World Citizens have always seen the need to structure the world society in such a way that the human rights and the basic needs of all the world's people can be met. This has been particularly true in world citizen calls for a world food policy. In an early statement of our aims, Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday, 1952) "Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some men die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live." Stringfellow Barr went on to add "I am grateful that I live in a time of crisis, a time when real decisions can be made because real issues have emerged that the human mind can grasp, and real problems have been located that human will and human reason can solve."
Much of the early world citizen movement's efforts centered on the problem of hunger and the need to create food security. Hunger and starvation are among the most visible signs of the failure to meet basic needs. The emphasis on hunger also was the result of the leadership in the world citizens' movement of two officials of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, Sir John Boyd Orr, the first FAO Director General and Dr Jose de Castro, a Brazilian nutritionist, who was chairman of the FAO's governing Council. De Castro's The Geography of Hunger (Boston: Little, Brown, 1952) was a widely read and moving account of the danger of famine in the world. De Castro was later in the early 1960s the Ambassador of Brazil to the United Nations in Geneva. A more popular account of the ways in which modern science has placed in our hands for attacking world misery Let There Be Bread (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952) was written by Robert Brittain, also active in world citizen circles.
Another World Citizen active in calling attention to the need for a world food policy was Rene Dumont. Rene Dumont was a person who saw the relation between natural constraints on agriculture and the political setting. Dumont was known in the general public for his prophetic 1962 L'Afrique Noire est Mal Partie (False Start in Africa) often republished for a decade in up-dated editions. He denounced the short-sighted agricultural and social policies of the newly independent African states - policies which have continued and which have led to a constant decline in agricultural production. Dumont was a prolific writer helped in his later life by a series of skilled co-authors. He would alternate a book on specific agricultural questions with a more general, usually polemical book. His book titles were often a political program in themselves such as A vous de choisir, l'ecologie ou la mort (The choice is yours, ecology or death). He was a dynamic speaker. In his public, political lectures, his style was cutting and his examples telling but without subtlety, but when he was speaking of agricultural development to students, his analysis was much more nuanced. Unlike some agronomists who neglected the socio-cultural context in which farming takes place, Dumont had a sociologists concern for the values and attitudes of rural populations.
Dumont was well aware of the world domination of agricultural production and distribution. He called attention to the negative effects of "globalization" well before the term became popular. His analysis of agriculture in China, Albania, Cuba, Algeria, and Poland was extremely detailed. Thus, the French communists kept up a steady barrage of attacks against Dumont and he was refused a visa to a good number of communist countries. Dumont was preoccupied all his life with hunger and the dangers of famine in the world. He summed up his views in a 1997 monograph Famines, le retour (Famines, their return). He thus stressed the need to increase food production and was criticised by some in the ecological movement who feared that intense agricultural production was destructive of ecological balance.
Rene Dumont was a fellow world citizen and co-worker in the African rural development field although he was 30 years older than I and much better known through his scientific monographs on African agriculture and then his popular books on African rural development. Yet when we would meet there was always a feeling of togetherness in a battle for a better life for African farmers - a battle against heavy odds.
When Dumont died in June 2001 at the age of 97, he was remembered as the father of French political ecology, but he had no direct intellectual heirs. His 1974 campaign for the French presidency was the first time Les Verts (The Greens) had entered politics at the national level. Dumont was able to federate around his personality and his reputation as an agronomist specializing in African and Asian development a wide range of people who felt that the traditional French political parties were not dealing with the crucial questions of humanity's future. His energetic campaign and strong personality in television presentations created the groundwork on which Les Verts could build a political movement. In France, all candidates for the presidency have equal time on government-owned television and are able to produce their own, government -financed, spots. Dumont, with his red sweater and a glass of water to recall the dangers of water pollution, was a marked contrast with the more formal candidates. Dumont received only one percent of the popular vote, but he put Les Verts on the political map and set out the issues which would continue to be the political ecology framework.
Dumont was 70 when he ran for president and after the campaign he remained more of a "father figure" than an organizer in structuring the political ecology movement, done largely by a younger generation. Dumont was not a "team player" and often expressed his views in a very direct way. He was particularly direct in his dislike of autos and the need for higher gas prices - not popular themes among the French electorate at the time. He always stressed that the conditions in the Third World were intolerable and would lead sooner rather than later to armed revolts. In a speech to the staff of the World Bank in Washington, he advised them to set up their guns on the Potomac as the poor were coming.
Hunger and food security are, of course, only part of the development process, and world citizens were on the staff of the two independent commissions created by the World Bank to review and make recommendations at the end of two crucial decades for broad development efforts: The Pearson Commission Partners in Development (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1969) and the Brandt Commission North-South: A Programme for Survival (London: Pan Books, 1980). The Honorary President of the Association of World Citizens, Robert Muller, was Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and played an important role in economic and social affairs. He later became Chancellor of the University for Peace in Costa Rica involved in designing teaching programs on development and stressing the link between development and peace.
In more recent years, world citizens
have played a useful role in the United Nations system by stressing
three crucial areas:
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are rising in status and influence. They are taking a 'place at the table' with States in international decision-making, and gaining leverage over States to make them embrace new norms. NGOs have become indispensable to the human rights movement through their characteristic activities of analysis, investigating and reporting on State actions. Now is the time to bring these earlier world citizen efforts together into a concerted program to provide momentum for world-wide efforts for the protection of all human rights. We need to stress, as Stringfellow Barr noted the real problems "that human will and human reason can solve." Thus, world citizens are bringing together a wide coalition of individuals and movements working to make fulfilling basic needs for everyone as the aim and the focus of development policies.