Politico: Berger: Building peace through food
June 3, 2010
In the coming days, Congress will have the opportunity to save countless lives and strengthen U.S. security by ensuring funding for emergency food assistance in the war supplemental.
No one disputes the moral imperative of addressing global hunger: Each year, hunger robs society of human potential and cuts short millions of lives.
As a leader in efforts to address global hunger, Washington has responded to this call time and time again. In recent years, as our understanding of global interconnectedness has deepened, we’ve come to realize that failure to address global hunger not only leads to needless suffering and loss of life, but also threatens U.S. national security and regional political stability.
A major threat to global security now stems from the radicalized terrorism bred in societies where opportunity and order are lacking. Hunger, poverty, instability and terrorism are inextricably linked, which means that our approach to improving global security must not only use traditional military strength but also robust efforts to eradicate hunger, promote economic development and strengthen weak government institutions.
Hunger and famine leading to political unrest and insecurity is not new. From the food riots that launched the French Revolution, to the fall of famine-stricken regimes across West Africa in the 1970s, to the toppling of the Haitian government in 2008 after high food prices, we have seen the link proven time and again.
After all, food is the basic building block of life. Without it, as World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran has observed, people have few options: “They revolt, migrate or die.”
In conflict-stricken Pakistan — where insufficient funding is threatening WFP’s efforts to reach more than 9 million hungry people — joining a militia or attending a radical madrassa is one of the few ways a young boy can get access to food. Similar dynamics are at play in Afghanistan, the central front of U.S. and global military efforts to combat terrorism.
WFP’s food distribution operation is the single largest social service in Afghanistan — addressing hunger and promoting development through food-for-work projects, school meals programs and other food assistance efforts. These programs build hope among conflict and disaster-stricken populations and support our overall efforts to build a stable, functioning society.
As Congress now considers a $33 billion supplemental spending request to support continuing military and security efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it should use this opportunity to provide an additional $580 million in emergency food assistance to help address serious humanitarian crises around the world.
This amount would maintain the level of U.S. support provided in recent years to help meet global emergency food needs. It would help advance our national security interests in some of the most challenging regions around the globe — including in Sudan, Afghanistan, Kenya and Pakistan. Providing these resources to achieve both humanitarian and national security objectives would demonstrate the critical role that addressing global hunger plays in an effective national security strategy.
As Sen. John F. Kennedy said in a 1960 speech, shortly before being elected president, “Food is strength, and food is peace, and food is freedom, and food is a helping hand to people around the world whose goodwill and friendship we want.”
When it considers the supplemental spending bill this month, Congress can take an important step in extending “a helping hand” to the world’s hungry — and making the world a safer place.