcity?

We start with the presumption that there is no shortage of foodstuffs in this world of ours. Shortages are artificially devised to prop up the high prices of food items in the international market. In developed countries, farmers are given subsidies to manipulate the market. Surplus food is dumped into the sea to forestall a drop in prices. This happens at times when sizeable pockets of the world’s population are facing starvation. The proposed “world food reserve” would aim at buying off such food surplus, store it and then provide it when required to the areas in need.

What about the seed money to start such a project, the reader might well ask? One answer is: why not tap the busy-body agencies that dole out millions, nay billions, to NGOs in the Third World merely to manipulate public opinion and to collect brownie points? A start has to be made somewhere!

Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2019.

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