The International Commission on Peace and Food (ICPF) was formed in 1989 as a private non-governmental initiative to bring an end to the arms race and thereby redirect the monetary resources of the world for accelerating global economic development.
Though the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev tried very much to deescalate the existing arms race between the NATO and Soviet Blocs, world military spending continued to spiral upwards and reached an all-time high of 1.2 trillion dollars in the year 1988. This sparked a wave of fear that an intentional or accidental nuclear war was very much likely to occur at any time. Apart from an intensification of efforts to lessen the arms race, there was another parallel movement to augment world food supplies so that nobody in the world went hungry for even a day.
Towards the end of that year The Mother’s Service Society, a social science research institute based in Pondicherry, South India approached the renowned Indian Scientist M. S. Swaminathan to explore the possibility of convening a group of experts to promote the efforts to increase food supply and also at the same time intensify efforts to bring down the arms race. The Commission was formed with Swaminathan as the Chairman and included 25 leading scientists, defense and development experts and politicians. Notable among the political members were Queen Noor of Jordan and the former First Lady of the United States Rosalynn Carter. By the time the first meeting of the Commission took place at the end of September 1989 the world political climate had changed considerably for the better. Barely six weeks later the Berlin Wall fell signaling the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
Work of the Commission
The Commission was active for five long years during which time it held many fact-gathering sessions. It also conducted extensive research and made many useful recommendations to national and international agencies. Cashing in on the growing positive climate in the world the Commission also focused its attention on possibilities to accelerate and magnify developmental efforts in the world. During the next five years it held successive meetings on these themes in such countries as Italy, Russia, India, Jordan, Norway, USA, France and Germany.
Among its many memorable efforts, one can make special mention of the efforts ICPF took to dispel fears about growing unemployment. In a daring initiative the ICPF took the stand that it was eminently possible for the industrialized and developing countries of the world to fully absorb their labor force in productive employment. In pursuit of such a visionary scheme the Commission drew up a plan to generate 100 million jobs over a period of ten years in India. It was aptly named “Prosperity 2000” and its recommendations were accepted and endorsed by the Indian Government in 1992. A similar effort was made to extend such a scheme to solve the problem of unemployment among the Palestinians in the Middle East.
The Commission took a special interest in the affairs of the East European countries following the disbanding of the Soviet Bloc. It enlisted the support of Mikhail Gorbachev in advocating a more gradual and less disruptive transition to market economy in these countries than the one recommended by Western governments and monetary agencies. Such efforts led to the formulation of an effective strategy to counter run-away inflation in Yugoslavia by Commission Member Dr. Dragoslav Avramovic in 1994.
The Commission’s final report Uncommon Opportunities: An Agenda for Peace and Equitable Development was published in 1994 and formally presented to the UN Secretary General and member states by the Government of Jordan. The report was one of the first to view security from a wider perspective that includes political, social, economic and institutional factors required for a stable and prosperous society.
The Commission emphasized the linkage between democracy, peace and development and laid stress on the fact that the UN needs to democratize its functioning in order to fully succeed in its mission of promoting development and guaranteeing peace and security among the member states. The report called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Also it noted the role played by the trade in small arms in aggravating terrorism and criminal behavior across the world and called for measures to control of arms trade. It was critical of the prevalent competitive security paradigm that makes the military preparedness of each nation a perceived threat to other surrounding nations. As an alternative ICPF proposed a cooperative security system that is backed by a world army which guarantees the safety and security of member countries by reducing down the aggressive capabilities of all of them. The Commission’s belief that long-standing political problems could be solved in a peaceful manner through economic progress stands vindicated by more recent events in Ireland, where rising prosperity has induced the IRA to give up its violent methods.
India’s phenomenal success in the area of food production through the launching of The Green Revolution led the Commission to conclude that the world possesses the technological and organizational capabilities to raise food production on par with the growth in world population. Such a conviction also encouraged the Commission to call for revolutionary steps to increase food production.
ICPF also concluded that the persistence of hunger in the world was less an issue of inadequate food production and more a problem stemming from the absence of purchasing power among the poor of the world due to the lack of sufficient employment opportunities. The Commission took the stand that rising levels of unemployment are not inevitable and can be reversed by the adoption of sound strategies for job generation compatible with market-driven economics. It noted that the shrinking population in OECD countries would force these countries to adopt more liberal immigration policies and outsourcing methods in order to offset growing labor shortages in future.
Though the Commission was concerned with environmental problems arising from rampant exploitation of the earth’s resources, it rejected the notion of limits to growth voiced by those who believed that the world’s resources were limited. Instead it took the stand that infinite growth was possible if the mental and organizational resources available to humanity in the form of knowledge, technology, vocational skills and modes of organizations were fully utilized. ICPF noted with concern the marked absence of a body of theoretical knowledge concerning the process of development and issued a call for efforts to formulate a comprehensive theory of social evolution.
Support and Follow-up
The financial resources for the functioning of the Commission were contributed by its own members coupled with public donations and other forms of support from such agencies as UNDP, UNESCO, Ford Foundation, The Third World Academy of Science, the Governments of USSR, Norway, The Gorbachev Foundation, The Carter Centre and The Mother’s Service Society.
The International Centre for Peace and Development (ICPD) was formed in 1995 to continue the work of the Commission. Harlan Cleveland, Former US Ambassador to NATO, is chairman. In 2000, ICPD approached the governments of India and Pakistan to explore the possibilities of widening the economic cooperation between the two countries as a means of fostering peace. The Prosperity 2000 strategy for India was updated with special emphasis on the multiplier effects and employment potential of bio-fuels. A ten year review meeting of the Commission’s work conducted in 2004 found many of its recommendations still relevant to the present world situation.