The Brandt Proposals: A Report Card
When North–South was published, there were 500–600 million undernourished and hungry people on the planet. These were children, women, and men destined to die for lack of food or to suffer physical impairment from malnutrition. "It is an intolerable situation," pleaded Brandt. "The idea of a community of neighbors has little meaning if that situation is allowed to continue, if hunger is regarded as a marginal problem which humanity can live with" (N–S, 90).
The Brandt Reports called for an immediate emergency food assistance program, a food financing facility, and increased food reserves at the global level. Developing countries are highly dependent on food imports. Hence, food, agricultural and rural development programs, increased irrigation, appropriate fertilizer use, agricultural research, and agrarian reforms – along with domestic increases in employment and income – are essential for achieving self-sufficiency in food production. Building up the assets of the poor through food programs and land reform is the beginning of economic opportunity and economic growth, the Brandt Commission maintained.
Additionally, a safety net is required to ensure that poor nations do not suffer from shortfalls when their internal food production is inadequate. The commission proposed food stockpiling and financial measures to enhance international food supplies and prices. An international clearinghouse is also needed to help coordinate food distribution, particularly for the poorest nations.
"It is a matter of humanity to conquer hunger and disease on our way to the next millennium – to prove wrong those forecasters who say we will have to face the distress of hundreds of millions of people suffering from starvation and preventable diseases at the turn of the twenty-first century" (N-S, 15).
Equitable food distribution remains a distant dream in the early twenty-first century. Instead of ending hunger on the planet, there are one billion people malnourished and starving, and more than one billion without safe water to drink. The staples of life are distributed according to purchasing power, not human need. In the modern global economy, surplus and starvation exist side by side. As Brandt reflected, "Morally it makes no difference whether a human being is killed in war or is condemned to starve to death because of the indifference of others" (N-S, 16).
In a world of extraordinary bounty, this loss of life is doubtless the great tragedy of our age, a crime of neglect in which we are all complicit.
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