Hunger Cannot Wait
By Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
June 2, 2003
Note: As the first salvo leading up to his June 20th meeting in Washington with U.S. President George W. Bush, Brazilian President Lula da Silva gave a speech on Sunday to the leaders of the "G-8" countries - the United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy and Russia - that called for an international tax on weapons sales, among other bold solutions, to end hunger on earth and create the conditions necessary worldwide to solve "especially, narco-trafficking and terrorism."
Narco News translated this historic speech into English and Spanish as a guest editorial.
My first words are in appreciation for the initiative by President Jacques Chirac. The dialogue between the richest countries in the world with the developing countries is more necessary today than ever. We must work together. The solution for our problems necessarily includes respect for our differences. I come from a country that today is mobilized by an extraordinary ethical-political energy to confront not only our internal problems but also to establish new and more constructive international partnerships.
The poverty and misery that attacks millions of men and women in Brazil, in Latin America, in Africa, and in Asia, obligates us to construct a new alliance against social exclusion. I am convinced that there will not be economic development without social sustainability and that, without both, we will live in a world that is less secure each day. It is in the space of social inequality that resentments, criminality, and, especially, narco-trafficking and terrorism, prosper.
I would like to speak with you in a simple and direct manner: I come to propose collective and responsible actions of solidarity, in favor of surpassing the inhuman conditions in which a large part of the global population live. Hunger cannot wait. It is urgently necessary to confront it with emergency and structural measures. If we all accept our responsibilities, we will create a more equal environment of opportunity for all.
The world economy is showing worrisome signs of recession. Social problems like unemployment, including in the wealthy countries, are getting worse. I am sure that one of the goals of this meeting of the G-8 is to seek paths so that the economy grows again. We need a new equation that permits the return to growth and that includes the developing countries. The incorporation of the developing countries into the global economy requires access without discrimination to the markets of the wealthy countries. We have made an enormous sacrifice to become competitive. But how do we compete freely in the middle of a war of subsidies and other mechanisms of protectionism that causes, in reality, commercial exclusion?
We're not here to lament or to simply join the chorus of recriminations. We know our responsibilities. We are doing our part, executing balanced economic policies, combating and defeating corruption, bettering institutions for the good function of our economies. We have demonstrated the political will to combat social inequality and poverty. We are doing this in Brazil with democracy and pluralism, without fundamentalism, with care and firmness. We are organizing our finances and recovering the stability to grow in a sustained manner. But we know that organizing and giving stability to our economy and work is necessary, but it is not enough. We need to forge a new paradigm of development that combines financial stability with economic growth and social justice. Today we want to grow with sustainable financing, distributing income, and strengthening democracy.
There is no theory, however sophisticated it may be, that can succeed by being indifferent to misery and exclusion. Looking at modern history, above all at those periods that survived serious economic and social crises, I see that development must begin with profound social reforms. These reforms will bring millions of men and women into production, consumption, and citizenship and will create a new and prolonged economic dynamism. That's what happened in the United States beginning in the 1930s. That's what happened after World War II in Europe.
Brazil and many developing countries, over the past decade, have made the effort demanded of us to join in the dominant economic strategies. But there have not been important advances in the combat against social exclusion. To the contrary, the fundamentalism that ruled did not comply with its promised economic stability. Unemployment, hunger, and misery increased. Our systems of production did not conquer spaces in world commerce in a manner that corresponds to our sacrifices. The lack of economic and social democracy threatens every part of democracy.
We don't want the rich countries to look upon us with pity. We need structural solutions that must begin together with changes in the global economy. We hope for coherence from our wealthier partners. I look with concern upon the resistance by the World Trade Organization to remove billionaire subsidies, principally to agriculture. Priority matters - like providing access to medicines - are put off to another day.
Such attitudes are not constructive and increase skepticism in relation to the good intentions and wisdom of the more prosperous. We have to define responsibilities, and this also implies new tasks for the developing countries. Those who have the better capacity can and must execute more generous policies of solidarity in favor of the most needy nations. And this is what Brazil is doing on the regional level. My government wants to strengthen the Mercosur alliance and promote a Latin American Union. As President Kirchner, of Argentina, said, these are strategic and political projects, aimed at bettering the conditions of life. Brazil is ready to deepen its partnerships with the countries of South America and to open more space in our markets for their exports. New financial mechanisms are helping this regional integration.
I know that here you are going to discuss NEPAD. Doing our part, regarding Africa, where I will visit in August, we are going to widen our cooperation especially in the areas of health, education, professional training, and infrastructure. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, who belong to the Rio Group, in the recent Cuzco Summit, sent President Vicente Fox of Mexico and me here as their spokesmen in Evian. There, we discussed innovative financing mechanisms to combat poverty and invest in infrastructure.
I recommend to my colleagues present here a careful reading of these proposals. Hunger is at an intolerable level. We know that there are plain conditions to surpass this epidemic. My proposal - made in Porto Alegre and in Davos - is that a world fund be created capable of giving food to whoever is hungry and, at the same time, creating conditions to end the structural causes of hunger. And this is what we have begun to do in Brazil. There are various ways to generate resources for a fund of this nature. I give you two examples. The first is taxation of the international arms trade - which would bring advantages from economic and ethical points of view. Another possibility is to create mechanisms to stimulate that the rich countries reinvest into this fund a percentage of the interest payments made by debtor countries. Some developing countries have presented proposals to confront this problem. They are valid initiatives that deserve to be considered.
Kind Colleagues, multilateralism represents, on the level of international relations, an advance comparable to democracy in national terms. The obligation of every nation committed to the progress of civilization must be valued independently of its economic size and its political and military strength. We have to maintain dialogue, widening it on firm bases, and not just from time to time. This applies to G-8 and to the Security Council of the United Nations.
Brazil's hope is that the G-8 countries will become true allies in the combat against hunger and social exclusion and that international cooperation for development will be assumed again as an indispensable condition for security and peace. My life and political trajectory cause me to believe that just causes become victorious when there is will, dialogue, and negotiation. In order for this this unprecedented meeting in Evian to attend to the legitimate anxieties of our peoples - in the South and in the North - we must demonstrate, above all, determination to combat social inequality.
Thank you very much.
This speech was originally translated and published by Narco News, http://www.narconews.com/