For the Brazilian Minister of Food Security and Hunger Alleviation, José Graziano da Silva, the United Nations
should lead the global effort to eradicate hunger. This idea, which appeared for the first time at the World Economic Forum, in
Evian, Switzerland, was presented once again by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his opening speech at the 58th
Session of the UN General Assembly, on September 23, in New York.
"To do away with hunger in the world, we must mobilize society. For this reason, Lula will request the UN to lead
this process of convocation," Graziano explained. According to the Minister, this is the ideal moment to treat the first goal
of the millennium with "the radical approach it warrants." "We cannot propose to reduce hunger in half. What will we tell
the other half. For them to wait another fifteen years, fifty years, going hungry?" he asked.
"It is unacceptable for us to maintain a goal of reducing hunger in half by 2015. Many countries offer conditions to
eradicate hunger by 2015. Brazil is one of them," the Minister argues. "There are many other countries, including ones in Latin
America, that are also capable of doing this."
In Graziano's assessment, these countries, endowed with a dynamic agriculture and food export sectors, are unable
to eliminate hunger because of the "perverse" domestic distribution of income and food. In his view, the first step to assure
the end of hunger in these countries is to adopt a program of food security.
September 15, the Brazilian President declared that Brazil's Zero Hunger program has now reached the country's
850 poorest municipalities bringing benefits to 780,000 families. According to Lula, by December the program will reach
1.5 million families in the North and Northeast regions of the country. Pointing out that the programs original target was to
reach 1 million families this year, the president said that that goal would be exceeded.
Lula also announced that some R$ 4 billion (US$ 1.3 billion) was being made available for low-cost loans to
workers and retirees. "We will work through labor unions to reach low-income individuals and retirees, offering them loans of
up to two minimum wages (the Brazilian minimum wage is R$ 240 per month or around US$ 80) at interest of 2 percent
per month," said the president.
Lula at UN
In his opening address at the UN General Assembly, President Lula da Silva called for improvements in the UN
multilateral system, a necessary counterpart to democratic coexistence within nations. "Every nation committed to
democracy in the domestic sphere should take care to ensure that decision-making processes are transparent, legitimate, and
representative in the international sphere as well," he said.
According to the President, the tragedies of Iraq and the Middle East will only be resolved in a multilateral
framework, especially with the UN playing a central role. "We cannot evade our collective responsibilities. One can win a war
alone. But one cannot build a lasting peace without everybody's cooperation," he pointed out.
With respect to the desire to adopt more effective ways to combat terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and
organized crime, the President of Brazil affirmed that this is commendable, but, in his view, the UN was not created to remove the
debris left over from conflicts it could not avoid, however valuable its humanitarian work may be. "Our main task is to save
nations from the scourge of war. We cannot put more faith in military action than in the institutions we created with a vision of
history and the light of reason," Lula said.
As regards reforming the United Nations, President Lula said that this question has become imperative in face of the
risk of regression in the international political order. "The Security Council has to be fully equipped to confront crises and
deal with threats to peace. This requires that it be endowed with effective means of action," he added.
President Lula also paid homage to Ambassador Sérgio Vieira de Mello and the other UN representatives who died
in the attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, in Iraq, last month. He said that the best way to honor these
victims is to redouble the defense of human dignity, wherever it is menaced.
In another part of his speech, the President of Brazil once again criticized the rich countries for the barriers they
impose on the poor countries. With respect to the campaign against hunger and extreme hunger, President Lula said that this is
the only war that everyone can win. "Hunger is an emergency, and it should be treated as such. Its eradication is a civilizing
task that demands a short-cut to the future. Let us act to put an end to hunger, or shall we destroy our credibility through
omission? The true path to peace is the relentless war against hunger and extreme hunger, in a campaign of solidarity capable of
uniting the planet," Lula emphasized.
The President concluded his address in the UN plenary session by insisting that the greatest challenge to humanity
and, at the same time, the most beautiful, is precisely that of becoming more human. "It is time to call peace by its first name,
social justice," he concluded.
The material for this article was supplied by Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian
government. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org