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China helps human rights by feeding its people says Swiss ethicist

November 10, 2010

NAIROBI/GENEVA

China is making a contribution to human rights through its ability to feed its population of 1.3 billion people, says a Swiss ethicist while noting Beijing’s violation of individual rights.

“If China is able to promote peace to contribute to justice by helping developing its economy to feed 20 per cent of the world’s population, then it’s a major contribution to human rights,” said Christoph Stückelberger, of the Geneva-based Globethics.net group, after delivering a lecture about global and contextual ethics on Oct. 28 in Nairobi.

“They [the Chinese] may violate individual rights, which is not justified … Of course they have to respect individual rights, but we should not forget they do something for fundamental rights,” said Stückelberger, a part-time lecturer at the University of Basel.

Globethics.net is a worldwide network that says it wants to help empower people in all regions of the world to reflect and act on ethical issues.

Jesse Mugambi, a professor of philosophy and religious studies from the University of Nairobi, described China as being significant because its economic growth has outstripped the rest of Asia and it is able to feed its citizens.

Mugambi hosted Stückelberger’s lecture at the All Africa Conference of Churches.

Separately, the World Bank’s special envoy for climate change, Andrew Steer, noted at a conference in the Netherlands that China is able to feed its population despite limited land and water resources, and facing the likelihood of increasing water stress along with rising temperatures.

At the same time it has 250 million farm families most of whom have one hectare or less.

“For two decades China has supported comprehensive programs of landscape restoration, focusing on its hilly areas,” Steer said on Nov. 3 in The Hague at the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change.

“As a result, productivity has grown, ecosystems have been restored, the landscape is more resilient to floods and drought, and has become a ‘net sequesterer’ of carbon in the soils and plants rather than an emitter,” he stated.

Also speaking at The Hague conference, former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan described feeding Africa at a time of climate change as a major contemporary development challenge.

“Africa is the only continent which fails to grow enough food to meet its own needs. It alone has failed to see agricultural productivity keep pace with its growing population. One in three of those without sufficient food live in Africa,” Annan said in a statement.

He warned the effects of climate change risk exacerbating the situation by driving people from their land, and urged increased investment to deliver food and nutrition security, reduce poverty and combat climate change.

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