Unprecedented Opportunity, Unfinished Agenda
Nov. 20, 2004

(Preface To The 2nd Edition of Uncommon Opportunities, Report of The International Commission On Peace and Food – ICPF)

Garry Jacobs, Member-Secretary, ICPF and Director, International Center for Peace & Food (USA)
M. S. Swaminathan, Chairman, ICPF and Chairman, Pugwash Conference on Science & World Affairs


Humanity is on the threshold of unprecedented opportunities to promote peace and accelerate human development. Yet, as in the past, our vision of these opportunities is obstructed by conceptions and attitudes inherited from a bygone era. To fully appreciate the emerging opportunities, we need to more clearly comprehend the events of the past two decades that are the seeds from which these opportunities spring.

Restructuring the UN

The formation of the International Commission on Peace & Food was conceived in 1987, a time when mutual suspicions, escalating military expenditure and confrontational Cold War rhetoric blinded the world to the possibility of radically transforming the global security environment. Yet, fuelled by the bold initiatives of Mikhail Gorbachev, by the time ICPF conducted its first meeting on the border of the rapidly vanishing Iron Curtain at Trieste in September 1989, the Berlin Wall had fallen, Cold War hostilities had melted, and the prospect of ushering in a more peaceful and prosperous world for all seemed within reach. The euphoria of those heady days generated high expectations of a peace dividend that would help to wipe away much of the world’s suffering.

At the same time, the withdrawal of the confrontation between East and West resulted in a gradual shift of attention from the threat of imminent global self-destruction to lesser but very real problems, among them – the unresolved danger arising from huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons; some 26 on-going localized military conflicts within and between developing nations, aggravated by increased trafficking in small armaments; the persistence of hunger and malnutrition, especially among the poorest populations of South Asia and politically unstable regions of Africa; progressively rising levels of unemployment in both industrialized and developing countries; and the turbulence and hardship of political, economic and social transition in post-Communist Eastern Europe. These challenges, coupled with the outbreak of the first Gulf War, the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and the horrendous civil wars that wracked Somalia and Rwanda, clouded the world’s vision of a brighter future.

It was in this context that the Commission undertook five years of research that led to the publication of its report in the fall of 1994. The report was released at official functions at UN headquarters in New York, UNESCO in Paris, a global congress of the World Academy of Art and Science at Minneapolis, and in the restored capital of a reunited Germany at Berlin, then formally presented to the UN Secretary General and to all UN member nations by a member of the Commission, Her Majesty Queen Noor on behalf of the Government of Jordan.

In the decade since then, much has happened to belie the expectations of post-Cold War optimists and pessimists alike. On the positive side, the sudden emergence and explosive growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web have fuelled a global revolution in communication, education, economy and a wide range of human activities reaching from corporate board rooms in North America to rural towns and villages on every continent, abridging the time, distance and differences separating countries, classes and people. The end of Apartheid in South Africa completed a century-long struggle, ridding the world of a horrible scourge. Democratic systems of governance characterized by the rule of law, an independent judiciary and a free media replaced dictatorships around the world. The establishment of the World Trade Organization paved the way for expanded markets for both developing and developed countries, fuelled a rapid expansion in World Trade, and wove strong bonds of interdependence between erstwhile antagonists across the globe from the Chinese mainland to North America. Larger private investment flows invigorated economic growth and made capital more accessible to larger numbers of people than ever before in human history. The European Union expanded to embrace newly democratic countries and blazed a path right through the former heartland of nationalism for the integration of the united peoples of Europe. Most important of all, the erstwhile very real and imminent threat of global confrontation and nuclear destruction radically diminished, spurred by negotiations between Russia and USA that have led to a 75 per cent reduction in the number of nuclear warheads stockpiled by both sides.

ICPF’s report projected a vision of Uncommon Opportunities for rapid and radical advances in global peace and development. Its central thrust is the inextricable linkage between peace, employment, food security and human development. As peace is a sine quo non for development, creation of employment opportunities for all is essential for maintenance of peace and social stability, food security and eradication of all forms of poverty.

The experience of the past decade strongly supports the view that a more peaceful global environment is more conducive for development. Military spending declined by a third in the years immediately following the end of the Cold War, partly due to real cuts in defence spending and partly due to the collapse of the Russian rouble and changes in the value attributed to Soviet arms spending. These real gains did not translate into a significant increase in foreign aid, which was what many hoped and expected. But that does not mean there has been no peace dividend. A comparison of the performance of the world economy over the past two decades reveals that after an initial recessionary period of economic dislocation, economic performance has improved on the whole in all regions and almost all countries. According to IMF, the growth rate in emerging and developing countries rose from 3.7 per cent annually during the period 1985-94 to 5.1 per cent over the following 10 years and is projected to reach 5.9 per cent in 2005. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rise was from 1.9 per cent to 3.9 per cent and it is expected to reach 5.8 per cent in 2005. In the former Soviet republics, growth has accelerated from 0.1 per cent to 4.1 per cent and projected to touch 6.6 per cent next year. These trends are likely to continue throughout the decade. While foreign aid to developing countries as a percentage of GDP has fallen by 50 per cent since 1990, it has been offset to some extent by a 150 per cent rise in foreign investment. In the least developed countries, foreign aid has declined by 24 per cent but this has been offset by a 29-fold increase in foreign investment, so that the combination of foreign aid and foreign investment as a percentage of GDP has remained constant. If the rich countries, particularly USA, had met the UN development assistance target of 0.7 per cent of GDP, progress in improving the human condition in countries characterized by a high incidence of poverty would have been faster.

These real and significant gains have been offset and to a large extent obscured in our minds by the persistence and aggravation of problems that constitute the other side of the post-Cold War ledger. Far from vanishing, the nuclear danger has been aggravated by the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons, the increasing danger of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists, and the stubborn refusal of the existing nuclear powers to seize the opportunity to totally eradicate this pernicious arsenal of self-annihilation. Reduced confrontation between nation states has been followed by an aggravation of internal conflicts within countries as well as a dramatic increase in threats of violence by disenchanted minorities. Violent local conflicts continue to flare around the world. Terrorist acts have intensified against civilian populations on every continent. While the worst fears about rising unemployment in the West have been dispelled, the challenge of generating sufficient employment opportunities for all people around the world remains a pressing concern. The rich-poor divide has increased within and between nations. Inadequate job/livelihood opportunities resulting in inadequate purchasing power have now become the most important cause of endemic and hidden hunger. Most regrettable has been the failure to enhance the powers and strengthen reliance on effective multilateral institutions. The emergence of the USA as the sole superpower has brought with it a reduction in the role and influence of the UN in international affairs, precisely at a time when the world should be striving to build a viable multilateral cooperative security system.

The Unfinished Agenda

The Commission’s report was never intended to predict what would happen in the years to come, but rather to project what could be made to happen by a concerted, determined effort of the world community. The report highlighted many of the opportunities that did emerge as well as some of the dangers that have grown in intensity in the absence of effective action. The events of the past 15 years may not have followed the course predicted by either the optimists or the pessimists, but they certainly confirm that this has been a period of unprecedented opportunity for rapid progress – what Sri Aurobindo termed an “Hour of God”. While the gains have been significant, all of us will acknowledge that we have not taken full advantage of this opportunity to build a better world. Though great dangers have receded, old and new threats still loom large, demanding courageous action. The door remains ajar. The hour is still in progress. There is still time and that time is now. The world today has far greater opportunities that ever before, far greater degrees of freedom within which to act to accelerate progress and eradicate suffering. The Millennium Development Goals adopted at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 represent the essential minimum needs for building a stable, secure, free and prosperous global community. We confront once again an unprecedented opportunity and an unfinished agenda.

Disappointed by our failure to achieve all that seemed possible or disillusioned by the emergence of new, more dreadful challenges, some may feel prompted to curb mind’s contemplation of the greater potentials, dispense with lofty plans and resign themselves to the slower, circuitous pace of progress that characterized earlier periods. That choice would be unfortunate. For everything in our experience of the past two decades points to the fact that humankind is now capable of more rapid and radical action to build a better common present and future for all. We may have become habituated to the astounding magnitude of the events since 1989 and still feel unsatisfied with the results, but we can no longer deny that we collectively possess the capacity to create the world that we choose to create. This is still the hour in which anything can happen, provided we are determined to make it happen. It is not a question of possibility or prediction, but of decision and determination to walk the talk.

Peace & Security

         Nuclear Disarmament: The threat of a nuclear holocaust remains very real so long as stockpiles of these weapons remain in existence – their very existence constitutes a threat – and so long as nations or groups insist on the prerogative of manufacturing, possessing and using them. While the number of nuclear missiles and bombs has been dramatically reduced, both the USA and Russia retain thousands of such weapons. The number of nuclear weapons states has increased and the threat of first use has been extended to Israel, the Indian subcontinent and the Korean peninsula. South Africa and some former Soviet republics have voluntarily relinquished their claims as nuclear weapons states. Few realize that the catastrophic damage caused by the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of World War II dwindles into insignificance when compared with the destructive power and radioactive fall-out that would result from the explosion of even the smallest nuclear device today. Until the last nuclear weapon has been destroyed, the threat of accidental or intentional usage remains very real and very serious. The nuclear weapon states must come forward to fulfil the commitments made in the non-proliferation treaties by taking active and immediate steps leading to total nuclear disarmament by all powers within the shortest possible time. Year 2005, which is the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, presents a real opportunity for concrete steps toward eradication of nuclear stockpiles.

         Cooperative Security System: Ten years ago the Commission was adamant in its call for a fundamental shift from a competitive to a cooperative global security system. The present competitive system depends on the ability of each individual nation to defend its own borders and interests against external threats. Such a system necessarily demands massive investments by each country in military capabilities. These investments are inevitably perceived by other nations as real or potential threats to their own security, thus fuelling compensatory escalation of military capabilities by other states. Calls for disarmament alone cannot and will not eliminate the problem. They must be complemented by concrete measures to establish an alternative mechanism to ensure the security of nations. This is one of the major reasons why expectations of a massive peace dividend have not been fulfilled. World military spending has not declined significantly because the competitive security paradigm remains in tact. Steps being taken by the members of the European Union to build a truly cooperative security system indicate the right direction for the world as a whole. It is no wonder that the first such initiative comes in Europe, which has been the leader of thought for the past 500 years – from the birth of modern science and parliamentary democracy to nationalism, socialism and universal education – and which has been working for the past five decades to evolve a viable working model of fully democratic, voluntary supra-nationalism.

         Democratization of the UN: The phenomenal advance of Europe’s multi-dimensional unification is a clear indication that in future international institutions will play a more important role than national governments. But this can happen only to the extent that these institutions are living proponents of democratic functioning and individual freedom. Ten years ago ICPF called for the democratization of the United Nations by abolition of the veto power in the Security Council, induction of new members to make that body more representative, and establishment of democratically-elected representative government as an essential condition for membership or active participation in the UN system. The nexus between democracy and prosperity is undeniable. The democratic revolution that has so effectively penetrated Eastern Europe in recent years and extended its roots in other regions must be taken to its logical conclusion at the level of nations and at the level of international institutions.

         World Peace Army: The most far-sighted of ICPF’s proposals sought to evolve a practical mechanism to promote the objectives of cooperative security and democratic freedom. It called for the establishment of a World Peace Army, to be constituted by and open to all democratic countries willing to renounce the right to aggression against other nations and willing to contribute personnel and resources to an international multilateral military force capable of defending its members from external threats. Such a mechanism, so long as it is inclusive, would provide a real and viable alterative to national militarization, whether or not it was constituted by or within the UN system. The success of NATO in maintaining peaceful relations among the democratic states of Western Europe and North America for more than half a century is a viable model which is limited primarily by the exclusivity of its membership. The recent measures taken by the European Union to constitute a European Army are evidence of the practicality of establishing a similar mechanism open to all nations. The unfortunate situation now witnessed in Iraq could have been avoided, if ICPF’s plea for a World Peace Army had been heeded.

         Eradicating the Roots of Terrorism: Terrorism is not new to the world, but with the withdrawal of national rivalries between East and West, violence by non-nation states has increased in intensity and is viewed as a far greater security concern by the entire world. This has spurred an unprecedented international effort to control and suppress terrorist activity. But there is little hope of abolishing this menace without simultaneously comprehending and addressing the root causes of terrorism in the world today. In a sense, the human urge for violence has neither increased nor decreased. It has simply shifted the field of expression from confrontation between nation states to confrontation between powerful governments and disenchanted, disenfranchised groups of individuals who respond to the application of superior power by nation states with the application of indiscriminate violence against the public-at-large. Terrorism thrives in the absence of effective democratic institutions to give voice to the will of its citizens. At the same time, lifting the tyranny of state terrorism has itself become the occasion in some instances for an outburst of violence by long suppressed groups.

Eradication of terrorism is possible, but it demands a comprehensive and integrated approach and concerted, collective action. The commercialization of the arms trade – which benefits some countries economically at the expense of the security of all nations – must be subject to rigorous monitoring and control by international agencies. Vested economic interests that thrive on conflict must be placed under UN surveillance and regulation. International institutions must be strengthened to eradicate arms smuggling, narcotics, offshore money laundering and other criminal activities that serve as seedbeds and instruments for terrorism. However, no final solution to the problem of terrorism can be arrived at by force alone. While terrorism is frequently attributed to religion and ideology, it sprouts and thrives most readily among populations that lack opportunities for gainful employment and economic development. Social unrest is an expression of the upward aspiration of those who have been left out of the political and development process or who feel threatened by the rapid pace and stress of social change and inequity. Those who lack the opportunity or the ability to labour intensely for their own upliftment express their productive energies through the intensity of violence. The international community cannot afford to be silent spectators of the growing violence. Peace, democracy and development are inseparable and interdependent. Liberal democracy and economic opportunity for all are essential ingredients for winning the war against terrorism. Accepting the spiritual principle which tells us that there is an element of truth even in the most outrageous or misinformed viewpoint, we must not only vehemently condemn but also sincerely recognize the unaddressed issues that underpin the urge for violence. In this sense, terrorists crudely expose the mental insincerity prevalent in international politics. Those who wield national power must come to realize that force of compulsion will not bring about a permanent reconciliation and amelioration of relationships in human affairs. Superior power must bring with it a superior sense of fairness and a commitment to constructive dialogue and action to attack the root causes of terrorism. It must shed its own accretion of mental insincerity cloaked as diplomacy. Then and then only these movements of violence will shrink and finally disappear. The period following September 11th, as US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice put it, is one “not just of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity.”

         Resolving Local Conflicts: The Commission concluded that the end of the Cold War made it possible to successfully resolve problems that had resisted solution for decades, such as the many violent communal and ethnic conflicts occurring in the world. The near total cessation of violence in North Ireland during the past 10 years is proof that rapid progress can be made on issues involving apparently intractable communal sentiments. This achievement appears astounding to those who lived through the earlier decades of religious violence and until recently found it nearly impossible to imagine a mitigation of the conflict in the foreseeable future. We would do well to examine closely this instance to draw lessons that may aid in addressing those conflicts that continue to defy resolution.

The most striking lesson of the Irish experience is that rapid development absorbs and dissipates the urge for violence. The dramatic economic advancement of the Republic of Ireland – whose per capita GDP rose within the past 20 years from less than 60 per cent that of UK to 95 per cent in dollar terms and 130 per cent in terms of purchasing power parity – has eliminated the disparity between Ireland and Ulster and fostered among the Irish in both countries a sense of pride, an expansion of employment opportunities, and a more focused channelling of social energies into productive activities. Economic growth in the region was augmented by the systematic efforts of the British government to eliminate the active discrimination against the minority Catholic population of North Ireland in housing and employment as well as the segregation of Catholic and Protestant education. Violence has subsided, yet a political solution still defies the policymakers, because some of the root causes of the problem buried far in the past have not yet been adequately addressed.

A steady and concerted effort for permanent solution in Ireland will demonstrate the possibility and provide the knowledge necessary for addressing other intractable communal problems around the world. A comprehensive approach to a permanent solution must include social, economic, education and cultural elements. The principle illustrated here is that long-standing military conflicts can be resolved by political initiative and obstinate political conflicts can be resolved by economic strategies rooted in the principles of equity and ethics. The opening up of economic relations between the USA and China by President Nixon has made war between the two countries almost unthinkable. There are no serious conflicts in the world today that cannot be resolved through consultation, consensus and ‘win-win’ formulas.

Full Employment

The fading spectre of nuclear annihilation gave way in the 1990s to the rising spectre of chronic unemployment. The end of the Cold War brought with it some wrenching transitions, among them the break-up of the USSR and Comecom, the reunification of Germany, the downsizing of defence manufacturers in America as the result of reduced orders for war materiel, the collapse of Japanese financial markets and onset of a decade-long recession, and displacement of millions of migrant Asian workers following the invasion of Kuwait and the first war in Iraq. These events violently disrupted expansion of the world economy and creation of employment opportunities for an expanding labour force in both industrialized and developing countries. Near panic levels of concern rippled across the world during this period about rising levels of joblessness, prompting one doomsday author to prophesize the ‘end of work’. The situation became particularly acute in developing countries, because of their predominately young populations and high population growth rates.

Trends and Prospects

ICPF refused to side with the pessimists who viewed unemployment as a terminal illness spreading rapidly through the entire world economic system. Its report presented evidence to dispel the twin myths that technological development and trade were net job destroyers. It traced the growth of employment opportunities through the 20th Century, a century of unprecedented technological development and commercial expansion, to show that this period has also been an era of unprecedented growth in the quantity and quality of employment opportunities. The report argued that the current surge in joblessness was a temporary result of the mismatch between the rates of surging population growth and expanding economic activity. It concurred that rising levels of unemployment constituted a serious problem that needed to be urgently addressed, but rejected the notion that it is an inevitable and incurable disease which the world must resign itself to passively suffer and endure. The Commission, therefore, developed and presented a comprehensive strategy for job-led economic growth.

Over the past decade, changes in the employment picture lend credence to ICPF’s perspective. The American economy experienced a decade-long expansion, fuelling high levels of employment at home, while stimulating job growth throughout East Asia, attracting a massive influx of foreign technical workers and setting the stage for a global outsourcing boom which is still in its infancy. Among the advanced economies, unemployment declined from an average of 6.9 per cent in the period 1985-94 to 6.5 per cent during the last 10 years. It fell by 10 per cent in France, 25 per cent in Italy, a third in Netherlands, 50 per cent in Spain and 70 per cent in Ireland. It is declining but remains 10 per cent higher than the average for 1985-94 in Germany, which is still recovering from the economic impact of reunification. The new market economies of Eastern Europe are growing rapidly. But these positive trends are no grounds for complacency. While they may dispel fears of an irreversible shrinkage of the job market in OECD countries, the proportion of long term unemployed remains at an unacceptably high 29 per cent of the total, indicating that these countries have not yet evolved successful strategies to address the issue. Left to itself, unemployment may continue to deprive large numbers of people in these countries from enjoying basic economic rights, unless concerted steps are taken to remove the perceptual and structural barriers to full employment.

While data on unemployment levels in most developing countries is of doubtful accuracy and recent data are difficult to obtain, there is no question that the problem remains severe, especially among youth and the educated. ILO estimated that at the end of 2000 approximately 110 million workers in developing countries, excluding Central and Eastern Europe, were unemployed, most of them first-time jobseekers. Unemployment rates among young workers are almost everywhere at least twice as high as the average. In addition another 500 million workers in the developing world earned less than a dollar a day. Although the growth rate of the world's labour force is slowing down, approximately 460 million additional jobseekers will enter the global labour force between 2000 and 2010, two-thirds in Asia. ILO has concluded that the prospects for an improving global employment situation depend mainly on continued expansion of the world economy. While that expansion is likely, economic growth alone will not be sufficient to provide opportunities for sustainable livelihood for all those who need it. Jobs or livelihood for all must be the bottom line of all development, technological and trade policies. It will be necessary for governments to elevate employment to the top of their policy agenda and dedicate themselves to the vital task of achieving full employment.

The Right to Employment

The Commission’s report called for urgent action to address the problem of rising unemployment and presented a comprehensive set of strategies designed to promote full employment in both developed and developing countries. The centre-piece of ICPF’s approach is the assertion that employment must be recognized as a fundamental human right, the economic equivalent of the right to vote. As the electoral franchise is the basis for the legitimacy and operation of democracy, access to gainful employment constitutes the economic franchise that lends legitimacy and functionality to a market economy. The right to employment must be constitutionally guaranteed to enable all citizens to exercise their fundamental right to food and health security and a share in national well-being.

ICPF’s view called into question the blind faith in the wisdom of the unregulated market that was prevalent during the heady days of radical free-market economic doctrine following the collapse of the Soviet system. Critics claimed that achievement of full employment was impractical and therefore guaranteeing it was impossible. In response, the Commission argued that the level of employment in any society is the direct result of a nation’s laws, policies and modes of implementing them, not the result of impersonal forces of nature beyond human control. Employment is a product of human decisions and can be controlled. As the world has made enormous progress in halting and reversing environmental degradation, it can also eradicate the spectre of unemployment. What is required is genuine commitment enshrined and enforced as national policy. The Commission called on the nations of the world to recognize this right and enforce this guarantee.

It is most appropriate that a meeting of the Commission is taking place during November 2004 in India, where the Government of India has proclaimed their recognition of this right and their commitment to enforce it through an act of parliament. This meeting provides an opportunity to review the technological and public policy instruments now available to fulfil the human quest for “education, health, food, water and work for all and forever.”

Strategies & Recommendations

Recent developments may be sufficient to dispel dire forecasts of a world without work, but by themselves they are not adequate to address the real and pressing need to accelerate job creation throughout the world, the essential condition for the world’s billion poor to escape from poverty. For that, the Commission argued that concerted action is both necessary and possible to immediately improve employment opportunities for the poor. Chapter Four of this report presents a comprehensive package of strategies for both industrialized and developing countries that are as relevant and valid today as they were at the time of publication.

In order to document the potential for accelerated job growth, ICPF conducted a special country study of India in 1991 and drew up a strategy for creating 100 million jobs in the country within a decade. The strategy, which focused on utilizing agriculture and agri-business as engines to stimulate rural incomes and employment opportunities, was endorsed and adopted by the then Government of India, but not implemented for a variety of reasons. A review of this strategy one decade later indicates that the potential for achieving full employment in India is fully alive and the current Government’s commitment provides the right circumstances to achieve it in practice. This will also serve as an example and model for other countries to emulate. Backed by this commitment, the main elements of a successful employment strategy for India have been identified in a separate report prepared for the New Delhi meeting. The strategy focuses on giving an income and employment orientation to Indian agriculture, increased support for expansion of enterprises in the informal sector, broadening the on-going self-help group revolution and fully extending it to agricultural operations, upgradation and expansion of the country’s vocational training system, promotion of entrepreneurship and full utilization of information technology as a catalyst for development.

Prospects and Emerging Opportunities

Viewing the global employment situation as a whole, there are strong grounds for confidence in a brighter future.

         Resurgent Asia: The nations of East Asia, which went through rapid expansion followed by a major financial crisis, are back on the growth path. The Japanese economy is once again growing and creating new jobs, both at home and abroad, especially in China, which has become the largest destination for Japanese foreign investment and a key supplier base for Japanese manufactured goods. China’s economy continues to expand at more than eight per cent annually and India’s may soon achieve that rate of growth. Fuelled by very rapid expansion of automotive, financial services, IT, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the third largest destination for foreign investment, and a key player in IT and IT-enabled services. According to a recent study, by 2040 China and India will be the first and third largest economies in the world. Together with Russia and Brazil, they could account for a larger portion of world GDP than today’s six largest industrialized nations. Population, which was perceived as a liability not long ago, now appears to be an asset. In reality, population, like nuclear energy and so many other things, is neutral. Its value depends on what we human beings make of it.

         Changing Demographic Profile of the West: Demographic studies indicate that steep declines in the growth of population in Europe, Japan and USA will create acute labour shortages and unprecedented long-term demand for migration of foreign workers or transplantation of work to developing countries. UN and other studies estimate that Europe would have to accept 150 million new immigrants over the next 25 years in order to maintain the present levels of working population and Japan would need to admit 600,000 immigrants annually for the next 50 years in order to maintain the size of its working population at the 1995 level. The US labour force is projected to stop growing by 2013. These findings support the view of the India Vision 2020 report that “This trend will further accelerate the outsourcing of production of goods and services to locations where infrastructure, ease of doing business, quality, costs and availability of labour are most attractive, which will be beneficial for many labour surplus countries like India.” 

         Expanding World Trade: Trade is playing an increasing role in the economic growth of developing countries. Economic integration with the global economy has become a compelling necessity for every country. The share of trade in global GDP rose from 12 per cent in 1970 to 29 per cent in 2001. While the effects of expanding world trade on employment are complex and can lead to displacement of workers and destruction of jobs in some cases, available evidence strongly indicates that the overall impact of freer trade on the global economy will be to promote significantly faster growth of employment opportunities. The emerging liberalization of textile trade in 2005 is an example of the potential positive impact of freer trade. In India the textile industry provides employment to 18 per cent of the entire workforce, accounts for 8 per cent of the country's GDP, 17 per cent of its manufacturing capacity, and 27 per cent of its export earnings. A recent projection indicates that with the lifting of quotas under the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing in January 2005, India’s textile exports could rise from the current $16 billion to $40 billion by 2010, creating as many as 12 million new jobs in the process, five million jobs through direct employment in the textile industry and another seven million jobs in allied sectors. The global manufacturing strategies of multinational corporations will further spur the exponential growth of contract manufacturing opportunities in developing countries. Already China exports $300 billion a year in manufactured products, while Taiwan and Mexico export more than $140 billion each. According to a recent study, India has the potential to create 25 to 30 million new jobs in the manufactured exports sector.

         Shift to Services: One would hardly expect to find the decline of manufacturing jobs as a source of employment opportunities, but historical data supports this conclusion. Fear over the destruction of manufacturing jobs due to adoption of capital intensive technology has been prevalent for the past 100 years. Every new technology that automates a process or increases worker productivity has been perceived as a threat to the future of work. The reality has proved to be quite different. Technological development propels a spiral of economic development that creates many more jobs than it destroys. The most striking testimony to this fact is the history of employment in USA, arguably the country that has most readily and fully adopted new technologies over the past century. Employment in manufacturing and mining grew to a peak of about 40 per cent of the workforce after World War II before beginning its downward spiral to 15 per cent by 2000, about the same proportion as in 1850. Yet, during this same period total employment in America has expanded phenomenally, from a mere 13 million workers in 1870 to 68 million in 1955 and more than 136 million in 2002. In spite of all the automation and all the export of jobs to lower wage economies, the percentage of the American population employed has continued to rise over time.

Several factors are responsible for this result, among which population growth and technological development are most prominent. Rising levels of technological sophistication certainly displace workers in most fields of manufacturing. But at the same time they stimulate growth of employment in many different ways – increasing demand for the products thus manufactured by a factor of 10, 100 or even 1000 fold as in the case of automobiles, TVs, cell phones and computers; increasing the demand for research workers to support technological innovation and for teachers to meet the rising demand for education; and rising living standards, which increases consumption of other goods and services due to the falling prices made possible by rising productivity. Over the past two decades the US economy lost nearly 4 million manufacturing jobs but added a net 37 million jobs through expansion of the service sector, which now accounts for 84 per cent of total employment. It is time that we stop resisting or resenting this trend, but rather strive to adapt by shifting our focus toward those fields of employment which are most directly stimulated by technological innovation. Export of commercial services already accounts for 20 per cent of world trade. The shift from manufacturing to services is a positive and inevitable expression of the elevation of human activity from the physical to the mental level, which is the central reason for the phenomenal rise in global living standards over the past century.

Rich nations have become rich through a shift of workers from the primary farm sector to value-added, non-farm secondary and tertiary sectors. Poverty and hunger persist so long as a majority of the population depend upon the routine operations of farming for their livelihood. This is also the cause of the growing feminization of poverty in developing countries. Today’s developed nations arrived at their present position by a long, slow migration from agriculture to manufacturing to service sector, but that does not mean developing countries must follow the same path. The growing demand for services in the developed world coupled with rapid strides in telecommunications has created the possibility of skipping steps to abridge the development process. Even within developing countries, surging demand for education, health care, tourism, communication, financial and retail services has opened up opportunities that were available to the developed countries only at a much later stage in their development.

         Outsourcing: During the last decade enormous attention has been focused on the lucrative employment potentials generated by Information and Communication Technology (ICT), particularly the high paid jobs in computer software and hardware and the less technical jobs in business process outsourcing. Countries such as India have shown that they can leapfrog into the technological vanguard by developing qualified human resources to meet the ever-expanding shortage in these sectors. Information Technology and IT-enabled services stand out as the most important new fields of employment to emerge since the popularization of the automobile. While the Commission’s report anticipated the importance of the information superhighway even before the World Wide Web radically transformed global communications, information exchange and commerce, ICPF did not foresee the dramatic impact that the Internet would have on the future export of service jobs to developing countries. The West has been exporting manufacturing jobs in large numbers for half a century, fuelling the growth of Japan, the East Asia tigers, and more recently China; but until the emergence of the information superhighway, the scope for export of service jobs was limited. Technological development has changed that. As a result, business process outsourcing has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy. As growth of the labour force slows in high-income countries, there will be increasing pressure for export of service jobs. Public concern in the West over the rapid growth of outsourcing is fuelled by the common misconception that employment is a zero sum game. A recent authoritative study of the impact of IT outsourcing found that the direct gains to the US economy in the form of additional jobs in other fields, higher real wages, higher real GDP growth, contained inflation and expanded exports far outweigh the losses. While global IT software and service outsourcing displaces some IT workers, total employment increases as the benefits ripple through the economy. The net additional number of jobs in the USA added as a result of outsourcing is projected to exceed 300,000 by 2008. They will be generated across all sectors of the economy, most especially in construction, transportation and utilities, education and health services, wholesale trade, and financial services. Employment is not a zero sum game.

         Computerization: The exciting growth of ICT-based service exports by no means exhausts the potential contribution of computers to growth of employment opportunities. Computerization is not merely a field or sector of commercial activity. The computer is an instrument and a catalyst that can stimulate creation of employment and self-employment opportunities in virtually every field – from farming, fishing and textile designing to lean manufacturing, financial services, bio-informatics and genetic engineering. While the application of computers has already been extended to all these fields, there has not yet been a systematic effort to assess the employment potential that can be tapped by fully extending and accelerating this movement. The recent initiative in India to establish knowledge centres in every Indian village by 2007 is one example of a pioneering effort to harness ICT as a means to catalyze a whole range of on-farm and off-farm rural activities, which will inevitably translate into more and higher productivity and greater employment generation. These centres can be utilized to deliver technological expertise to upgrade farm yields, vocational training and education, purchasing and marketing information to raise incomes. The experience of India also shows that bridging the digital divide helps to bridge the gender divide in the area of knowledge and skill-intensive work. As the construction of rural roads acts as a stimulus to agricultural development of isolated communities by connecting them with sources of inputs and markets in the outer world, ICT can be a catalyst for stimulating the entire gamut of economic activities in rural communities throughout the developing world. At the other end of the spectrum, ICT is opening up unparalleled opportunities for self-employment and new business creation for the educated. Today more than 50 per cent of American workers utilize computers in their work. The growth of the World Wide Web has given rise to on-line global markets in which individuals can bid for a broad range of projects involving activities such as research, translation, technical writing, proofreading, desktop publishing, and business consulting. A new publication identifies a few hundred self-employment opportunities of this kind. The future of work will offer increasing opportunities for people throughout the world to match their specialized knowledge and skills with specialized employment opportunities wherever they may originate.

         Meeting the Skill Shortage: Perhaps the single greatest opportunity for employment growth lies in addressing the growing mismatch between the skills of job seekers and the skills required for expanding economies. In both industrial and developing countries, workers may be in surplus, but the skills needed are in deficit. In the most prosperous nations, the deficit is concentrated in high technology and professional sectors, in electronics, biotechnology, health care, pharmacology, mathematics, marketing, financial services, and the like. The adoption of new technologies even in traditional occupations has resulted in a growing demand for higher skill levels in these fields as well. Unemployment is highest among the least educated, least skilled categories, such as machine operators, fabricators and labourers. The poor are poor both because they have no assets and because their time and labour have low or no economic value. Poverty persists wherever the human resource is under-valued. To eradicate it, there is need for a paradigm shift from unskilled to skilled work.

While educated unemployment is high in many developing countries, in most cases the quality and relevance of the education to employment opportunities is far from adequate. Here too, fully qualified technical and professional workers are in short supply. There is even a shortage for educated workers with a high level of general language and communication skills to fill the job opportunities being created for business process outsourcing. On an average, 50 per cent of firms surveyed in a cross-section of developing countries report that skill shortages are a serious constraint on their growth. Firms that adopt new technologies report even more serious problems. In addition, the work force in many developing countries also lacks advanced productive skills for agriculture and a broad range of other basic vocations. The proportion of the labour force in the 20-24 age category that have undergone formal vocational training ranges from a low of 5 per cent in countries such as India and 28 per cent in Mexico to as high as 96 per cent in Korea. Vocational training systems need to be substantially strengthened to close the gap, including training for farmers, skilled crafts, self-employment and entrepreneurship. Advances in multimedia technology now makes it possible to utilize computers, internet and even television broadcasts to deliver a wide range of educational information and vocational skills that otherwise would be unavailable or very costly to disseminate. Upgrading the quality of education and enhancing the skills of the work force will accelerate job creation the world over. Distance education provides new opportunities for achieving the goal of education for all within a span of a few years.

The Challenge and the Opportunity

The problem of unemployment is of relatively recent origin. The very idea of employment as opposed to livelihood is a recent conception born of the Industrial Revolution. In principle, every human being born creates at least the potential for his own employment, because his very birth generates demand for additional products and services and because each individual possesses the innate capacity to acquire productive skills and creative knowledge capable of generating new products and services to meet new and existing social needs. That is why, in spite of rapid strides in the mechanization of agriculture and mass production in manufacturing, the six-fold multiplication of human population since 1800 has been accompanied by a more or less equivalent growth of employment opportunities. The present job gap is small compared with the enormous expansion of the labour force.

As people develop, their aspirations rise and higher level needs emerge – needs for education, health care, balanced diet, entertainment, travel and communication – multiplying demand for new workers to provide them. Of course, there can be and are temporary dislocations and disorientations, sometimes severe, resulting from the rapid speed of social transformation that makes existing attitudes and skills obsolescent within a lifetime or less and compels human beings to learn to adapt faster and further than ever before in human history. This is the challenge posed by the evolution of humanity from the physical to mental stage, the flip side of the process that has given birth to all the miraculous achievements of the past few hundred years. It is a challenge posed to all humanity to expand our minds and acquire more flexible attitudes, to learn and adapt faster, to convert the stress of change into the joy of higher accomplishment.

The world that is emerging is one of unprecedented opportunity to tackle the problem of unemployment that emerged with the Industrial Revolution, the massive movement of people from the land into the cities, massive migrations from one country and continent to another in search of economic opportunities, and the lightning speed of technological development that has eradicated traditional occupations while spawning whole new types and fields of human activity. Thus, we are faced with the paradox: an employment problem of unprecedented dimension coupled with an opportunity of unprecedented magnitude; a problem that is not going to be eliminated any time soon by the force of market mechanisms alone, but one which can be dramatically diminished by the appropriate action of governments around the world. Opportunities, strategies, instruments and mechanisms are not lacking, provided there is a commitment and determination of commensurate strength, a commitment that is best formulated and enshrined by a recognition of employment as a fundamental human right supported by constitutional guarantees, a commitment that must be translated into a determination by all countries to implement a broad spectrum of available strategies to address the issue today. Among these strategies, the greatest necessity is for every country to continuously upgrade the quality, quantity and, most importantly, relevance of educational and vocational training programs to equip its citizens with the knowledge and skills needed for productive engagement in a rapidly evolving world.

Food Security

The world produces more than sufficient food to amply provide for all of humanity. Still, more than 800 million people spread throughout the developing world lack sufficient and secure access to nutritious food and clean drinking water. Between 1990 and 2000, malnutrition declined from 21 per cent to 18 per cent of the population of developing countries, but it actually increased marginally among the least developed nations, particularly in Africa. Incidence of malnutrition among children under five years of age remains severe in both Africa and South Asia. But the problem is more complex than these numbers suggest. Although India is considered a food surplus state, it is home to the largest number of undernourished people in the world and access to a balanced diet and clean drinking water is far below the basic requirements for sound health.

Projections indicate that over the next decade growth of the world’s food supply will be adequate to meet the needs of all human beings. The UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of human beings suffering from hunger and malnutrition between 1990 and 2015 is highly commendable, yet achieving it would still leave an unconscionably large number of people without adequate food. More can and must be done in the next decade to eradicate the scourge of hunger.

The problem of water scarcity is even more pervasive and challenging. Studies indicate that by 2015 more than half the world’s population – mostly in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Northern China – will be living in countries that are ‘water-stressed’. In the developing world, more than 80 per cent of the water is utilized for agriculture, an unsustainable level that is depleting water tables, increasing soil salinity and accelerating erosion.  Although historically water has often been a source of contention between communities, it has never been the cause of an open inter-state conflict. However, nearly one-half of the world’s land surface consists of river basins shared by more than one country and more than 30 nations receive more than one-third of their water from outside their borders. Therefore, the danger of confrontation and conflict will escalate unless concerted measures are implemented urgently. Water shortages occurring in combination with other sources of tension — such as in the Middle East — will be particularly worrisome.

Famine remains a persistent threat precisely because the world no longer feels that threat to be severe. India’s last major famine occurred in Bengal in 1943 during World War II. Although the deficit in food production was only marginal that year, three million died for lack of strong administrative intervention to improve distribution. A marginal deficit could work havoc in the absence of an efficient and equitable public distribution network. While there is no scarcity of food in the world, there is also not a sufficiently organized effort to promote food security, precisely because the sense of urgency is lacking. Abundant opportunities exist to eradicate hunger, but in the absence of a catastrophic event, serious effort is lacking. Famine attracts media coverage, political and public attention, but chronic hunger does not. With global food surpluses accumulating, an organized effort can ensure food security for people everywhere.

The challenge of achieving food security for all human beings is complex, for it depends on the interaction between multiple factors – technological initiatives to produce sufficient food; economic initiatives to stimulate sufficient employment opportunities and increase purchasing power; political initiatives to maintain a peaceful and stable environment, undisturbed by war or social unrest that can interfere with food distribution; and administrative initiatives to provide for those who are unable to provide for themselves due to poverty or during times of emergency.

Peace, democracy, employment and food security are mutually interdependent. The efforts proposed to promote peace, democracy and employment generation will mitigate the problem of food security to a considerable extent. In addition, Chapter Five of the Commission’s report highlights direct interventions that are needed to address the problem at the level of agricultural productivity, among which the following are particularly relevant in the present context:

         Farm Productivity: The attraction of high technology service industries should not blind us to the fact that a large section of humanity still depends on agriculture as its main source of income and livelihood. Farm productivity in these countries is typically less than a fourth or fifth the average attained by other countries. Low agricultural productivity results in high cost food, low rural incomes and limited employment opportunities, both on farm and in downstream industries. As a revolution in agricultural productivity provided the impetus for rapid industrialization in Britain and later USA in the 19th Century, rapid modernization of agricultural technology, a shift to commercial crops, improved linkages for credit, marketing and processing can act as a catalyst for employment generation and economic growth in many developing countries today. As some countries have already proven, high productivity does not necessarily require large tracks of land or high levels of mechanization, but it does require quality inputs, adoption of advanced cultivation practices, efforts to improve the productivity of water, access to credit, infrastructure for storage, producer-oriented marketing and industries for processing.

         Information Empowerment: The poor quality, slow speed and inadequate reach of extension services is the bane of farming in many developing countries. ICT can be harnessed to provide farmers with access to state-of-the-art technical advice, quality inputs and market information. The proper analysis and replenishment of soil nutrients by itself can double or triple crop yields. Utilizing ICT, it is possible to deliver custom-tailored instructions for soil improvement in a timely manner at low cost. It can help to promote quality and trade literacy among farm women and men.

         Organizational Linkages: In much of the developing world, agriculture suffers from intense fragmentation of land holdings among small and marginal farmers. These farmers tend to have lower levels of education, poor access to technology for upgrading productivity, less access to quality inputs and credit, poor access to storage and processing facilities, and higher losses due to post-harvest crop spoilage. Their problems are further aggravated by environmental degradation due to soil erosion, deforestation and depletion of water resources. Lack of effective organization and management is a common denominator linking all these deficiencies. More effective forms of organizations can eliminate or compensate for these deficiencies to a large extent. For example, in India more than 10 million farmers are successfully engaged in sugarcane cultivation, precisely because an established system of contract farming provides them with access to technology, quality inputs, credit and an assured market for their produce. India became the world leader in milk production only because of the power of scale conferred on small producers through the dairy cooperative movement. A similar organization is presently lacking for most other crops. The successful establishment of more than one million Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in India over the past three years providing access to credit for 15 million small farmers illustrates the power of organization. It is an indication that the phase of society’s predominant dependence on government initiatives for development is coming to a close. An organization combining the advantages of SHGs and contract farming through the agency of an NGO or an agri-business centre operated by farm and home science graduates or entrepreneurs can be successfully extended to other crops, providing the technical knowledge and essential inputs that small farmers need to raise productivity and farm incomes.

         Crop Diversification: Eradicating hunger necessitates shifting production from traditional crops to higher value added crops that can improve nutrition, while generating higher on-farm incomes and greater off-farm employment. Fruits and vegetables can remove micro-nutrient deficiencies, while dairy and poultry can eliminate protein deficiencies. The soaring price of petroleum, which has reached historical highs this year, presents an additional opportunity for countries such as India to become large scale producers and exporters of bio-fuels and bio-mass energy, thereby substituting imported petroleum with lucrative markets, higher incomes and greater employment opportunities for the rural population. Contract farming arrangements between small producers and agri-business centres can stimulate rapid development of this field. Ethanol, bio-diesel and bio-mass power from agricultural produce could generate the equivalent of 15 million additional employment opportunities in India, while raising rural incomes by US $10 billion annually.

         Water Conservation: Improving access to safe drinking water requires a combination of public education and government action. In addition, the rapid depletion of water resources can be mitigated to a large extent by upgrading practices in agriculture, which is the single largest consumer of water. Productivity of water in agriculture remains extremely low in most developing countries. In India irrigation accounts for 80 per cent of total water usage. A comparison of cotton cultivation under similar climatic conditions in California and South India, both utilizing extensive methods of irrigation, revealed that on average the Indian farmer consumes 35 times more water per unit of cotton produced than his counter-part in California. Water productivity can be enhanced by raising crop productivity as well as by adoption of deep chiselling technologies that enhance water retention in the soil. It can also be improved by shifting to more water efficient crops, such as replacing sugarcane wherever possible with sugar beet, which consumes 60 per cent less water per unit of sugar produced.

         Safety Nets: Long-term solution to the problem of food security requires efforts that will make people food self-sufficient. But until those efforts can be put in place and made effective, continued reliance will have to be placed on public programmes such as India’s highly successful Mid-Day Meal scheme for school children and Food for Work programs that combine employment and food security. The traditional concept of Food for Work needs to be enlarged to include skilled work related to human and social development. A Global Food Guarantee scheme should be put in place, which combines Food for Work and Employment Guarantee in a systematic manner.

Human Development

Development is a human process. It is the result of human aspirations turned into action, human energies expressed in thought and work, human imagination and creativity turned toward the upliftment of life, the invention of processes and products to enhance human productivity, the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom passed on from one generation to another, the acquisition and perfection of skills transmitted from parent to child, the conversion of talents into capacities, the pursuit of ideals, an ever widening of attitudes, and the evolution of more complex and productive forms of organization. As this evolutionary process unfolds, each element of human personality -- physical skill, vital relationship, mental understanding, spiritual values – is enhanced in a progression without end, bringing with it greater material fruits, richer life experience, and higher knowledge. The unfolding and flowering of the human being is at once the source and the goal of development.

Thus, in all our efforts to elevate human society, our primary endeavour must be to enhance these human endowments and expand individual freedom of self-expression. Peace, democracy, employment opportunities, food security, education, training, access to information, cooperation, freedom of action and a spirit of innovation are the essential conditions and means for this process to advance. There was a time when humanity’s progress was primarily the result of the collective efforts of the community, demanding and obtaining the strict obedience and conformity of its individual members to preserve what it had created and further the progress of the collective. That point is now past. In the century now commencing, the individual human being must come into his own as a free and creative force. The groundwork has been prepared by the spread of democracy, human rights, universal education, gender and social equality and, more recently, information empowerment. The power of individual awakening is responsible for the revolution of rising expectations that has fuelled unprecedented rates of growth and social transformation during the past half century. That same power can be seen among the talented youth of developing countries today, who are awakened to the prospects of a better life and aspiring for higher accomplishment, either at home or in ever increasing numbers abroad. The process of upward social mobility that took off in the USA after the Civil War is now occurring in countries around the globe.

One important expression of this movement is the growing trend toward entrepreneurship and self-employment. It is prompting more and more talented individuals to decline the security and prestige of salaried employment to strike out on their own and seek higher accomplishment by their own effort and merit. Training programs and courses are needed to promote entrepreneurship at all levels of society – from that of the craftsman and skilled industrial worker to the engineer and the MBA. The mental outlook and psychological attitudes for entrepreneurship should also be inculcated through the mainstream educational system. As India’s Freedom Movement worked to awaken the population to the possibility of independence from foreign rule and its Green Revolution worked to awaken farmers to the possibilities of higher productivity, the future lies in awakening each individual in society to his or her own greater human potential. 

Chapter Seven of the Commission’s report examines some of the principal means at our disposal to enhance and accelerate the development of these human capacities. It called for efforts to re-examine our development experience over the past few hundred years in order to arrive at a deeper and clearer understanding of the process and principles that govern human evolution, individually and collectively. Since the publication of the report in 1994, ICPF’s successor organization, the International Center for Peace and Development, and The Mother’s Service Society in collaboration with the World Academy of Art and Science have worked to formulate a broader theoretical framework for understanding human development. Strategies arising from this approach were presented at international conferences co-sponsored with the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow and with the Noor al Hussein Foundation in Jordan, and were effectively applied to stop hyperinflation in Yugoslavia. A full and conscious application of strategies arising from this framework can help to condense the period of transition of East European countries and the take-off of less developed countries from decades into a few years.

From this perspective, the single most important agent of human development is not the institutions of government or those of private enterprise. It is the educational system that imparts to future generations the accumulated knowledge, skill and capacity acquired in the past. The quality of that education will determine the quality of the human beings who build our future world. Until now, too much emphasis has been placed on transfer of information from teacher to student, too little on the development of thinking and critical faculties by the student. Too much reliance has been placed on the capacity of the teacher to teach, too little on the inherent natural capacity of human beings for self-motivated learning and self-discovery.

It may be fair to say that the state of our educational systems throughout the world is an accurate reflection of the state of human development in different societies. In this context, the UN Millennium Goals of achieving universal primary education and eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education represent the bare minimum commitment that every society must make to enhance the capacities of its youth. The great Tamil poet, Subramanya Bharati, rightly emphasized that nutrition and education are the two legs of a human being. Pre-school education should receive as much attention as post-graduate education. At the other end of the development spectrum, no society has yet developed the knowledge and expertise to impart the best of what it has acquired to a broad cross-section of its citizens. Few have been able to ignite the aspiration for continuous learning and the capacity for original creativity that are the most profound characteristics of human consciousness. Measured in these terms, even the most developed nations still have a long way to go and much that can be done to further the development of their people.

To sum up, 10 years ago when we presented the report of the International Commission on Peace and Food, we were optimistic that humankind will grasp the uncommon opportunities provided by democratic systems of governance and technological and knowledge revolutions for achieving a world without hunger and where every individual has an opportunity for a productive and healthy life. The onward march of technology is still in full swing, but the political commitment to foster cooperative human security worldwide is yet to emerge. The Information Age has given meaning and content to the concept of a global village. The threats associated with climate change and biodiversity loss also underline the fact that while humankind may be segregated by political frontiers, our fates are intertwined ecologically. Economically also, islands of prosperity cannot co-exist forever in the midst of oceans of poverty. Both unsustainable lifestyles and unacceptable poverty must become features of the past, if we are to curb the growing violence in the human heart. Ten years after presentation of our report, we remain convinced that universal health, harmony and happiness are still within our reach, if only we imbibe the eternal truth contained in the following message of Lord Krishna delivered on the battlefield of life called Kurukshetra:

We human beings can become whatever we sincerely aspire to become.