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X. Annex D - Commemorative address by professor M. Cépède, Independent Chairman of the FAO Council

FAO - The First Twenty-Five Years

I have been invited by our Chairman and our Director-General to retrace for you the origins and growth of FAO. This is not a mere academic exercise; lessons must be drawn, action evaluated and consequences weighed. As the then Director -General, Philip Vincent Cardon, said on 24 June 1954: "The past to me is of interest insofar as it is a guide for the future." From this point of view, such an endeavour may be premature. Some 20 years ago a wise Chinaman said of the French Revolution: "The event is much too recent for a valid opinion to be given." Drawing lessons from history is, in fact, a risky business. On 18 June of this year at the Second World Food Congress in The Hague, I tried to point this out to young participants anxious to go along with the trend of history. I did so by mentioning another anniversary: that of the Battle of Waterloo 155 years before. The historical fact, its circumstances and its consequences are well known. But how should it be interpreted? It is possible to see this battle as the liberation of Europe by a victory of the mother of parliaments over a military despot, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had almost completed his work of conquering the continent. Yet this triumph of democracy over tyranny opened the way to the return of the 'ancien régime' I and to the Holy Alliance of governments against their peoples. On the other hand, even if, as Littré said, Bonaparte had disappeared. from the pages of history on the 18th Brumaire of Year VIII, he would still have been a republican general and his armies would have continued to spread the ideas of the French Revolution and thus to sow the seeds of the liberation movements of the next century. But, it would be rash to infer from this that democracies are invariably reactionary and military regimes frequently progressive.

We must beware, too, of simplistic notions which, all too often, make history "the poor memory of man." Those who consider, with Machiavelli, that government is the art of persuasion may be gratified by the thought that such notions often exert greater influence on human behaviour than facts. It is not for us to indulge in elaborate praise, much less in propaganda. We believe, in the words of St. John (1), that the truth alone will set us free but the truth must be sought, must be established, must be known.

"The Story of FAO" (2) has been told; various persons have written "as they recall" (3); we possess documents, publications and records (4 - 11). These are only sources which we have to test against facts in order to resolve contradictions or rectify errors. This would take time and the end result would probably be a weighty volume rather than a brief survey. We are not ready for it and have no time to do so today.

On the other hand, it is never too early to carry out a self-examination. If actually performed, self-examination, which is, of course, selective, is sufficiently painful for its discontinuance to come as something of a relief. As I said to you a year ago, we should be deceiving ourselves if we believed that the example of our great founding fathers and the contemplation of our original aims could lead us into conservatism. Read once again the words of Lord Bruce, Frank McDougall, Sir Jack Drummond, André Mayer and Arthur Wauters, to speak only of those no longer with us; re-read David Lubin... and let us ask ourselves frankly why we have as yet been unable to achieve the things which we consider good and useful, the same things which they called on us to do (2). In this self-examination we shall not mention the first faltering steps along the path of international cooperation in agriculture, which would take us back to Genesis itself. We shall not consider the proposals of Sir Thomas More, or of Necker. We shall examine neither the Brussels conferences and the 1902 Convention nor the projects of David Lubin and the 1905 Convention etc., but will simply note that international action in the field of agriculture goes back quite a long time.

We shall ask ourselves two questions:

1. How and why did the idea of FAO arise?
2. What have we made of this Organization?

1. The need for an organization bringing food and agriculture together under one roof became evident during the Thirties depression. By that time, the International Institute of Agriculture, founded in 1905, had settled into a research and information role. Member Governments had carefully refrained from setting up that International Trade Commission which David Lubin had hoped would be given powers similar to those wielded by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States. In 1922 the International Labour Organization, which had been created in 1919, was denied by certain great powers any say in the agricultural field, despite the fact that agriculture was the calling followed by two thirds of the world's workers. The ruling of the Permanent International Court of Justice, which declared that the ILO should have competence in this field, did not prevent the delaying tactics employed from having their effect; for example, the ILO Permanent Agricultural Committee did not hold its first meeting until February 1938. In London the League of Nations had convened a world monetary and economic conference, which considered in 1933 that agricultural and, in particular, food overproduction lay at the root of the crisis. The Australian delegate, Stanley Bruce, could only note that "if the best that could be done for a poverty-stricken world was to restrict the production of food and other necessities of life, the western political and economic system was leading to disaster." A little while before, the Yugoslav delegate had suggested that the Health Organization of the League of Nations, which was then establishing the "Geneva standards", should collect information on the food situation in some representative countries. Dr. Frank G. Boudreau, the Director of the Organization, undertook the survey which was to result In the Burnet-Aykroyd report: "Nutrition and Public Health", Geneva 1936. This report, which draws heavily on the work of John Boyd Orr in the United Kingdom and of Hazel K. Stiebeling in the United States, showed that the poor were suffering from hunger, that Is, they were not eating enough to keep themselves healthy, all the while that economists - were talking of excessive food production. The report thus identified the crying scandal of our times, want in the midst of plenty, in fact want caused by plenty, for the factor limiting supply was not production capacity but, on the contrary, low purchasing power leading to under-consumption.

It is no wonder that workers' delegates at the ILO in particular immediately took an interest in the work of the nutritionists of the Health Organization. They were quick to see that nutritional science would furnish scientific arguments for claims to a minimum purchasing power. The ILO report, "Workers' Nutrition and Social Policy," together with the publication in the following year of the booklet by John Boyd Orr, "Food, Health and Income," stated the problem clearly. By that time, however, Frank L. McDougall had seen the Burnet-Aykroyd report and, from the summer of 1935, began drawing up a first memorandum entitled "Agricultural and Health Problems"; on 11 September 1935, Stanley Bruce, addressing the General Assembly of the League of Nations, proposed that agriculture and health be combined; the General Assembly passed a resolution setting up a committee of agricultural, economic and medical experts whose task was to submit a report on the health and economic aspects of diet to the next session. On the same evening, Bruce, McDougall and Lord De La Warr cabled to John Boyd Orr, "Dear brother Orr, this day we have lit a candle which by the grace of God will never be put out. "The report of the mixed committee under the chairmanship of Lord Astor, with David Lubbock as secretary, was issued in 1937 under the title "The Relation of Nutrition to Health, Agriculture and Economic Policy."

At Brussels in 1936, an International Agrarian Conference, whose secretary- general, Guido Miglioli, was also a veteran of agrarian struggles, met at the urging of Arthur Wauters under the auspices of the Rassemblement Universel pour la Paix. In a Europe divided between the temptations toward the autarchy of a war economy and economic malthusianism, which seeks to adjust the supply of agricultural commodities to a constantly decreasing effective demand, it is highly significant that two "agrarian reform" specialists made the League of Nations and ILO reports the basis for an agrarian peace policy. Until the second world war, the International Agrarian Centre which emerged from the Brussels conference was, thanks to the support of intelligent conservatives, to uphold the ideas of Geneva in international agricultural circles and to bring to them the backing of the progressive rural masses. In 1937, for instance, through the good offices of Casimir Fudakowski and the Marquis de Voguë, the current Chairman of the International Commission on Agriculture, the Centre was able to win a hearing at the congress in The Hague and to get the subject of diet placed again on the congress's agenda in June 1939 at Dresden. In 1937, André Mayer organized in Paris the Second International Scientific Congress on Food. At that congress, nutritionists reported not only on the food situation but also on positive results achieved. Since the well known experiment by John Boyd Orr in the seven principal towns of Scotland and in Belfast in 1926-27, there had been the Oslo breakfast and a number of other programmes which had turned out to be effective and economically useful.

True, the teams being formed were broken up by the war but this very fact caused André Mayer, Frank L. McDougall and Frank G. Boudreau to meet again in the United States. In 1941, the Atlantic Charter included freedom from want among the four freedoms promised to the peoples of the world. John Boyd Orr was invited by Frank G. Boudreau to join the other men of science who wished to relaunch the idea of a world food plan. In 1941, the United States Nutrition Conference for Defence was attended by 900 delegates, who declared that: "There seems no reason to doubt, on the basis of present evidence, that just as, by the use of modern medical science, we have conquered diseases that took an enormous toll of life in the past, so by the use of the modern knowledge of nutrition we can build a better and stronger race. This can be done by the conquest of hunger, not only the obvious hunger man has always known, but the hidden hunger revealed by the modern knowledge of nutrition... No nation, certainly no large nation, has ever truly conquered hunger, the oldest enemy of man. Such an aim is not too high, such a goal is not too difficult. It is a particularly fitting task for us in this day when democracy should point the way to a new and better civilization for oppressed peoples all over the world. I can still hear André Mayer telling me about the enthusiasm aroused in him by this conference. The "old-timers of Geneva" were now to have little difficulty in convincing President F.D. Roosevelt and his assistant, Henry A. Wallace, of the value of the work done by the League of Nations. After all, what they were proposing was an Agricultural Adjustment Act but for the world as a whole. Through meetings, lunches at the Cosmos Club, articles and memoranda, the idea gained ground. However, in early 1943 the chancelleries were surprised by the announcement, "suddenly and without warning", of President Roosevelt's proposal to hold without delay an inter-allied conference of experts and technicians to discuss post-war food problems. As an official historian, R. J. Hammond, says: "The President appears to have been prompted by the thought that food would be a suitable subject for initiating United Nations collaboration, rather than by any consideration of food problems as being especially urgent. In Whitehall the suggestion was received with surprise and mixed feelings. Concern lest the Conference trespass on more general economic questions that the United Kingdom was not yet ready to discuss; scepticism about the usefulness of reopening questions already dealt with by the League of Nations Mixed Committee on Nutrition caused some Departments to treat the Conference with reserve". The part played by John Boyd Orr was not calculated to reassure these circles. As Ritchie Calder wrote: "The Establishment was still distrustful of him and his radical ideas about feeding the people of the world. While they were prepared to listen to him as an adviser and a member of commissions on the practical needs of Britain in war time they still regarded him as a visionary. And visionaries complicate the tidy files of government departments." Geneva was only remembered insofar as to say that, if vulgar matters such as feeding humanity were to be brought in, the report of the Mixed Committee should have called a final halt to such a dangerous proceeding. However, people had been unaware of what had been going on behind the scenes in the League of Nations, the ILO and nongovernmental meetings of nutritionists, agriculturists and consumers, both trade unionist and cooperative. The "wild men" and the "ginger group" were accused of having taken the lid off. But, the tune had been called... and attempts to delay paying the piper were unsuccessful. The first Conference of the United Nations met at Hot Springs, Virginia, in May-June 1943 and was devoted to food and agriculture. It was there that the decision was taken to create FAO.

The Hot Springs report stated among other things: "There has never been enough food for the health of all people. This is justified neither by ignorance nor by the harshness of nature. Production of food must be greatly expanded. The first cause of hunger and malnutrition is poverty. It is useless to produce more food unless men and nations provide the markets to absorb it."

2. From the time of the interim commission responsible for preparing the FAO Constitution and programme of work, there was keen opposition between those who wished to confine the role of the Organization to the investigation of facts and to authorize it, at the most, to disseminate such of those facts as might be passed by governments, and those who wished to endow it with real authority to proclaim the truth publicly and to recommend the actions needed to deal with the scandal it had been set up to end.

The struggle was waged on three fronts: the work of FAO, the structure and the budget.

With regard to the programme of work, the working party of the interim commission responsible for establishing it was chaired by Frank L. McDougall; the Geneva proposal was followed. In it is found the affirmation of the basic principle of FAO: " ...the welfare of producers and the welfare of consumers are in the final analysis identical" and the statement that the problem is indeed that of want in the midst of so-called plenty: "Surpluses were the nightmare of most of the highly developed countries during the interwar depression. The word "surplus" bit deep into the consciousness of farmers in particular. They still have a wholesome dread of it, knowing that if the same forces are allowed to operate, agricultural producers may again come uncomfortably near to fulfilling Shakespeare's prediction about the farmer who hanged himself in the expectation of plenty. The only possible basis for a programme of expanding production is to enlarge effective demand so that it will equal and even outstrip production, and organizations concerned with international economic problems, including FAO, will be expected to work toward this end."

As far as structure was concerned, the idea of active participation by producers and consumers, represented in the same way as employers and workers are represented at ILO, which had been specifically proposed by André Mayer, was dismissed on the grounds that only governments, which represented the general interest (?), were in a position to speak on behalf of consumers. Like the United Nations, FAO was therefore just an intergovernmental organization... and yet their Charter and Constitution start with the words "We, the peoples of the United Nations...", a tremendous advance over the Holy Alliance!

As regards the budget, the one proposed by the interim commission amounted to 5 million dollars per year, or half of what already appeared necessary to execute the programme (10 millions). Those, however, who only wanted an International Institute of Agriculture writ large maintained that a million to a million and a half should be sufficient. By implication, a consultative role for FAO was accepted and the door was not shut on growth in the direction that might be desired by member countries.

At Quebec, the budget was accepted at 5 million dollars per year although the programme defined was again greatly expanded. When the Conference had reached deadlock, John Boyd Orr, whom Philip Noel Baker, the head of the United Kingdom delegation, had invited along as his personal adviser but who was not a member of a delegation, was asked to take the floor. He said: "If nations will not agree on a food policy which will benefit them all, they will agree on NOTHING. At an early date therefore we should go before them and say 'Here is a food policy, here is a thing you can agree upon and on which action can be taken immediately'... and we can prophesy that if action is taken immediately it will begin to solve some of the apparently unsolvable economic problems of the world of the present day"... The sequel to this speech, which gave a new lease of life to the Conference, was the appointment of John Boyd Orr as our first Director -General, much against his own wishes. He knew that resources were limited but he believed in the mission of FAO and he was backed up by an Executive Committee of distinguished persons elected by the Conference and sharing his faith.

He knew that his first problem was to tackle poverty and to see that the real priorities received attention. I can still hear him say at Quebec: "I want no millionaire to be able to buy an orange until all the children in the world have had food!" Such was the man to whom the Quebec Conference entrusted the task of building up our secretariat and of getting FAO going.

He went into action at once. Fortified by the agreement negotiated between André Mayer, the Chairman of the FAO Executive Committee, and Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliar, Chairman of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, FAO, early in 1946, notified the United Nations of the threat of famine and in May of the same year the Special Meeting on Urgent Food Problems met In Washington. There the International Emergency Food Council was created to continue the work of the Combined Food Board in the post-war period. In Washington, however, it was stated that achievement of the necessary expansion In food production required a plan under which a guarantee would be given to producers that they would not again be ruined by the collapsing of markets under so-called surpluses before the aim, recognized as essential In order to feed humanity, had been reached. Such a plan, based on the data of the First World Food Survey (1934-38), was presented four months later to the Second Session of the Conference in Copenhagen and took the form of the World Food Board which, in the words of Fiorello La Guardia, "will take food out of politics. It will take human lives off the Chicago ticker tapes". We all know what came of it. At Geneva in 1947. the proposals of the Preparatory Commission on World Food Proposals were accepted; a World Food Council composed of government representatives and taking over the functions of the Executive Committee was instituted. The Chairman of this FAO Council was the sole survivor of that group of highly placed and independent people who had been guilty of encouraging John Boyd Orr to fulfill the commission with which FAO had been charged at Hot Springs and Quebec. Lord Bruce was the first. John Boyd Orr was to be raised to the peerage as Lord Newton on his retirement and to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949. In the same year his successor, Norris E. Dodd, noted that as the International Emergency Food Council ceased its operations in regard to markets "in short supply", disquieting signs were appearing and the necessary growth in production was slowing down, and he proposed, with the authorization of the Council, an International Commodity Clearing House. In 1950 the Conference replaced this clearing house by the Committee on Commodity Problems, of which a subcommittee on surplus disposal was soon made responsible for ensuring that the channels of trade were not upset by an over-generous distribution of surpluses. Famine has thus been avoided for those who have lost the habit of hunger; shortages have been ended for those who can afford to pay. Once again we have let the fox loose in the hen-roost to do business as before.

Admittedly, in 1949 President Truman opened a new road to international action, but it is a pity that the word "assistance" was ever adopted. I have no wish at all to play down the outstanding results achieved in technical and development assistance programmes, but segregation into donors and recipients of assistance is scientifically incorrect and morally degrading for both parties. It would have been much more salutary to speak of cooperation, for we all have something to give and much to receive. Equality is ensured when each gives according to his means and receives according to his needs.

Yet, experiments have been tried and the World Food Programme was established in 1933 to multiply them, explore them more deeply and to make them better known. We are now seeing what can be expected from science and technology. The 1970 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Norman Ernest Borlaug emphasizes that the Green Revolution provides the technical solution, or rather demolishes the technical excuse of those who do not wish to know the nature of the agriculture that has sprung from the Green Revolution in primitive peasant communities. -It is important to create economic and social conditions in which the much-needed Green Revolution can continue and expand. In that area, as recognized at Geneva, Hot Springs and Quebec, lies the stumbling-block to producing what is needed to feed humanity; because of this, in 1960, at a time when half the growth target for food production, proposed in 1945, was only just exceeded, "surpluses" limited this growth to the level of population growth; because of this, widespread famine has been predicted for 1970, once again conjuring up the ancient spectre of Malthus in a world of alleged plenty.

It was against this background that the Freedom from Hunger Campaign was launched by B. R. Sen, and the First Development Decade by the United Nations. World opinion is increasingly better informed. The argument about the excessive cost of projects is becoming less and less credible. Would the "famine reserve" be rejected today on such grounds, at a time when humanity has learnt that weapons of destruction equivalent to 15 tons of TNT per inhabitant of the globe have simultaneously been stockpiled "for their protection"? To dare to speak of a "consumer society" to peoples most of whom are hunger-stricken is an admission of guilt inasmuch as "stealing means keeping for oneself what would be more useful to others." The two World Food Congresses, especially that of 1970, have shown that humanity refuses to have the wool pulled over its eyes any longer. Spiritual authorities, men of learning, farmers, members of cooperatives, trade unionists, consumers: all are ready and eager to share in the great task entrusted to FAO 25 years ago. It would be unwise to dissuade them because rather than let themselves be plunged into the despair of the farmer spoken of by the drunken porter in Macbeth, they might be tempted to remember what Casca said to Cassius in the first act of Julius Caesar:

"So every bondman in his own hand bears
The power to cancel his captivity" (13)

and to say to us: What we want is not only just, it is justice itself. What we want is necessary, what we want is possible. And that is why, by fair means or foul, we must eventually achieve it (14).


(1) St. John

(2) Gove Hambidge - The Story of FAO - Preface by Norris E. Dodd - Foreword by P.V. Cardon - pp. xii, 304. D. van Nostrand Company Inc., Toronto-New York-London, 1955.

(3) Lord Boyd Orr - As I Recall - The 1880's to the 1970's with an introduction by Professor Ritchie Calder - -200 p. - McGibbon and Kee, London, 1966.

(4) R.J. Hammond - Food, vol. 1 - The Growth of Policy in History of the Second World War - U.K. civil series edited by W.K. Hancock - 436 p. HMSO and Longmans Green and Co. - London, 1951.

(5) K.A.H. Murray - Agriculture in History of the Second World War - U.K. civil series edited by Sir Keith Hancock - 422 p. - HMSO and Longmans Green and Co. - London, 1955.

(6) K.A.H. Murray - The McDougall Memoranda - 38 p. FAO, Rome, 1956.

(7) M. Cépède - Les Institutions Economiques Internationale: l'OAA - Revue d'Economie Politique - pp. 616-637 - Strey, Paris, 1948.

(8) M. Cépède - L'origine et l'évolution de la pensée économique de l'OAA - Cahiers de l'I.S.E.A. - Rel. Econ. Int. No. 13 -Paris, 1967.

(9) M. Cépède and H. Gounelle - La Faim - Que sais-je? No. 719 - 128 p. - Deuxième édition - 20 mille - Parts P. U. F. , 1970.

(10) André Mayer 1875-1958 - 82 p. Imp. F. Paillart, Abbeville.

(11) Paul L. Yates So Boldan Aim - 174 p. Imp. Stab. Tipogr. Fausto Failli - Rome, 1955. French edition. Unis contre la Faim -Spanish edition. Un propósito ambicioso

(12) Acceptance speech - Conference, 15th Session - C. 39/LIM 48, 23. XI. 89.

(13) W. Shakespeare - Julius Caesar - Act 1, Sc. 2.

(14) Jules Guesde -dans l'"Egalité", 18.9.1877.

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