Preface

The International Commission on Peace and Food began its work at a time of uncommon opportunities for rapid transition on a global scale to democratic ways of life, freedom of the media, and an independent judiciary; food, literacy, health and jobs for all; and sustainable life styles based on harmony between humankind and nature. The end of the Cold War and the consequent shift of expenditure from defence to development, the onset of the Information Age and the organization of information superhighways, the growth of mechanisms for regional cooperation, a renewed faith in the United Nations, and commitment to multilateral negotiations and action all provided new opportunities for achieving global peace and prosperity. Rapid progress in the application of science and technology in agriculture, industry, and human health strengthened the hope that the concept of 'food, education, health and employment for all' can be converted from rhetoric into reality, provided the peace dividend can be deployed to achieve these goals.

ICPF had the advantage of building on the work of earlier independent commissions, particularly those chaired by Willy Brandt, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Julius Nyerere. We began our work with the conviction that, as Willy Brandt said, 'the problems created by men can be solved by men'. The ancient Indian scripture, Bhagavad Gita, expressed the same sentiment by stressing, 'Whatever man aspires to, that he can accomplish.' The achievement of food self-sufficiency by India in a period when famine threatened millions of lives through the power of political will and scientific action in a democratic society illustrates this truth.

In spite of such uncommon opportunities for a better common present, during the last six years the world has been witness to an escalation of ethnic and mini-conflicts, growing intolerance of diversity, the spread of small arms, an increase in violence starting with violence to oneself through drug addiction and damage to the life support systems of land, water, flora, fauna and the atmosphere. In addition, the current pattern of economic and technological growth is leading to gross social inequity and rising joblessness. The rich-poor divide is widening both within and among nations. At the same time, the spread of knowledge and information, particularly through the electronic media, has led to an era of rising expectations. The economically and socially underprivileged sections of human society are now aware that their future is not a question of fate, but of political and technological choice. If they are not given access to the information superhighways and other technological highways to progress, a new form of social and economic apartheid will spread, which will be even more serious in its consequences to the future of human civilization than the skin-colour-based apartheid which has just ended.

True education is leadership in thought. There are periods in human history when the progress of decades can be accomplished in a few years. It is the view of the Commission that we have arrived at one of these great, creative moments. Can the political leadership of all countries seize this moment and convert it into an opportunity for promoting job-led economic growth, rooted in the principles of ecology and equity? Can we make the gender inequity and the coexistence of extreme poverty on the part of a billion children, women, and men, and extreme affluence and unsustainable lifestyles on the part of another billion, an anachronism of the past? Can we foster love of diversity and pluralism in terms of religion, race, language, colour or political belief?

In our view, there are uncommon opportunities now to find the solutions to these basic challenges facing contemporary human society. We have tried to deal with them in a concise manner in this report, which concludes that commitment to the principles of democracy and human diversity, equity in terms of gender, economic condition and sustainable lifestyles, is fundamental to achieving both a better common present and a better future.

Personally, it has been a privilege working with a highly distinguished group of women and men, whose sole concern has been a better life for all. I wish to thank every member of the Commission, as well as the many others who have helped us, for their time and vision. The Member Secretary, Mr Garry Jacobs, however, merits a special mention for his total dedication to the principles which inspired the setting up of ICPF. Throughout the last five years, he has devoted his time and extraordinary talent to the work of the Commission. He has been the principal catalyst of the Commission's work. In his heavy responsibilities, he has been ably supported by Robert J. Macfarlane and Robert van Harten. I wish to record our sincere gratitude to this unique trio.

Our work has been largely supported by grants from UNDP and UNESCO. UNESCO also provided the services of Dr Maurice Goldsmith, Director, International Science Policy Foundation, to edit this report. It has been a privilege working with Dr Goldsmith, an editor of extraordinary wit and wisdom. I am indebted to Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary General of the United Nations; Dr Federico Mayor, Director General of UNESCO; and Mr James Gustave Speth, Administrator of UNDP, for their support and encouragement. A special word of thanks is also due to Mrs Robin La Brie-Jackson, who has helped throughout in managing the work of the Commission with great competence and courtesy. Finally, I must acknowledge the inspiration and encouragement provided by Mr T. Natarajan, Secretary, The Mother's Service Society, Pondicherry, India, from the very inception of the idea of the Commission. His emphasis on leadership in thought that leads to action has served as a guiding principle for the work of the Commission. A more complete list of the many individuals and institutions who have contributed generously of their time and resources to our work is contained in the Acknowledgements appended to this volume.

During 1994 and 1995, several major international events will take place. The International Conference on Population and Development at Cairo in September 1994, the World Summit for Social Development at Copenhagen and the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995, and the designation of 1995 as the International Year for Tolerance all provide unique opportunities for promoting sustainable and equitable development. The past 50 years since the birth of the UN have marked striking progress in every field of human endeavour, except in the areas of ecological and human security. We should now concentrate on these aspects of security, so vital for sustained human happiness and fulfilment. It is our hope that this report will be of some help in accelerating the pace of progress in the evolution of a new human ethic conducive to human beings living in harmony with nature and with each other.

M. S. Swaminathan, Chairman
International Commission on Peace and Food
Madras, India, 6 July 1994