from issue no. 09 - 2004

Lula’s UN

«We want to reiterate that extreme poverty affects more than a billion people, who live with less than a dollar a day. In sub-Saharan Africa about three hundred million people live in absolute poverty. Millions of children continue to die every day because of the lack of medical care, of clean water, of decent living conditions and of adequate nutrition, while twenty thousand people die daily for reasons connected with hunger. At today’s level of technological progress and agricultural production in the world, the persistence of this situation is economically irrational, politically unacceptable and morally shameful».
One senses the style of Luiz Inácio da Silva in this passage of the concluding statement from the meeting of world leaders held at the United Nations on 20 September. The initiative (“Action against hunger and poverty”) came from the Brazilain president and to receive the heads of state and governments in the reception rooms of the Economic and Social Council of the UN, where the meeting took place, there were the introductory speeches of Lula, Kofi Annan and the world leaders who personally took part: the French president Chirac, the Chilean Lagos and the Spaniard Zapatero.
The declared purpose is to succeed in not slowing progress towards the objective of halving the number of people in the world who suffer and die of hunger and poverty by 2015 (a promise made at the UN in 2000 with the “Millennium Development Goals” – the document which gave sanction to the commitments for the third millennium – and repeated in the agreement reached in Monterrey and Doha). The rich nations must donate 0.7% of their GNP and then begin further aid policies towards the poor countries, cancel debts, give access to their markets to Third World products. But in the invitation to New York for 20 September, Brazil, with a bitter sense of irony, called on everyone to abandon millennium utopianism, pointing out that if the present rhythm continues results may perhaps be seen by 2147. Fifty billion dollars a year more are needed. So Lula backed a technical study to find new forms of financial support for poor countries, as a basis for the discussion of “Action against hunger and poverty”.
The position of the Brazilian government is obviously shared by many. Already at the beginning of the last session of the Assembly General of the UN, Lula created, with India and South Africa, a new international fund for the fight against poverty, and new measures being studied this September to find resources deal with taxation on arms sales, for example, on financial transactions, and also “socially responsible” investments. As well as governments, private groups and civil society may also intervene.
What has to be understood is that, as the official texts of the Lula government state, «Brazil supports with all its heart efforts in the fight against poverty and hunger», and it does so in the aim of reshaping the world order with greater justice. Presenting in Geneva on 30 January, along with Chirac, Lagos and Annan, “Action against hunger and poverty”, Lula, with masterly irony, said that he had not come «only to recall that hunger is a weapon of mass destruction which kills 24 thousand people every day and 11 children every minute and which affects at least a quarter of the world population», but that he had «come to seek solutions». Lula’s Brazil reminds everyone that in the recent past many Latin American nations had followed an economic policy which had been advised from above, had fought corruption and improved their democracies. But no one had set aside for them the benefits of globalization and «this contributed to generating a sense of frustration in a large part of the population».
In short, Latin America cannot be set aside. And if today there are those who impose “security” as a criterion of international relations, Brazil instead «continues to believe that development is an essential part of world security». Also regarding the so-called humanitarian interventions and UN peacekeeping operations, Lula’s government stressed that since the end of the ’eighties these have «increased both in number and in the areas of operation» and have gone beyond «the classic tasks of intervention with force».
What then is the final message from the meeting at the end of summer in New York? First of all renewed interest in giving 0.7% of the GNP as a single package to finance development, and the utility of creating … a sense of guilt about the persistent delays. Then the fact that, in a time of reform for the UN, Brazil is making it clearly known that it wants to have more weight, i.e a permanent seat on the Security Council (which according to Lula should be reshaped to take account of the growing weight of the developing nations). Brazil, like other nations which have had no voice over the past decades, now claims one. And they are making themselves heard.

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