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Fondo Documental Dinámico
sobre la gobernanza de los recursos naturales en el mundo

Versión Española: Las crisis mayores ya han comenzado. (Ed. # 18)

The major crisis has already begun. (Ed. # 18)

Escrito por: Michel Merlet

Fecha de redaccion:

Organizaciones: Association pour contribuer à l’Amélioration de la Gouvernance de la Terre, de l’Eau et des Ressources naturelles (AGTER)

Tipo de documento: Boletín informativo

In a number of recent articles, AGTER has drawn attention to several important issues that are rarely addressed, sounding alarm bells about the future that we are preparing for ourselves. A crisis is not coming in a few centuries ; it has already begun.

Henri Rouillé d’Orfeuil shows how demographic evolutions and massive farmer evictions all over the world are driving us straight towards an absurd and unmanageable situation. If current trends continue, it will be necessary to create 3.5 billion more jobs before 2050 in order to provide decent work for everyone on the planet. He deconstructs the figures presented by the World Bank in their 2013 report on the « State of the World » and identifies major weaknesses in their macroeconomic hypothesis about full employment, a hypothesis which is totally delusional in today’s context.

Frédéric Dévé draws our attention to the FAO’s most recent, more scientific figures concerning the number of people suffering from hunger in the world. According to these figures, there are between 1.5 and 2.5 billion starving people, or more than 2 times the number normally quoted. The lower figure is nevertheless the one used in a 2012 report on food insecurity – Dévé discovered different figures when consulting the annexes.

Our research leads us to believe that the phenomenon of land grabbing and the privatization of collective goods, which has resulted in the propagation of large-scale agricultural operations everywhere in the world, represents a threat for all of humanity (refer to the communication at the Academie d’Agriculture de France). While most of the studies that have been published on this issue — in particular the one published by the World Bank in 2011, and the ILC (International Land Coalition) in 2012 — recognize that this situation is dangerous, they do not attempt to explain the factors that have contributed to it. Many of them uphold the assertion that coexistence between large scale and smallholder farms is not only possible, but desirable. They do not address the fact that the propagation of the former both destroys peasant agriculture and contributes to current global crises.

Related subjects have been explored by others : global warming, the degradation of soil and of maritime and land based ecosystems, etc. The dominant reaction to these threats has been equally timid and irresponsible. If our grandchildren and great grandchildren manage to overcome the daunting obstacles that await them, they will surely struggle to find words harsh enough to describe the ludicrous masquerade of our Millennium Development Goals and the aberrant scientific analysis on which they are based.

The Committee on World Food Security’s approval of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Land and Natural Resources, which was made possible by the efforts of civil society worldwide, is a step in the right direction. But it is insufficient. It is naive to assume that we can convince national governments to adopt binding legal texts that make these guidelines obligatory. A number of factors, including unequal power relationships between different actors, interdependence between sovereign states, and the existence of incredibly powerful transnational economic agents, make the challenges we face international. We can no longer avoid addressing the question of governance on a global scale.

Nobody has the « answer » or the solution now. We need to re-examine certain values, concepts, and assumptions that we have accepted as true and reconnect economic concerns with social ones ; it is a mistake to address them separately. We need to improve our comprehension of fundamental human rights. Each individual has the right to an adequate amount of food, drinkable water, etc., but he or she also has the right to conserve a livable planet, not just for him or herself but for his or her children and grandchildren. These are not just rights, but duties. Our research into the ways in which collective goods and natural wealth are « captured », as well as our analysis of how added value is distributed between workers, investors, and landowners, share new perspectives. They also push us to look differently at the concept of « investment », which is constantly discussed in a way that obscures its true meaning.

It takes courage and audacity to think seriously about the long term and to make decisions that are contrary to the immediate interests of people in positions of power. But these decisions will help us to avoid global collapse. In the 20th century, tens of millions of people had to die in genocides and global conflicts before humanity took action and created the United Nations, which served as a mediator between two blocs which, had they engaged in a direct confrontation, could have contributed to even further global catastrophe. The current global crisis that we are faced with is similar to the one that we dealt with at the beginning of the 20th century. While we have no guarantee that we will find the solutions to overcome it, we should not give up on the search for answers, no matter how unrealistic these answers may seem at first.

Michel Merlet

Director of AGTER

Translation to English: Jesse Rafert

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The French, Spanish, and English versions of the articles and videos presented below are not exactly the same.

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