UN General Assembly tackles the world food crisis

General Assembly met on
July 18, 2008 to review the status of hunger due to rising food
prices and to recommend immediate, short and long term steps to halt and
reverse the situation. Reports that came in on the eve of the meeting painted a
dim picture of the current and future trends. On its front page, the York Times
reported that soaring grain prices put catfish farms in the
USA on the endangered list. Because farmers are unable
to cope with soaring cost of corn and soybean feed, they were abandoning their
ponds resulting in unemployment and loss of purchasing power with which to buy
food. The reduction in catfish was also contributing to the food shortage. The
Wall Street Journal and Financial Times reported that the
Argentina senate had defeated the government farm tax bill which
had been intended to enable prices to move in line with international prices.

In Nicaragua thousands took to the streets in the capital to
protest against the high cost of living and to demand the resignation of the
country’s president. In
Somalia, it was reported that the number of people in need
of food assistance was expected to rise to 3.5 million by December of 2008. The
report noted that families are increasingly hungry because they cannot afford
to buy food, even if available in the market. Accordingly malnutrition was
increasing with a sharp rise in children being admitted to nutritional
clinics. And in Uganda a report released
by the Uganda Child Rights NGO revealed that over five million children were stunted with
serious cases reported for Acholi and Karamoja regions as well as the districts
of Kabale and Kisoro in south west Uganda.


Understanding your human rights

concept of human rights developed from the Roman idea of ‘natural law’ about
the birthrights enjoyed by every human being. Human rights are rights that
belong to every individual. They do not depend on the specifics of the
individual such as race or color. Human rights exist irrespective of the
question whether they are granted or recognized by the legal and social system
within the country. Human rights are not granted by people and cannot be taken
away by them. They can only be respected or violated by people.

milestones in the establishment of human rights are found in the Magna Carta of
1215, which placed the British king under the law and decisively checked royal
power. Later it became a model for those who demanded democratic government and
individual rights for all individuals in time and space; the Habeas Corpus Act
of 1679, which means that if a person has been arrested or is held by the
police, a lawyer or friend can obtain a writ of habeas corpus ordering the police
to produce the arrested person in court which then decides if the police have
sufficient reason to hold the prisoner. It prevents unjust or wrongful
imprisonment or detention by legal authorities; and the Bill of Rights of 1689,
which included a statement of the birthrights and immunities that may be legally
and morally claimed by the citizens of a state within the bounds of reason,
truth and the accepted standards of behavior.


Distortions of controlling inflation in Uganda’s economy

occurs when the price level goes up overtime and the inflation rate is the
percentage of change in the price level. One of the causes of inflation is an
increase in the amount of money in the economy without a corresponding increase
in the supply of goods and services. Instead of raising taxes which is
politically risky, many governments create and spend more money leading to
inflation and many economic and social problems. Changes in the rate of
inflation create uncertainty in the minds of companies, investors and
households. Price stability is therefore desirable because it enables people
make decisions based on anticipated inflation.

the Golden Age expansion after the Second World War, central banks by and large
supported governments’ efforts to keep the economy as close to full employment
as possible. The end of the Golden Age was followed by economic stagnation, high
inflation and unemployment (stagflation) in the mid-1970s which introduced
major changes in monetary policies. The neoliberal monetarists stressed the
importance of controlling inflation rather than maintaining full employment.
They argued that unemployment reflected laziness or the perverse impact of
labor market rigidities such as the minimum wage. Full employment as a
government policy was abandoned.


From Green to Gene Revolution

Agriculture has experienced several revolutions including the Green (cross breeding) and now the Gene (genetic engineering) Revolution. Although the Green Revolution increased food productivity and saved lives particularly in Asia, the technologies used – pesticides, fertilizers, mechanization and irrigation – have introduced serious economic, social and environmental challenges. The new seed varieties require heavy doses of pesticides, large amounts of fertilizers and irrigation water which pollute the soil and water. The use of high yielding seed varieties are replacing older ones such as millet and sorghum and small scale farmers are being squeezed out because they cannot afford the high costs of the new technologies.


Undesirable side-effects of the Green Revolution and how to overcome them

The Green Revolution (GR) was introduced in Southeast Asia in the latter part of the 1960s to forestall the prospects of massive starvation and the red revolution (the spread of communism). Basically, the GR involves high yielding seeds of wheat, rice and maize, fertilizers, pesticides, machines and irrigation technology. Apart from high yielding, the new varieties can also be harvested in a shorter time enabling an extra crop to be grown. By increasing the demand for farm machinery, fertilizers and pesticides the GR benefits the producers of these items in the industrialized countries. Therefore the GR has served a mix of humanitarian goals and self-seeking profit motives.


The abandonment of the Washington Consensus

The Washington Consensus {stabilization and structural adjustment programs (SAPs)} came into force at the start of the 1980s when countries mostly in the developing world especially those in Latin America and Africa were not able to repay their external debts thereby threatening the stability of the international financial system.

In order to receive financial help, the debtor countries had to accept conditions or conditionality from the international lenders including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The conditionality included reducing government expenditures especially on education and health which were considered to be non-productive in the short term and retrenching public servants; removing government involvement from economic activities to permit the full reign of the market forces; introducing user fees in education and health care and removing subsidies; decontrolling prices and devaluing the currency; cutting or containing wages; privatizing state-owned enterprises; introducing free trade and thereby eliminating protection of the domestic market against foreign competition and removing restrictions on the operations of foreign investors; and promoting and diversifying exports to earn more foreign currency to repay external debt. In short, the overall objective was to protect financial stability through low inflation and balanced budget; and to promote economic growth through competition and increased exports.