Petra, Jordan, 19 June 2008 (By Tamsin Carlisle, The National, U.A.E.) - A strong link between the world hunger crisis and high energy prices was the consensus of a panel consisting of some of the world's best minds including the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace laureates and the secretary general of the League of Arab States.
At the Nobel laureates conference in Jordan yesterday, the 1986 Peace laureate, Elie Wiesel, said the state of the global economy was the most urgent matter in international affairs, and the hunger crisis was closely linked. The "shame of hunger" should be borne by wealthy governments, institutions and individuals who had not taken steps to address growing food shortages, he said.
"If this goes on, at one point there will be a convulsion and upheaval of historic proportions. It is historically, not only morally, imperative to deal with the problem," Mr Wiesel said.
"The crisis of the past few years has been because of oil," said David Trimble, the 1998 Peace Laureate and a member of Britain's house of lords.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama (left),
takes part in the fourth Petra Conference of Nobel
A related issue causing problems with world food production was the recent worldwide surge in biofuels production, he said. Rising food consumption in developing countries, particularly China and India, protectionist agricultural policies in Europe and North America, and distorted perceptions of the threats posed by genetically modified foods had also contributed to world hunger, Lord Trimble argued.
"We cannot afford to ignore the science on this issue. What we are dealing with is a fear that is not well-grounded," he said of the often passionate European resistance to the use of genetic modification to improve agricultural yields.
The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, linked falling world food stocks and rising food prices to global trends including surging oil prices, problems afflicting financial markets and climate change, as well as some of the factors discussed by Lord Trimble.
Mr Moussa said the international community and United Nations were clearly failing to meet goals that they had set of substantially reducing the number of people going hungry by 2015. "We need policy, laws and international conventions to balance food production with biofuel production," he said.
Stjepan Mesic, the president of Croatia, said the global food crisis was set in motion by "unfair rules of global trade" favouring corporate interests over those of individual people. "The global crisis manifests itself in three ways: financial, energy and food," he said, adding that "something is wrong with the current global economy".
The Dalai Lama, the recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, said the widening prosperity gap between rich and poor was not only morally wrong, but also led to frustration and violence, threatening world security. Population growth was anotheb r problem that exacerbated food shortages, he said.