“Guaranteeing the income of the poorest among us means keeping the economic wheel turning”, says Lula in Ethiopia
Read the full speech of former president Lula at the High Level Meeting of African and international leaders to end hunger in the continent:
Addis Ababa, June 30, 2013
A Unified Approach to End Hunger
It is a privilege to give the opening statement of this Meeting. I consider this honour to be a sign of respect for the profound friendship between Brazil and Africa – these are historical ties that we had been strengthening in recent years.
One of the Lula Institute’s goals is to reinforce these ties by increasing cooperation between Brazil and Africa in all fields.
I want to start by thanking the support of the African countries to the election of the general director of FAO, José Graziano da Silva, in 2011 and, more recently, the election of the ambassador Roberto Azevedo as general director of the World Trade Organization.
The performance of these two friends will certainly help to the advance of the fight against world hunger and to build fair and balanced business relationships among countries.
Last December, in this same place, I met Mrs. Zuma and brother Graziano to discuss a joint initiative. Our idea was to take a step forward in order to eliminate the hunger in Africa.
The initiative was shared by heads of states from all over the continent, to whom I present the most fraternal greetings.
I wish to express my appreciation to ministers, heads of regional and multilateral organizations, representatives of civil societies and NGOs, scientists, members of cooperatives, farmers, businessmen and observers for their presence.
I also wish to thank the distinguished representatives from China and Vietnam, countries that are willing to engage in a generous exchange of experiences in the fields of food security and development.
We are here united in a common cause: to end the tragedy of hunger in the African countries by 2025 – and if possible in a shorter period of time, because people who are hungry, ladies and gentlemen, cannot wait.
The struggle to end hunger requires the articulation of various public policies and the participation of society, but most of all it requires the courage to decide and to act.
In Brazil, in these last 10 years, we have learned that it is possible to end the hunger and poverty of millions through a group of policies oriented to the transfer of income, generation of employment and promotion of economic growth with social inclusion.
Without any pretension of dictating models, we would like to share with you the Brazilian experience in an effort to contribute to the progress that countries in Africa have made in the struggle against hunger.
In a continent that contains 55 countries and 1.1 billion inhabitants, where almost 1/4 of the population exists in a situation of food insecurity, we will not be intimidated by the complexity of the challenge.
To face this challenge, we look to South African leader Nelson Mandela, an example of tenacity and perseverance, who spoke these inspiring words:
“Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
It is very significant that this meeting is being held in the beautiful city of Addis Ababa, the New Flower of Ethiopia, where 50 years ago the African Union was born.
In this multicultural city live people with widely diverse creeds and nationalities. It is the mirror of a continent with a rich and diverse human landscape.
The traces of the first steps of mankind on the face of the Earth are located nearby. The birthplace of millennial civilizations, Africa is the scene for a future that has everything to be one of prosperity and justice.
The Constitution of the African Union, in 2002, encouraged political, economic and social integration, strengthened by the fact that democracy has taken root on the Continent.
Over these past five decades, the African Union has accumulated the achievements and experiences that allow us to salute 2013 as the Year of Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.
Hunger is not a simple consequence of natural disasters such as droughts, floods and pestilence.
A broader approach to the issue was established in the middle of the 20th century by Josué de Castro, a Brazilian who dedicated his life to combating hunger and studying its deepest origins in Brazil and around the world.
Joshué de Castro was the chairman of the Executive Committee of the FAO from 1952 to 1956. These words of advice are his:
“Hunger is not a natural phenomenon, but rather a social phenomenon, the product of defective economic structures.”
“Hunger and war are, in fact, creations of man.”
There is hunger, in the first place, because riches are concentrated in the hands of the few, and this is the deepest and most lasting of all the causes of hunger.
We must also link hunger to speculation in global food stocks; protectionist policies that are prejudicial to agriculture in the poorer countries; the disorganized competition for land; the concentration of land tenure and the destruction of traditional societies.
The hard fact is that at this time – one in every eight human beings is hungry and does not know if he will be able to feed himself tomorrow.
This tragedy occurs at a moment which world production of cereals reached a record 2.640 billion tons according to the United Nations.
Divided among the 7.2 billion inhabitants on earth, this is the equivalent of almost 1 kilogram of grains per person.
But this abundance is out of reach for the very poor.
When I assumed the presidency of Brazil in January 2003, my first priority was to end hunger in my country.
We installed the National Food and Nutritional Security Council, which has autonomy to make the link between government and society in setting guidelines and proposals.
We built a set of public policies in which overcoming hunger and poverty are central part of a new strategy for country development.
The result of this strategy is that in the last 10 years 36 million Brazilians were out from extreme poverty, 40 million were elevated to a new social level and 20 million of formal jobs were created.
The Zero Hunger strategy functioned as an umbrella program for a series of activities. The best known is the Bolsa Família, or “Family Stipend” program, which guarantees a basic monthly income for 54 million people, one quarter of the population of Brazil.
The annual budget for the program is US$ 11 billion, which corresponds to 0.5% of the GDP of the country.
In my Administration, I forbade Ministers to use the word “expenses” when referring to the battle to end hunger or social programs. All public funds used to improve the lives of people are called “investments”.
To participate in the Bolsa Família program families must meet three conditions: first the children must attend school regularly; second they must be given all of their vaccines and, third in the case of women who are pregnant, they must have regular prenatal examinations.
Together with municipalities and local communities, we created a register of low-income families which is permanently updated.
Participants in the Bolsa Família program can withdraw their stipend directly using a magnetic card from a public bank, with no intermediaries. The card is issued in the name of the women of the family, assuring that the money will be used in the best possible way.
The money from the Bolsa Família program provides a direct stimulus to the economy and commerce in poor neighborhoods and isolated locations.
Many people said that the Bolsa Família program would encourage sloth and idleness but just the opposite occurred. The basic level of income gave the poor the dignity to strive for a better life.
More than simply creating new consumers, we created new citizens. People who have been hungry know how this is true.
The effectiveness of the Bolsa Família program is stronger because of its connections with other programs in areas of health, education and social promotion.
The fellow Tereza Campello, ministry of Social Development of Brazil, presented these programs in her presentation at this high level meeting.
The success that we have achieved in ending hunger is also directly linked to policies that strengthen agriculture, starting with family farming.
There are 4 million small farms that today are responsible for 70% of the food that is served on the tables of Brazilians.
The volume of loans to family agriculture increased from US$1 billion to US$10 billion over the last 10 years.
The women – who also have a central whole in Brazilian agriculture – have gained direct access to credit.
Os produtores têm garantia de preço e seguro contra quebra de safras. O governo faz compras diretas de alimentos para formar estoques e para distribuir em creches, hospitais e abrigos. Produtores locais fornecem pelo menos 30% dos alimentos da merenda escolar.
This is how we financed the “Light for All” program, which has provided electric power to more than 3 million homes in these 10 years.
As a result of these other policies, along with increasing the production of food, the income of small farmers increased by 52% in these 10 years.
I want to stress that the policies for the transfer of income, essential in the fight against hunger and poverty in Brazil are part of a set of policies that are characterize a New Model for development with inclusion.
The Zero Hunger program works in combination with other strategies, like the policy of increasing the value of the minimum wage. Following the trend of recent years, 94% of salary agreements provide real increases in income, above inflation, in 2012.
We have democratized access to credit, not only for family farming and farmers but also for workers and retirees. They are now able to obtain bank loans by offering up to 30% of their salaries and pensions as guarantees.
We have also increased the access to financing for housing, industries, agribusiness, small companies and individual entrepreneurs.
In 10 years, credit available in the financial system was multiplied six times, in absolute terms, and increased from 25% of GDP in 2002 to 54% of GDP today.
The combination of income, employment, salaries and credit has caused our economy to grow sustainably to the benefit of the country of the whole.
The defenders of the old model said that this was a recipe for inflation and public deficits. They were wrong.
Public debt as a proportion of GDP fell from 60% in 2002 to around 35% in 2012. Inflation was reduced to half of the inflation of the previous period and continues to be under control.
But most importantly, millions of Brazilians now have three meals a day and today can count on a better future for themselves and their children.
We want to guarantee this future with heavy investments in education. In 10 years, we tripled the federal budget for education to US$40 billion.
We doubled the number of openings in public universities. A new law will set aside half of these openings for the poor, for Afro Brazilians and for students of indigenous origin.
We have exchanged taxes on private universities for scholarships that already benefit 1,300,000 students from poor families.
We have eliminated the requirement for guarantees for student loans from public banks. We have created conditions that make it possible for every young person to have access to a diploma.
A new program created by President Dilma Rousseff has already sent 25,000 of our young people to study at the best universities in the world.
We have invested in professional training at the high school level and in 10 years we have more than doubled the number of technical schools that were created during the previous century.
In partnership with industrial organizations, we created a program that has trained 2 million workers already and will reach 8 million workers over the next two years.
We know it is necessary to do a lot more to attend people’s needs for a better life, but the results that we’ve already achieved provide the strength to keep on going in the search for answers for people’s need.
In an integrated strategy to end hunger in Africa, I consider it essential also to combine the goals of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program – CAADP with the goals of the Program For Infrastructure Development In Africa – PIDA.
The land does not produce without abundant water. And if the water is not nearby it must be brought by canal.
The harvests are lost if there are no silos to store them and highways, railroads and ports to transport them.
The modernization of agricultural requires energy that must be delivered to the farmers.
Farm machinery and tractors are required that could perfectly well be manufactured Africa.
Modern agriculture requires fuel and fertilizer that can also be made here.
In addition to all this, investment in technology is needed and new types of seed and other inputs must be used. Knowledge and Science are our allies in the fight to end hunger
Agriculture does not develop in isolation, without investment in infrastructure and complementary production from other industrial sectors.
Africa has an enormous and unexplored agricultural potential that some experts say represents half of the unutilized agricultural land on earth.
This potential is found principally in the savannas, which are very much like the Cerrado in Brazil in vegetation, topography, soil conditions, sunlight and rainfall.
We have good reason to believe that the successful experience in Brazil in tropical agriculture can be used in Africa – both for the family farming type as well as corporate agriculture.
Brazil has an historic responsibility to Africa and is working to establish with the countries of Africa a relationship based on respect for sovereignty and shared development.
Last May at the 50th anniversary summit of the African Union, President Dilma Rousseff announced the creation of a new Agency for Cooperation.
The programs for cooperation and the exchange of experiences between countries are effective tools in the fight to end hunger in the sharing of scientific progress and social technologies.
We can cooperate for example, with the technology of our national agricultural research agency, Embrapa, which has an office in Accra.
In partnership with the FAO and the United Nations World Food Program, we are sharing the social technology of our Food Acquisition Program for family farming with Malawi, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Niger and Senegal.
We know that the cooperation to end hunger and for the development of agriculture must respect the unique characteristics of each country and region because, we know that models cannot be transplanted like flowers.
Traditional African societies have their millennial ways of producing and interacting with other social groups. Small farmers in Africa have customs and needs that are different from their Brazilian brothers.
We can offer experiences – never lessons – in various areas such as support for women who have direct access to agricultural credit and preference in gaining titles to the land.
Under the heading of Renewed Partnerships that our meeting hopes to stimulate, the policies of social protection are part of the CAADP.
Some countries are already adapting our experience with the Bolsa Familia Program – Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.
We believe that Africa can indeed become the continent of plenty and one of the breadbaskets of the world.
Ghana, for example, has had an average growth of 5% per year in agriculture over the last 25 years, and has managed to reduce poverty by 58% with investments in infrastructure, subsidies for inputs and by connecting small farmers with the internal and international market.
Ethiopia as already managed to reduce by one third the population living in extreme poverty. We congratulate the progress that has been made by all the countries and take it as a sign of encouragement for all that are engaged in the fight to end hunger and poverty.
The contribution of non-governmental organizations, foundations and donors – the partners in development – has been important for the struggle to end hunger and poverty, not just in Africa but around the world.
Many times faced with the omission or the absolute absence of the state, volunteer organizations provide the only help and many times make the difference between life or death.
But we have learned in Brazil that the national government has a responsibility to coordinate the policies to fight poverty and promote development with inclusion.
Brazil has changed because we found a place for the poor in our domestic budget, on an equal footing with organized sectors of society.
It changed because we stopped treating the poor as a problem and began to see in the poor and working people a central part of the solution.
Guaranteeing the income of the poorest among us through employment and social programs means keeping the economic wheel turning, to the benefit of the entire country.
I insist on this point because I believe that the battle to end hunger will only be successful if we join agricultural and infrastructure policies to the generation of employment and the distribution of income through social policies.
The fight to end hunger and poverty must be raised up to the level of State Policy if lasting results are to be achieved. Government must promote and articulate various fronts for action.
Income policies must be treated as a basic right of citizenship and not as occasional assistance. These policies must be part of the Budget – together with the other permanent obligations of the Government.
The coordination of agricultural and infrastructure policies to combat hunger will only be successful to the extent that they are included as part of a national plan for which the Governments themselves are responsible.
It the responsibility of individual states to articulate a policy for global governance that is more just and balanced.
We thank the African Union for the decisive role it played in the recent election of José Graziano Neto to head the FAO in 2011.
The coordinated support of Africa was given again with the recent election of ambassador Roberto Azevêdo to be the Director of the World Trade Organization.
We trust that the actions of these two Directors will intensify the effort to end hunger and to promote greater equilibrium in world trade.
These are important achievements in the fight against hunger in which multilateral organizations must be fully involved.
And they also are an important stimulus to South-South cooperation between countries that have an historic opportunity to achieve new levels of development.
If there is an alternative solution to the economic crisis that financial speculation inflicted upon the world, it does not lie in the austerity policies that have brought recession and unemployment to Europe.
The lasting solution is to return to investment in Africa, Latin America, India and others to sustain the development and consolidation of new markets.
Our countries and our governments have an obligation to seize this opportunity and transform it into a new era of prosperity and justice.
This is how I see the African Renaissance: as a moment to reduce the inequalities within each country and promote true integration.
Regional economic communities and institutions like the African Investment Bank play an important role in this process.
The African Union and the Pan African Parliament have been essential to the consolidation of democracy on the continent.
Democracy is without question the surest way to promote peace and stability. It is also a guarantee that development will be shared by everyone.
Tanzanian Julius Nyerere, one of the fathers of pan Africanism, said in this regard:
“If true development is what we want, the people must be involved.”
Africa will be stronger and more respected the deeper are the roots of integration and democracy.
I hope that this meeting will produce practical results, and that the issues for debate will be result in concrete actions, for the whole of Africa as well as each one of the countries.
We must leave this meeting knowing what we must do to achieve our objectives and what tasks each one most perform.
We must form a coordinating group the will be a reference for the next steps.
Personally I am engaged in the struggle to end hunger in my country and everywhere where I might be invited.
During my administration, I got to know Africa and it’s admirable people; I made friends in all of the countries and I am almost ready to cooperate with actions that you determine to be the most important in the struggle.
You may count on me, count on Brazil, and remember: no one to do more for Africa than the Africans themselves.
Thank you very much.
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