Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Brazil's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcos Galvao, at a media briefing following the BRICS Ministerial Meeting held at the OR Tambo building, Pretoria, in June 2018. This year the summit was virtual because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Brazil's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcos Galvao, at a media briefing following the BRICS Ministerial Meeting held at the OR Tambo building, Pretoria, in June 2018. This year the summit was virtual because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

The biggest threat faced by the world today is poverty, not terrorism

By Zingisa Mkhuma Time of article published Dec 6, 2020

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By Themba Monare

At the recent 12th BRICS Summit on November 17 this year, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed that in his view and that of his populous country, the biggest threat faced by the world today is terrorism.

The summit, sometimes referred to as the 2020 BRICS Summit, was held virtually and chaired by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Modi thanked graciously for Moscow’s assistance to BRICS’ counter-terrorism strategy.

Now, Modi is a leader who has exhibited a desire and commitment to the success of BRICS, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. His contribution to the thought leadership of BRICS as a bloc of influential regional powerhouses is immense. However, despite my expressed acknowledgement of the man, I take umbrage against Modi’s standpoint that terrorism is the world’s biggest challenge at this juncture.

It is my considered opinion that poverty, and not terrorism, is the singe most contributory factor to the wars on our planet.

The Earth’s plentiful resources have been literally stolen by a minority of heartless and greedy socio-economic elites who have somehow managed to co-opt the political aristocracy all over the world.

Everywhere in the world, wherever one looks, the poor are, to borrow from Thomas Hardy, the Madding Crowd.

They are homeless, empty-bellied, hopeless and miserable. But then again, all these are the building blocks of anger. No single hungry person goes about their daily business filled with admiration for the deceitful, double-dealing current world order. The advent of Covid-19 has further exposed the treachery of our unequal and unsurprisingly divided world.

Take for instance a point Social Scientists have hurried to highlight, which is that although the Coronavirus knows neither colour nor creed, it is more generous to the haves and most ravaging among the have-nots. The US, the world’s only remaining superpower in a post-Cold War era, has offered academics the world over the best case study of effects of a pandemic in a class society. The bulk of Covid-19 victims in the US continue to be African-Americans and to a certain extent the Hispanics where white people, by design and nature overtly affluent, are proportionally out of harm’s way.

India’s poverty is in itself legendary. The world’s second most populous country after China is constantly at war to thwart the scourge of poverty throughout its sprawling slums. An erudite leader such as the honourable Prime Minister Modi ought to know that for millions of people in India and around the world, hunger and starvation is their enemy number one, not angry dangerously armed men who feel aggrieved by skewed economic and political landscapes.

It is my view that in the world of the plenty if every human being could get the slice of the cake peace and harmony would inevitably reign. People would be having equal access to food, opportunity and security of tenure. But when the wealth of a country such as say, South Africa, continues to be an exclusive preserve of a race-based minority that can unsurprisingly only breed nothing but sheer unadulterated contempt.

Too often people who argue from a standpoint of privilege look at life in general through rose coloured glasses. Very often they never seem to know, nor learn, that violence suit all those who have nothing to lose. When such crowds amplify, the world becomes less safe. Terrorism, which in my view is a by-product of the cardinal sin – poverty, takes root and become quite ubiquitous. This consequential eventuality is understandably vexatious to the Bourgeois. Just as was the case at the height of the Roman Empire, the proletariat possess the propensity to rise against injustice, perceived or real.

I fully concur, nonetheless, with Prime Minister Modi’s call for the reformation of the UN Security Council (UNSC). As things stand, only five countries are permanent members of the UNSC since the end of the World War II in 1945. These are the UK, USA, France, China and Russia. Only these five possess each a Veto power, which means they can overturn any decision of the council that are unhappy with even if it could have been a majority decision.

The US has throughout history used its veto power to stop UNSC resolutions against Israel’s much-maligned oppression of the Palestinian people, whose land is illegally occupied to this day.

I have previously argued that the rest of the BRICS member-states should turn China’s and Russia’s veto powers into a transferable commodity. Through BRICS connection, if any of the non-permanent UNSC members are aggrieved by a resolution, they showed “borrow” the veto power from either China or Russia and flaunt it to great effect.

After all, BRICS countries are collectively home to 42% of the world’s population. Therefore whatever the decision of global impact the BRICS bloc makes it remains significantly representative of a notable population of the world.

In the past I have often argues that BRICS summits appear to be meetings where members meet to have drinks and take one resolution only – which is agreeing to meet again.

Lately things seem to be improving. Russia’s President Putin has during the recent summit appealed for the establishment of a Centre for Development and Research of BRICS Vaccines. This is revolutionary. China and the rest of the members support the proposal. Vaccines cooperation, as China called it, is long overdue.

In the same way that BRICS members a while ago resolved to host annual BRICS games on a rotation basis, all forms of cooperation should be encouraged.

The BRICS Bank, which has previously been spoken about as ground-breaking and later went quite, need to come to the fore at this challenging Covid-19-induced economic hardships. Instead of members grovelling cap-in-hand to the World Bank and the IMF, BRICS members should find solace in their own self-funded development bank whose lending conditions are honeymoon compared to the hidden sting-in-the-tail lending conditions of the US-led IMF and World Bank.

The time for solidarity among BRICS member states is now or never. In a post-Covid-19 world order, BRICS would have to position itself as a force to reckon with or simply close shop.

Together, BRICS countries must hitherto thrash out collective economic recovery programs. This would be in acknowledgement that people from these emerging democracies don’t live on political slogans, but rather on sound, sustainable economic initiatives that can feed nations from far and near.

The truth is, no one can completely eradicate poverty. Even the Bible quotes Jesus Christ as having said that “the poor will always be there”. But with good, visionary and ethical leadership, the poor can be fed and secured. And when they feel a sense of security, anger among them will dissipate. And then, we will all live in a world where Prime Minister Modi et al find no reason to identify terrorism as the world’ biggest challenge. I rest my case.

* Monare is a freelance journalist and social commentator.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

Sunday Independent

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