A timely call
The call made by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa for a Global Food Crisis Fund during his
address to the World Food Summit in Rome is a timely one given
the present food crisis that is sweeping the continents not even
sparing the developed world.
What is significant in this call is idea mooted to draw in
all State as well as non State actors to contribute to this
The President said "the Fund will have contributions from all
countries and all business organisations and transcend geo
political boundaries and from Financial institutions, arms
manufacturers and philanthropists of the world among others."
The mention of arms manufacturers certainly is significant
given their efforts concentrated on the destruction of human
lives when their munificence could lead to saving the lives
millions from starvation. The Fund could snowball in no time if
even a fraction of this blood money is donated to the cause.
The President proposed a fund handling mechanism that would
give priority to the countries whose food security is seriously
threatened. It is vital that a body such as the UN take charge
of the fund to ensure the fair distribution of resources.
The proposed Fund could also help break down many barriers
that exist between states ideological or otherwise, the joint
sharing resources would engender. It would also open avenues for
trade and other areas of mutual cooperation between States
leading to global peace.
A common fund of this nature would also bring countries
together to engage in matters of common interest. Therefore what
the President has proposed is a far reaching move that would
serve the cause of unifying nations.
However a common Fund alone would not rid the world from food
crises in the near future and thereafter. This is why President
Rajapaksa spoke of protecting all cultivable land as against
their use for the development of biofuel which the developed
countries are pursuing in a frenzy to fight off the recurrent
The President said in his address "in the prevailing
competition between food and fuel Sri Lanka is firm in the
decision that no land that can be used for food will be used for
biofuel whatever the commercial attraction may be".
He noted that food for the people should have the highest
priority and not the running of gas guzzling vehicles.
This is in tune with the President's oft repeated call for
sustainable development where a balance would be struck between
development needs and the protection of the environment.
Today being World Environment Day it would be useful if this
observation of the Lankan Head of State literally provides food
for thought to world leaders at this World Food Forum. For
serious damage to the environment is continuing apace in the
name of development and progress without a thought spared for
the unborn generations.
Already warnings have been made by experts on the effects of
global warming and the El Nino factor which had seen a large
depletion of natural resources and climatic abberations.
Today one often reads of retreating glaciers, depleted life
span of ice on lakes and rivers, change in seasons and rising
sea levels that would combine to have cataclysmic consequences
to mankind threatening his very existence.
Here in Sri Lanka too we are already witnessing the
consequences of unplanned development over the years that has
taken a heavy human toll on the environment and our natural
resources. The frequency of natural disasters such as
landslides, flashfloods, sea erosion etc. are sure indicators of
Experts have traced this phenomenon to factors such as the
rapid depletion of forest cover and the juggernaut of
urbanisation that has sullied the unspoilt beauty of the
Urgent steps are therefore needed to arrest this trend. It is
fitting that President Rajapaksa whose village roots necessarily
makes him a friend of the natural environment is seen leading
from the front to halt the slide. He should receive all the
support from all his Ministers and state agencies to protect and
preserve what is left of our environment and natural resources.
After all the President in the Mahinda Chintanaya has
emphasised the need for development and progress being
necessarily undertaken in harmony with nature and the protection
of the environment.
Therefore there should be strict guidelines in this respect
to ensure that the President's command is carried out to the