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by Anna Pozzi
It is one of those issues always mentioned when there is a question of listing what is not working in today's globalized economy. But isn't it also possible to start doing something against the financial speculation on agricultural raw materials? And may the city that in 2015 will host an Expo on the issue of "Feeding the planet, energy for life" be indifferent to the fact that, while the price of food in the international market continues increasing more and more, financial shares, that - based on wheat and rice price fluctuations - register an annual return of 30, 40 and even 60%, continue being sold and bought?
It is from this idea that has started in these weeks the campaign from Milan "Do not speculate on hunger", an initiative that sees Mondo e Missione and Pime on the front line. As our readers know, we have already talked about the necessity of letting such an important issue enter the agenda of Expo 2015 on the occasion of the special issue we dedicated to the Caritas in Veritate encyclical (see M.M., November 2009, pages 52-54). And even at the beginning of this year we were reporting about the terrible spiral in action that is likely to push within the sphere of hunger other thousands of people (see M.M., February 2011, pages 9-10; March 2011, page 11). So - together with a group of other people sharing this same worry of ours - we promoted an appeal from Milan civil society linked to the local elections that will take place in Lombardia's regional capital on the 15th and 16th of May. The reasoning is simple: Milan is going to elect the mayor who will rule the city of Expo 2015; in the name of the committing issue chosen for this big international event, we ask the people who are going to put themselves forward for this role, to take charge of the problem of financial speculation on food. And not only with words but with a concrete commitment involving also its own local administration.
"Many sides - we wrote in the appeal - are urging a normative intervention on the financial markets which may protect such a basic good like food from speculative goals. But speculation is happening indeed right now and we cannot stand by watching. Above all in a city like Milan, a big European financial place where by-products linked to food prices are easily exchanged every day. This is why we have chosen to invite you, candidates for mayor for the city of the Expo 2015, to a strong stance from the ethical point of view".
We concretely ask to the candidates for mayor of Milan to underwrite a conduct code that binds the Municipality of Milan to not use this kind of tools in the management of its own assets. Specifically the next mayor would expressly commit: 1) not to buy any financial product which contains derived elements linked to food prices; 2) to sell within two months time from the renewal of the municipality council those financial products that even partially contain derived shares linked to food prices; 3) to guarantee the transparency engaging the transactors working in the municipality administration to produce adequate information about the negotiated financial products. Furthermore, the appeal requires from the future mayor to engage in the organization, within the path of preparation for the 2015 Expo, of an international meeting which may serve as the occasion for a public reflection on the issue of financial speculation on food.
Together with Pime, those promoting the initiative are the Italian Association of Christian Workers (ACLI), the Ngo Action Aid, the Foundation Bridges, the information portal regarding development - Unimondo - and the non-profit weekly Vita. To encourage the appeal, some important personalities of civil society have taken the field: among the first subscribers are Gad Lerner, don Virginio Colmegna, the economists Riccardo Moro, Loretta Napoleoni, Marco Vitale and Simona Beretta, the founder of Slow Food Carlin Petrini, chef Davide Oldani. For the missionary world, besides the director of the Pime Center of Milan, father Gian Paolo Gualzetti, the Comobonian fathers Renato Kizito Sesana and Giulio Albanese have also rallied.
If the elected mayor will uphold the required commitments, what could change? For sure, an isolated initiative from the Municipality of Milan could not have a big effect on a global phenomenon such as financial speculation. But from a political point of view, to link this kind of battle to the Expo 2015 may have a significant impact. The promoters' idea is to make Milan a starting point for a wider campaign: for example, there is already under development a resolution form with the same commitments to be proposed to every Italian local body. But there is also the idea of organizing an event to raise awareness addressed to the individual money savers and institutional investors (for example the category's individual retirement accounts in which the trade unions play a role as controlling bodies) so that even at this level people may start posing this problem in ethical terms that call into question each person's responsibility in his/her own investments. "Do not speculate on hunger" starts thus as a national campaign that aims at connecting with similar initiatives already running in the United States and in other European Countries. To arrive from the grassroots level and with the power of a precise ethical choice asking the governments to take their responsibilities, putting into practice within the G20 those rules about the financial market that have too long been only words.
(Translation from the italian language by Elena Dini)