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Letters to the editor

Too many people

by D+C | E+Z

Focus: Food and biodiversity
E+Z/D+C 5/2008, p. 188 ff.

Not one article mentions the real reason for the food shortage: rapid population growth in developing countries. The editorial only states: “The world’s population is growing, and so are its food requirements”. It is worth spelling out, however, that population growth is occurring almost exclusively in developing countries. The population of the world’s 50 poorest countries will more than double by 2050, from 0.8 to 1.7 billion people. The reason is that most people in those countries do not have adequate access to birth control and education. In developing countries alone, there are about 76 million unwanted pregnancies every year – the world’s annual population growth is about the same number. There is an urgent need for more money to be invested in birth control and education programmes, but aid is in fact falling dramatically. From 1995 to 2005, the share of development assistance for population-programmes allocated to family planning fell from 55 % to seven percent. If the international community still wishes to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halving world hunger, it must face up to its responsibilities and boost funding for reproductive- health programmes.

Ute Stallmeister
Press Officer, German Foundation for World Population (DSW)

Interview with Johan Galtung: “Missed angles”
E+Z/D+C 4/2008; p. 162 ff.

In the interview, Galtung made use of the very methods which he criticised. He left out “one entire dimension of reality”, namely the dimension of the people who are today suffering under formerly-colonised oppressors. A striking example of such an omission is his comment on airstrikes against civilians, according to which “Britain did the same against Iraqi insurgents in 1922”. In truth, Britain’s victims were anti-Iraqi insurgents, mainly Kurdish and Turkmen occupants of the Vilayet of Mosul which, at the time, like Iraq and Kuwait, was under British mandate. Whereas Kuwait gained independence, the British annexed Mosul to form the Iraqi monarchy in violation of international law. Galtung is obviously one of those people for whom the illegal existence of Iraq is sacrosanct, so, without any respect for the victims, he is putting the opposite spin on Britain’s crimes.

Andreas J. Burghofer
Mesopotamia-Bibliothek Linz

News: “Germany second most important donor country”
E+Z/D+C 5/2008; p. 182

The absolute figures are correct, and, in that sense, everything you say is true. However, you are only telling half the story and misleading your readers. If you want to come up with a meaningful ranking, then please put absolute payments in relation to economic performance. If you look at official development assistance (ODA) as a share of gross domestic product, Germany is at 0.37 %. It thus ranks in the 12th position, along with Switzerland, and far behind the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which are the only countries to have exceeded for many years the target of 0.7 % agreed in 1970. Leaving out the full details diminishes, among other things, the German Development Minister’s efforts to reach the 0.7 % level, just as those efforts are beginning to bare fruit, as fresh money was indeed recently made available in the Federal budget. Should you not agree with me, you might heed the words of Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul herself. She observed some years ago: “The authoritative global measure of development efforts …. is the ODA rate.”

Ludger Reuke
Senior Adviser Development Policy, Germanwatch