Early riser, economist Daniel Balaban was already awake when he received the news that the United Nations (UN) agency of which he is the representative for Brazil, the World Food Program (WFP), had won the Nobel Peace Prize .
The prize was announced on Friday (10/9) in Norway, by the Nobel Committee, due to the agency’s efforts “to fight hunger, for its contribution to improving peace conditions in areas affected by conflict and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict “.
In an interview with BBC News Brasil by phone, Balaban, director of the Center of Excellence against Hunger and representative of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Brazil, says that the “yellow light for hunger in Brazil has been lit” due ” to the regression of social policies “and that it will be necessary to act quickly to prevent the country from returning to the Hunger Map, when more than 5% of the population faces severe food insecurity.
“You can reverse this situation if there is a national union. The Brazilian population itself asking for and putting pressure on public entities. And the Nobel Prize was very important for this, because it sheds light on a problem that affects the world and was a little forgotten” , says.
Asked whether, in his view, the Jair Bolsonaro government is committed to “reversing this situation”, Balaban defends “demonstrating the importance to all public policy makers of targeting resources to the most vulnerable populations”.
Check out the main excerpts from the interview below.
BBC News Brazil – The World Food Program (WFP), a UN agency from which the sr. is the representative in Brazil, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this Friday. As the sr. received the news? Were you surprised?
Daniel Balaban – It was a total surprise, no one expected it. The PMA headquarters is in Rome (Italy) and, when the award was announced, it was dawn in Brazil. Awards are awards. Are important. But more importantly, it is to shed light on a problem that affects the world and that was a little forgotten, which is the issue of combating hunger, combating poverty, combating inequality.
There is no way to have a more sustainable planet, a planet that we all dream of 690 million people going hungry. There are three Brazils. The WFP’s day-to-day job is to prevent these people from dying and to assist them. We feed more than 100 million a day worldwide, especially in developing countries, the poorest, helping to create public policies. It is a very difficult and complex job, but we need to show the population that we can solve this problem.
BBC News Brazil – What is the importance of Brazil within the World Food Program?
Balaban – Brazil has been a partner of the World Food Program for a long time and has worked together with the agency. We gained a lot of notoriety when we managed to lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty and when we left the Hunger Map (in 2014, during the government of Dilma Rousseff) through public policies that we develop ourselves. I always say that these are state policies.
The big problem is that these policies have to be permanent, no matter who is in government. We remain a very unequal country with a considerable portion of the population in a vulnerable situation. We cannot fail to commit part of the budget to social policies that were very successful. Brazil was an example for the developing world in this regard, from support policies for family farmers to income policies with conditionality, as is the case of Bolsa Família. And it has to continue.
BBC News Brazil – Has Brazil failed to continue these policies?
Balaban – What happens is that Brazil started to suffer a very big economic crisis from 2015. When a country suffers an economic crisis, there are budget cuts and pressure to achieve fiscal balance. Social policies ended up having the greatest impact.
There is no miracle.
If resources start to wane, the social program begins to decrease its strengthening and its impact on the population. We are at a key moment: the yellow light for hunger has come on, but we still have time to make a reversal. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The social policies that were created were very successful.
It is enough for the resources to be invested again and support for the most vulnerable populations resumed. You can reverse this situation if there is a national union. The Brazilian population itself asking for and putting pressure on public entities. And the Nobel Prize was very important to draw attention to that.
BBC News Brazil – Data recently released by the IBGE show that, after receding by more than half in a decade, hunger has spread to Brazil again. In five years, the contingent in this situation reached at least 10.3 million. Has Brazil returned or will it return to the Hunger Map?
Balaban – The Hunger Map is a UN publication that takes into account the most current numbers of countries. Brazil did not appear in the last Hunger Map because the data used are older (to those released by IBGE). In any case, these 10.3 million people are equivalent to less than 5% of the population, a parameter considered by the UN for a country to enter or leave the Hunger Map. But that does not mean that we are doing well. We have noticed an increase in the number of people in vulnerability, a regression in social policies. If nothing is done to reverse this situation, Brazil can return to the Hunger Map.
BBC News Brazil – Income concentration rose and inequality deepened during the current government. THE sr. do you believe that the Jair Bolsonaro government is committed to “reversing this situation”?
Balaban – We do not enter into analyzes of governments, of government actions. We believe that these policies reflect the interest of the population in each country. Each government reflects its population, especially in democratic countries, such as Brazil. We need to warn the whole population that this is the moment of unity and of working together so that this situation does not return. This is our role: to call for union.
We do not criticize any government, neither the current government nor the previous governments. But policies adopted as a whole. I believe that all governments have good intentions, no government wants hunger, no government wants a lack of health and education. The crucial point is to demonstrate the importance to all public policy makers of targeting resources to the most vulnerable populations.
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