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Famine Could Be Averted With Political Safeguards

New York Times: Is the Era of Great Famines Over?
Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University

“…How did Ethiopia go from being the world’s symbol of mass famines to fending off starvation? Thanks partly to some good fortune, but mostly to peace, greater transparency, and prudent planning. Ethiopia’s success in averting another disaster is confirmation that famine is elective because, at its core, it is an artifact and a tool of political repression. … Grimly certain that droughts will recur, … [Ethiopia’s Finance Minister Abdulaziz] Mohammed has opened talks with the World Bank to devise a national drought insurance plan. This is a sensible move. It’s also evidence that after countries have passed a certain threshold of prosperity and development, peace, political liberalization, and greater government accountability are the best safeguards against famine. There is no record of people dying of famine in a democracy. … So is the era of great famines finally over? Let’s just say it could be. Famine isn’t caused by overpopulation, and as Ethiopia’s experience shows, it’s not a necessary consequence of drought. Politics creates famine, and politics can stop it” (5/8).

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