The Secretary-General of United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon has stressed the need for more free trade in the global economy to boost the economies of poor countries.
He believes this has the tendency of lifting those countries from poverty.
Mr. Ki-moon made this statement at the opening ceremony of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTADXII) summit in Accra, in connection with soaring food prices, climate change and the lag in achieving development goals, which was marring the efforts of poor countries to grow.
He therefore stressed the need for governments to device methods to ensure that there were no food shortages in their economies.
“International grain markets must remain open and functioning normally. Beggar-thy-neighbour food wars cannot, in the long run, help anyone”, he stressed.
No, seriously, international trade and globalization doesn’t have to be a scourge; done right, it can help lift the poor countries from poverty. Foreign aid won’t, on its own, allow countries to build the kind of local economies needed for long-term growth and sustainability. No amount of Bono-style “awareness” will create a vibrant, resurgent Africa able to stand on its own two feet.
We can be privileged, middle-class liberals and idealize the simple life of the impoverished sustenance farmer, or we can help them get a fair shake in the globalized world by giving them direct access to global markets. We can sneer at the evils of a fluctuating world economy, or we can rightly recognize that the services of the world’s farmers are greatly needed during a food shortage crisis, and that the free flow of food should not be hampered by petty tussles of protectionism. We can browbeat endlessly over multinational corporations attempting to gobble up the world’s labor, or we can help the individual farmer compete fairly on the world market by giving them access to previously closed-off channels of trade.
“Nowhere is the global challenge of economic disenfranchisement more acute than in Africa”, he noted.
To this effect, he noted that the deal with the food crisis in the long-term agricultural production must be increased; emphasizing that there was no reason why Africa could not experience a “green revolution” if assistance and markets were shaped towards that end.
We may even have to recognize the real necessity of another “green revolution” of genetically modified foods. Instead of fighting the concept itself, we may have to gird for battle to prevent corrupt corporations from extorting poor farmers through draconian IP restrictions or biological sleights of hand, and to keep GM crops from being homogenized or contaminating the local ecosystem. We may have to be realists, and know that we need to use the right tools for the job. We may have to choose between our ideology and the lives of poor people the world over.