“This World Order is not just murderous, it is absurd”

Introduction and translation by Siv O’Neall



Jean Ziegler is a senior professor of sociology at the University of Geneva and the Sorbonne, Paris. He is one of the leading protagonists in the world for the anti-globalization movement and has taken a continued stand for human rights, the right to food and a decent livelihood for all people. In 2000, he was appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.


He kept this position until March 2008 in spite of much hard criticism from the neoliberal leaders of the U.S. and the UN for his categorical stand for equal rights for all people. His continued fight against poverty, hunger and chronic malnutrition in the world has been a constant embarrassment to the West. He is now the Swiss member of the UN Human Rights Council. His is one of the very few voices heard on the international scene speaking out loudly against the criminal financial system that has put the world in its present tailspin with hunger and lack of human rights, devastating a continually increasing mass of the world’s 6.6 billion population. Unfortunately he is not very well known in the Anglophone world, where, for obvious political reasons, his humanitarian message is hushed up.


He says in "Empire of Shame": "One thing is certain: world agriculture, in the current state of productivity, could feed twice the number of today’s global population. So it is not a matter of fate: hunger is manmade." "Empire of Shame – A Conversation with Jean Ziegler"


He has written several books on the lack of justice in the world, condemning the vicious global power system that allows close to a billion people to be the chronic victims of hunger and permanent malnutrition and denouncing crimes committed in the name of global finance and capitalism.  See: Hunger in the Midst of Plenty, By Girish Mishra


In an interview with Daniel Mermet on French radio (Là-bas si j’y suis) on May 4, 2008, Mermet says: "According to Jean Ziegler there are today 854 million permanently undernourished people in the world."  See: Insurrection of the Famished – Causes and Possible Remedies of the World Hunger Crisis


In his call for a moratorium on biofuel Ziegler says  "Nearly 900 million people worldwide suffer hunger"- October 11, 2007 (UN rapporteur calls for biofuel moratorium) See Food or Fuel? – on "The myths of the transition towards biofuels" (Le Monde Diplomatique, June, 2007) Also see: UN rapporteur calls for biofuel moratorium


In the following interview (below) Jean Ziegler says that "923 million people [in the world], more than one in six, are permanently severely malnourished."


Jean Ziegler has also forcefully condemned Israel for violations of the Palestinians’ right to food. "Behind the headlines of military conflict and escalating violence, there is a continuing physical, social and psychological destruction of a whole and very ancient society," said Ziegler.


New UN report condemns Israeli violations of the right to food. He has also criticized Israel’s conduct in the 2006 Lebanon War. (05/10/2006) UN envoy tells international court to probe Israel for war crimes (By The Associated Press )



Interview with Jean Ziegler

by Cathy Ceïbe


Fighting against the imbalance in the world, in the ‘Hatred of the West'[1], Jean Ziegler calls for a new social contract based on global solidarity and dialogue between the South and the West.


Former UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler is now a member of the advisory committee of the board of Human Rights of the United Nations. His latest book, ‘Hatred of the West’ (Albin Michel), is a merciless indictment against "globalized capitalism and the cannibalized order it imposes on the planet."

The debate is heating up about the nature of the crisis. Some consider that rather than a crisis of the financial system which should be corrected, we are facing a multidimensional crisis, and there are those who even call it a crisis of civilization. Do you share this view?


Jean Ziegler: Yes. This is the unmasking of the capitalism of the jungle. There is, on the one hand, the suffering of American workers: 25 million families evicted from their homes since March, plus 10 000 tenants evicted every day since September. Thousands of pension funds are gone up in smoke. In France, unemployment is rising rapidly. Social budgets will be reduced. We must consider the scale of the unacceptable disasters that will follow. At the same time, we are witnessing an extraordinary fact: the mask of neoliberalism has come off. Theories that legitimize the present state of capitalism have fallen apart, namely the self-regulation of the market, the liberalization (deregulation) of all capital movements, goods and services, the privatization of all public sectors, the claim that economic laws are laws of nature, the defamation of the nation state and its regularizing powers. This ultra-liberalism, which reduced workers to impotence, has been caught in a trap. The real actors of the "invisible hand" appeared to be leading and we were told that there was nothing we could do against their power: the predators, the speculators, the oligarchs of the financial market whose only motivation is greed, cynicism and an obsessive taste for power. This unmasking paves the way for awareness about the true nature of global capitalism and the cannibal order it imposes on the planet.

In your opinion, has anyone measured the scale of the impact of this crisis on the South?


Jean Ziegler: "When the rich lose weight, the poor die," says a proverb. World hunger is increasing at a breathtaking rate. Every five seconds a child under ten dies of hunger in the world and 100 000 people die every day from hunger or its immediate after-effects. 923 million people, more than one in six, are permanently severely malnourished. The daily massacre of hunger is increasing. At the same time, President Nicolas Sarkozy has massively reduced public aid to development. In Africa, projects are suspended. The United Nations has identified eight priority tragedies to be eliminated. These are the objectives of this millenary that are to be achieved by 2015: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring all school-age children a basic education, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of  women; reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating AIDS, malaria and other epidemics; ensuring the protection of the environment, establishing a global pact for development. The cost of these objectives has been set at 82 billion dollars annually over five years. Since 2000, the West said there was no money. However, on October 12, at the Élysée Palace [2], in three and a half hours, the 27 EU countries released €1 700 billion for credit to be used between banks and to raise the floor of pure capital for the banks from 3 % to 5%. 1% of these €1 700 billion would suffice to eliminate the eight tragedies afflicting the Third World countries. This world order is not only mortal, it is absurd.

The G20 summit in Washington claims to develop responses to this global crisis [3]. As we know, the South will be the major absentees. Does this exclusion not increase the "rational hatred" by the South against the West that you mention in your latest book?


Jean Ziegler: Undoubtedly. "They have removed the helmet, but underneath their head is still colonial," said Régis Debray. The West leads a suicidal policy. For five hundred years, whites, who now represent only 13% of the world’s population, have dominated the world through successive systems of oppression: the genocide of Indians with the conquest of America, triangular trade by the slavery powers involving the plunder of primary resources, the deportation of 400 million Africans, then the colonial occupation and its massacres and finally the world order of global capitalism. Edgar Morin says: "The domination of the West is the worst in human history in its duration and its global expansion. "The hatred of the West has two main sources. First this mysterious and wonderful rebirth of memories that nobody expected. Slavery was abolished there a hundred and twenty years ago. The last country to have done so is Brazil in 1888. Colonialism was also ended, about fifty years ago. And yet it is only now that this memory of injuries, the memory of the horrors committed are waking people up to full awareness of the past. They are now claiming reparations and claiming repentance. Let us not forget the extraordinary scene in December 2007 when Nicolas Sarkozy arrived to sign a number of contracts in Algeria. President Bouteflika told him in advance: "First you apologize for Sétif," the massacre of May 8, 1945 when thousands of Algerians, women and children were executed by the French army while demonstrating peacefully. Nicolas Sarkozy replied that he had not come to indulge in "nostalgia". Bouteflika replies: "Memories before business". And the agreements were not signed. A radical new force in history has irrupted: the demand that memories be taken into account. In Bolivia, 2006, the democratic election of an Indian to the presidency for the first time in five centuries is the pure fruit of this rebirth of memory. The second source is the total rejection of global capitalism which the peoples of the South are the victims of. The rebirth of memory and absolute refusal of the latest system of oppression are at the root of this reasonable hatred.


You say in your book that "the peoples of the Southern Hemisphere have decided to demand compensation." To whom will they turn?


Jean Ziegler: To the West of course. But the West remains blind and deaf to the claims of the South with their awakened memories. See the outrageous rhetoric of Sarkozy in Dakar in July 2007 or the failure of the World Conference on Racism in Durban in 2001.


While making the West responsible, does this not clear the governments of the South, who are also actors of capitalism, of their own responsibility?


Jean Ziegler: Yes, the example of the appalling regime of Nigeria, which I spoke of at length in my book, attests to this. Nigeria is the eighth largest oil producer in the world, the first in Africa. It is the  most populous country on the continent with 147 million inhabitants. Life expectancy is only forty-seven years. Over 70% of the population lives in extreme poverty. Malnutrition is permanent. There are no schools, no health services. All this because of the endemic corruption of military dictators who have successively held power since 1966. The bond of trust between citizens and the state is broken by corruption and looting. But the responsibilities are shared. The oil companies exploiting the immense wealth of the country, Shell, Elf, Exxon, Texaco, Repsol …, are the active accomplices of the generals. Oil companies favor corruption because it serves their interests. When negotiating the sharing of wealth and property, it is infinitely better to have corrupted leaders to deal with rather than a democratically elected government that defends the public interest. I condemn corruption. The generals of Abuja are crooks, but all the same, we must see the origin of this evil power system where the accomplices keep the corrupt in place.


You say that barbaric capitalism is showing its true face. What can this lead to?


Jean Ziegler: The collective consciousness is about to begin a process of apprenticeship and analysis. The social counterattack is getting organized. We are currently experiencing a very favorable stage of this movement. France is certainly socially unjust, but it is a vibrant democracy. Information is circulating. The freedom of the press is guaranteed. Thus, it is time for analytical reasoning to begin. Outsourcing, for example, is rooted in the concept of social dumping. In response to this, the reactions of employees have often been resignation: "There is nothing we can do, it is the market that decides." There was a very profound alienation on the part of the working classes when faced with the "invisible hand" of the market. Many workers had come to believe that unemployment, deregulation and labor insecurity were inevitable. Meanwhile, over the past decade, social protection of employees has melted like snow in the sun. However, these lies have now collapsed. The invisible hand has finally became visible: it is the hand of the predators. How will the social counterattack be organized? We do not know yet, but that is the central issue.


Among emergency measures to address the crisis, is it possible to create a regulation of tax havens?


Jean Ziegler: We must eliminate them altogether. This is one of the most urgent measures to be taken. It should also abolish bank secrecy and restore the rule of a public sector when it comes to public services, reverse privatization, impose strict regulations for capital movement, ban outsourcing and regulate the stock market to avoid speculation. It is certain that the financial oligarchs who operate exclusively to maximize profit must be submitted to state regulation. Free trade is an evil when the state loses its regulating force. The interest of the country is social justice, a secure livelihood, progressive taxation to ensure a redistribution of national wealth, absolute priority given to job security, equitable distribution of resources and social democracy.


Do you believe that a common front for the peoples of the South and the West might be possible?


Jean Ziegler: I am sure that this process will lead to a new global social contract. The opposite of a self-regulating market is the law. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in the Social Contract: "Between the strong and the weak it is freedom that oppresses and the law that liberates." I am absolutely certain that people will understand that Western inhumanity inflicted on others destroys the humanity that is in them. We possess moral imperatives, a conscience of identity. This cannibal order of the world, this reign of predators, which we witness in the daily massacre of famine is no more acceptable to the citizens of the West. The proof exists, with the colossal fund-raising for banks, the growing availability of enormous wealth to deal with the abysmal overexploitation and poverty of so many peoples in the South. A new contract of solidarity and dialogue between the South and West will be developed by people released from their feeling of living in different worlds.


The risk that this crisis might increase the inequalities that already exist or favor a reaction are real. Is this not showing too much enthusiasm?


Jean Ziegler: I know the argument. The stock market crash of 1928 and the global economic crisis gave birth to fascism in several European countries. But fascism was born from the humiliation of defeat, that of Germany at the end of the First World War, a desire for revenge. The Western victors did not do anything to stop it, preferring Fascism to Bolshevism and to a revolution, which the bourgeois elites felt a panicky fear for. The world was still largely colonial. We are not at all in the same situation. What is threatening us today, if the West does not wake up, is the pathological hatred of groups from the South and growing violent racism in the West. But these hazards can be averted. In the Babylonian Talmud, there is this mysterious sentence: "The future has a long history." It is important that the West welcome the resurgent memory of the South, recognizing crimes committed, and that we offer compensation. And the West must, first of all, consent to dismantle the cannibalistic order of the world, move from capitalism to civilization. Barack Obama is coming to power in an aggressive empire, overly armed, which claims military, economic and political hegemony on the planet. Will it dismantle its imperial structures and inaugurate an international policy based on reciprocity, cooperation between peoples, in short, a policy subject to the norms of international law? I doubt it. The mobilization of social forces in Europe and in the South, resistance to the restoration of the capitalism of the jungle will be essential for a humane civilization to come alive on our planet. But the tremendous resurgence of memories by African-Americans who made Obama’s election victory possible, already in itself gives a lot of hope.



[1] Original title in French: La haine de l’Occident (Albin Michel)

[2] The residence of the President of France

[3] In fact, the G20 summit did not claim to be able to solve the crisis. They don’t really admit the presence of a crisis or that anything fundamental should have to be changed. According to Hervé LAYDIER, Attac, France:

"According to the leaders of the 19 states plus the EU, the current economic and social system has nothing to blame itself for. The only problem is to "support the global economy" and to "stabilize the financial markets". Only one reform is foreseen: the reform of "the financial systems". The market economy is not being questioned, outsourcing and social dumping are not even mentioned, "the rules of the WTO" (the World Trade Organization) are considered good. Sum total, it’s the people who, in the final analysis, will have to pay for the breakage resulting from the crisis. (translation by Siv O’Neall)


Originally posted in l’Humanité: http://www.humanite.fr/2008-11-14_International_Jean-Ziegler-Cet-

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