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Inter-disciplinary dialogue on world hunger: a summary of the workshop on goals, processes, and indicators of food and nutrition policy

Mitchel B. Wallerstein
Lecturer in International Nutrition, Massachusetts institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA


On 26 March 1979 a small workshop conference was convened in the United States at the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that, in some respects, constituted a new departure in interdisciplinary dialogue within the United Nations University. It marked the first time, for example, that one component of the UNU, the World Hunger Programme (WHP), entered into a substantive dialogue with another programmatic component, the Human and Social Development Programme (HSDP), on a subject of mutual interest. Moreover, it was the first time that one UNU Programme had invited another to provide assistance in conceptualizing the most effective goals and modalities for its work. It thus represented a first attempt at applying the approaches of one group to the research and training programmes of another.

In attendance at the Cambridge meeting were representatives of the Goals, Processes, and Indicators of Development (GPID) Project of the UNU Human and Social Development Programme as well as various invited guest scholars. The workshop was convened at the invitation of the UNU World Hunger Programme in order to define an acceptable set of goals, processes, and indicators of food and nutrition policy, and to forge a set of practicable recommendations for research and training. The basic notion was to combine the views of social scientists, who are concerned theoretically with the "development problématique," with the views of biological scientists, who are involved both theoretically and operationally with various aspects of human nutrition in order to generate a useful synthesis of approaches to the specific problem of world hunger.

Beyond the obvious procedural difficulties involved in attempting, for the first time, to undertake a new form of interdisciplinary and inter-programme communication, it must be recognized that the subject of world hunger is itself an extremely value-laden issue. Hunger affects human beings in a very real, life-and death sense, and its alleviation almost inevitably will require some degree of social, political, and economic change. Under these circumstances, it becomes impossible- and, in any case, inappropriate- to consider the topic in a detached and objective fashion. If the proposition is accepted that the alleviation of hunger requires certain fundamental alterations in the distribution of power and influence and resources, then it becomes necessary also to examine societal values- and the assumptions underlying those values- when formulating a programme of action to address the problématique of world hunger.

The fundamental difficulty that arises, however, is that no consensus exists regarding the values that should be employed in addressing the world hunger problématique and this dilemma was of principal concern to the workshop participants. In general terms, those representing the GPID Project argued that hunger and malnutrition are merely the most obvious symptoms of a much more complex set of societal issues that must be resolved before world hunger can be eliminated. Representatives of the WHP, while not seeking to refute the validity of the GPID approach, expressed a concern for what could or should be done in the meantime, while such fundamental societal changes were coming about, for the millions of people who are hungry now

This basic conflict between functional and structural approaches to the problem of world hunger was, perhaps, the most striking characteristic of the meeting. It meant, however, that the attainment of a facile consensus at the conclusion was neither anticipated nor achieved. Rather, the process made each group more aware of and sensitive to the values, vocabulary, and concerns of the other, and it may conceivably have inaugurated a critically important channel of communication between the two UNU Programmes


The specific impetus for the Workshop on Goals, Processes, and Indicators of Food and Nutrition Policy originated with a meeting of the WHP Advisory Committee in 1976. Based on their general recognition of the failure of the UN system to make significant progress toward improving the social (and particularly, the nutritional) situation of the poorest population groups in the developing world, the Advisory Committee expressed an interest in exploring how the "instruments of scholarship"* might be used to promote the search for effective solutions. It was further agreed that the WHP could obtain great potential benefit in this regard from more formal interaction with the GPID where efforts were already under way, under the auspices of the GPID Project, to come to grips with this problem.

Even under the most favourable intellectual circumstances, when there is a pre-existing consensus about the nature of the problem, inter-disciplinary dialogue is not an easy proposition. For one thing, communication is hampered by the fact that neither side can assume that the other has deep knowledge of the subject area. Moreover, what knowledge an individual does have may often be many years out of date, or may be coloured by inappropriate stereotypes.

Finally, beyond obvious terminology and vocabulary problems, there is the basic difficulty inherent in any human interaction: the matter of actually /listening to what a counterpart from another discipline is saying rather than arguing on the basis of preconceived ideas, impressions, or assumptions.

Much of the difficulty encountered in the inter-disciplinary process stems from the fact that participants operate on the basis of incongruent or non-intersecting paradigms. That is, the stocks of knowledge and world views possessed by each participant are likely to be different, and thus the basic assumptions- generally accepted commonalities- on which other, more complex arguments are based are often unrelated. Thomas Kuhn (1) has noted, for example, that among the reasons proponents of alternative paradigms are frequently unable to make complete contact with each other's views is the fact that they fail to agree even on the nature of the problem, much less on its causes or possible remedies. In addition, because their vocabulary is often so different, words that are defined in a certain way in one context may have an entirely different meaning, either explicit or implied, in another.

In terms of the workshop meeting, the net effect of these philosophical and procedural obstacles was that the process through which the participants attempted to delimit areas of agreement and to clarify areas of disagreement was at least as noteworthy as the substance of the debate itself.

The format of the four-day workshop was structured in such a manner as to promote better communication among the participants. Much of the first day, for example, was devoted primarily to background discussions in which the nature of the two participatory programmes was described, and the individual participants were given the opportunity to identify themselves and their research interests. From that point, the discussion became increasingly specific, moving in succeeding days from the consideration of general goals and broad processes to debate over the most appropriate goals, processes, and indicators for the World Hunger Programme. Participants also divided into small group discussions on each topic in order to promote the widest possible exchange of views.

The proceedings were aided further by the availability of a conceptual paper from the WHP (2), an issue paper from the Food Study Group of the GPID Sub-programme of the HSDP (3), as well as other written contributions, both solicited and unsolicited.** The WHP paper established the conceptual basis for both the programme and its sub-components. It stressed the multifactorial nature of the hunger and malnutrition problems, the need to involve a variety of relevant disciplines in addition to nutritional, food, and agricultural sciences (e.g., economics, political science, anthropology, systems analysis, and so on), and the important distinction between the need to produce more food and the need to increase the effective economic demand of the poor to purchase what food is already available.

The paper also emphasized that the WHP can only provide its advanced study fellows with a mix of intellectual tools, because the most appropriate solution (or solutions) will depend on specific national circumstances. Moreover, since the WHP sends no consultants or advisers, it was stressed that the intention is to promote the capacity of professionals in developing countries to make their own decisions in accordance with their own cultural, economic, political, and development frameworks. In sum, the emphasis of the paper was on action programmes of research and training that could be undertaken in the present - or immediate short-term future- in response to a clear and pressing human need.

The contribution of the Food Study Group of the GPID Project took an entirely different approach to the problem of hunger and malnutrition and thus provided a good illustration of the two contrasting approaches. It argued that the food problem was neither one of "production" nor one of "distribution," but rather, "one of resource allocation which occurs through the market and of a perverse set of priorities which result in production for the rich, wherever they live." The paper criticized the "tendency of Western development planners and of Third World nationals trained in their methods . . . to take a piecemeal approach towards hunger alleviation . . . instead of seeing the food problem as a function of a chain, or system . . . ," and it stated categorically that "the central issue of the whole food system has not been confronted: the question of control" (emphasis in the original).

The paper argued that control over one aspect of the food system tends to lead inevitably to control over other aspects as well. Consequently, it indicated that the involvement of transnational forces such as the multi-national corporations (MNC) in the food systems of the Third World encourages the transfer of "a dominant model which, over time, will tend to become unique as it blots out and absorbs the rich variety of peasant practices" (emphasis in the original).. It proposed that the adoption of the dominant model by less-developed country governments has led to a series of "disastrous social consequences." "The gravest among them is the accelerating dissolution of self-provisioning agriculture both as a major element in peasant farming and as a subsistence base of the poorer rural strata- the prime victims of hunger."

The general thrust of the GPID paper is very much in keeping with recent thinking regarding the "development problématique" (4 - 6), which emphasizes the "holistic approach," a process by which a large number of variables are considered simultaneously. Moreover, the new "development problématique," sometimes referred to as "another development," rejects the growth model of development adhered to in the industrialized world and argues instead for improving the quality of people's lives as the essence of the development undertaking. Thus, as Wignaraja (4) points out, bringing out people's creativity and potential and transforming this energy into the means of production is both the means and the end of development.

This approach fundamentally rejects the notion of the human being as an "ambulatory needs package" where the task of development is simply to create a corresponding set of need satisfiers, and it is essentially at this point that the GPID conception of the "food problématique" diverges from that advocated by the WHP. Both views, of course, emphasize the need for local solutions to local problems. But,, whereas the WHP is oriented toward the identification and amelioration of specific needs (e.g., nutritional deficiencies, post-harvest food losses, etc.), the GPID Project proposes that few (if any) effective, long-term developmental consequences can be obtained by viewing and acting upon such needs apart from the broader context of social, cultural, economic, and political issues with which they are inextricably bound.

Left unanswered in this approach, however, is a critical question, posed most succinctly in a supplemental paper prepared for the workshop, for "How does one enter into the reality?" As the paper stated, "'Holism' is a concept with an infinite capacity of extension and meanings but needs to be operationalized. Real problems are the expresion of actual processes in given conditions and have to be tackled with action rather than words, once they are properly understood" (emphasis in the original). This constant requirement for a "reality check," assessing the translation of theory into practice, was a consistent theme throughout the course of the meeting.

Yet another common concern expressed in both the GPID and WHP contributions are the questions: What is research? Who does it? To serve whose purpose and interests? Because the workshop proceeded from the premise that the "instruments of scholarship" were the only operative mechanisms available within the UNU context, questions involving the formulation, conduct, dissemination, and control of research and training (which is itself shaped by the existing stock of knowledge) become critical.

As one participant commented, "research is not value-tree and is never neutral. The political implications of research which runs contary to the interest of the existing power structure have been amply demonstrated." Thus, the issue of control of and access to information, particularly by disenfranchised and largely powerless groups, constituted yet another central question for the workshop participants. How should research objectives be formulated so that those who are the object of the research become an integral part of the process and benefit directly from the results?


The discussion of general goals for food and nutrition policy departed from the point of most obvious agreement among workshop participants: namely, that the food problem is extremely complex and not subject to simplistic solutions. Although this was hardly a startling revelation, it served to underscore certain other, more subtle points. One was the striking similarities between problems in food and nutrition and problems in other development sectors, such as public health. This, in turn, suggested that the need for a holistic approach is by no means confined to the food and nutrition policy area.

A second point concerned the danger that, in the process of rejecting the notion of the simplistic "technological fix" in the context of holism, an inappropriate approach might be adopted toward the use of technology in general. It was emphasized that technology in and of itself is not necessarily incompatible with holism, but that its application must be considered in relation to the other alternatives available.

This latter point was touched upon again in one of the workshop presentations where it was noted that the socalled "interventionist" approach often does not work. Used in this sense, an "interventionist" methodology is meant to refer to the notion that any problem could be solved with the right combination of technology, capital, and persistence. Rejection of the interventionist concept led logically to the idea that nutritional considerations should be an explicit component of overall development planning so that the inter-relatedness of public health, population planning, and various other factors could be accounted for.

A second presentation on general goals for food and nutrition policy underscored the distinction between two types of malnutrition that must be addressed in policy planning: clinical malnutrition - i.e., that related to specific nutrient deficiencies such as vitamins, iron, or iodine in a particular geographic area- and poverty-related malnutrition. While it is clear what role the nutritionist can play in the former, amelioration of the latter situation is far more complex.

This led to wider discussion of the need for priority-setting as to what could realistically be accomplished, particularly in view of the continuing shortage of financial resources for development projects. The matter of adequate availability of financial resources was considered critical to the central notion of holistic development. Some suggested that it made little sense to direct energy into a comprehensive approach to poverty if the necessary political and social preconditions for a major resource commitment did not exist. In such unfavourable circumstances, a more narrow, targeted approach appeared more viable, while simultaneous efforts are being made to redirect a country's development policies and priorities.

The discussion on general goals concluded with consideration of the need for a research function in the holistic approach; research specifically on how the goals of development are formulated. It was emphasized that goalsetting was a part of the broader political process in which the existing power structure will naturally try to maintain control and that food-related goals must not be treated separately from other societal ends. It was suggested that if the poor were considered the subject of the goal-planning process rather than the object, then food-related goals would be formulated as only one of many human rights.


At the outset of the discussion on processes, the artificial separation between goals and processes was deemed incompatible with the holistic approach, since both are determined in large part by the same interacting factors and circumstances. The term processes, as employed commonly by the workshop participants, was meant to denote the sum of actions (collective and individual), actors (institutional and individual), and issues that advance or impede the evolution of food and nutrition policy. In terms of action processes, for example, the efforts of nutritionists might be divided typically into three categories or levels: (i) emergency actions- situations of acute famine, chronic malnutrition, and/or high morbidity/ mortality; (ii) preventive actions- situations involving prophylactic measures; and (iii) structural actions- situations requiring major societal change, as in the redistribution of wealth. In the past, nutritionists have generally confined their efforts to categories one and two, but they are now becoming increasingly aware of their role in category three.

A fundamental issue underlying the historical search by nutritionists for an effective modus operandi is the question of the proper role for the intellectual/research community in addressing the third level of action, structural change in society. This can be expressed generally in the notion of the scholar as a social actor, a concept emphasized heavily by the GPID Project. Due to the nature of the food problématique, nutritionists cannot reasonably expect simply to study the problem of hunger without also becoming involved in its alleviation.

Despite the possible methodological difficulties inherent in adopting an activist role, there was general agreement that the time had come for nutritionists, health professionals, and others working at the village level to involve themselves as advocates for those who are disenfranchised and lacking in information. To many, steeped in the traditions of Western science, such an advocacy role is anathema. But some participants agreed that the failure of the scientific/ intellectual community to abandon the position of neutral observer was tantamount to a tacit capitulation to the status quo.

It was suggested, for example, that anthropologists have a major role to play in the "consciousizing" (or consciousness-raising) process. The resources of anthropology have barely been tapped regarding the social and cultural processes at work at the village level, and the possibilities for inducing a greater degree of individual participation in development. Often, it was noted, the well-meaning "outside intervener," despite vast technical knowledge, does "positive harm" through his/her efforts because of failure to understand the dynamics of life at the local level.

This led to an important discussion of the problem of experts attempting to function outside of their specific field of expertise. Criticism was voiced both by the biological and social scientists regarding the inevitable charges of dilettantism when an individual becomes involved professionally in an area in which he/she has inadequate background. For example, as one participant noted, "Nutritionists are not trained as social engineers. They are not trained as revolutionaries. They need to understand the role and the importance of all the things being discussed at this meeting, but ultimately we have to determine what is an appropriate role for the individuals associated with nutrition and nutrition research."

Discussion of the question of the political and economic organization of societies was also a central process concern; more specifically, the comparative possibilities for eliminating hunger under capitalism versus socialism. It was proposed that the two basic means available for a country to get out of the hunger syndrome were either to be on the top of the "capitalist pyramid," meaning that it possessed the means to control, in this case, the allocation of agricultural surpluses, or to reject the capitalist path in favour of some more egalitarian form of societal resource distribution, namely socialism. The elimination of hunger in the People's Republic of China was achieved, according to this view, ". . . because seventy thousand communes controlled an amazing proportion of the surplus." But one individual also warned that, as the PRC attempts to expand its GNP through an aggressive new development plan, the control of surplus will be taken away from the communes in order to pay their rapidly growing external debt, and hunger will reappear once again, perhaps within five years. Experience in other socialist countries such as Cuba and Tanzania was similarly noted and compared.

The alternative to pursuing a socialist path, where control of the production and distribution of resources ;is shared, ;is to adhere to a capitalist growth model wherein rapidly rising GNP (and thus, per capita income) provides the means to improve the individual standard of living. A number of specific situations, e.g., Taiwan and South Korea, were discussed that are frequently held out as successful examples of capitalistic development. It was questioned, however, whether even in these countries the rural poor have benefitted from the heavy emphasis on industrialization.

There was also a broader treatment of capitalism as a transnational force, and a number of interventions were highly critical of the role of the transnational corporation (TNC) as a transfer mechanism for the "dominant model" (i.e., high technology, non-labour-intensive). A frequently cited example is the fact that, in many countries, the best agricultural lands are reserved for the production of export crops. Moreover, the TNCs are interested in maintaining power in the hands of the country's elite, who characteristically tend to identify far more with the interests of the foreign corporation than with the needs of the poor within their own nation.

A number of individuals emphasized their feeling that, at the root of the problem, was the issue of power and social control; not only the control of surplus or utilization of farm land, but control of the entire food system. It was pointed out that control over one aspect of the food chain leads almost inevitably to control over other aspects, so that if one element is in outside (i.e., foreign) hands, other elements will tend to follow. The example was cited of the whole range of Green Revolution technologies (e.g., seeds, cultivation, storage, etc.), that were stated generally to be available only through import by the TNCs.

It was proposed that, once the broad historical processes are understood, it then becomes appropriate to determine real strategies for development- and presumably for research- that will affect the nature of the society. This must take account of the social forces operative at all different levels and how they interact. At the end of this process, research might then be directed toward assisting the social groups that are malnourished - and also powerless -- to obtain the kind of information they need to improve their bargaining power (i.e., knowing better what to ask for), and hence the nature and terms of their incorporation.

The notion of nutritional research oriented toward improving the bargaining power of the poor was strongly endorsed by many of the workshop participants. Some offered examples of how anthropologists had already functioned in this very capacity, while others spoke to the specific problem of nutritionists operating at the village level to improve the knowledge and capabilities of those directly at risk. The general discussion of processes terminated by returning to the need for research that can provide short-term solutions to aid people who are starving - and dying now.


Consideration of the most useful indicators of change (both positive and negative) in food and nutrition policy was introduced through a number of general comments about the difficulty of deriving adequate and meaningful indicators. Some felt that, while the entire field of social indicators is in disarray, the actual implementation of indicators is not nearly as important as the process of formulating them. Thinking about indicators demands precision, and it tends to stimulate the summarization of a large number of variables.

Regarding process indicators in general, there was basic agreement on the need first to identify processes within specific contexts, then to isolate groups affected by the process, and finally, to understand people's perceptions of the problem. It was emphasized, however, that it is necessary to distinguish between process indicators for specific nutrition planning and interventions on the one hand, and a much broader range of indicators for international food and nutrition policy on the other. The former was viewed as having only limited utility, while the latter was considered central to the concern of the WHP.

The workshop was presented with an extensive list of indicators for monitoring specific processes in food and nutrition policy. These included: (i) indicators for the distribution of power or, as expressed earlier in the meeting, control over the distribution of surplus; (ii) indicators of the level of self-provisioning agriculture and of whether food is produced and consumed at the micro level in small communities or at the macro level through large, transnational mechanisms; (iii) indicators of the variety of the foodstuffs grown, since as food production cycles become larger and more centralized, there is increased vulnerability to reduction in food diversity; and (iv] indicators of the orientation of bureaucratic perceptions of the goals and processes of food development both at the national and international levels.

The workshop recognized that indicators of specific goals must include measures of individual attitudes and social system states as well as physiological measures of nutritional well being and health. Some indicators, of course, do not lend themselves to easy or precise quantification, but it was argued that so called "qualitative" indicators can be scaled to some degree in order to be useful in assessing change. It was also noted that indicators are not goals in themselves, but are expressions of reality (e.g., the number of telephones per 10,000 inhabitants).

Special goal indicators identified by the group that have proved valuable in the evaluation of base-line conditions and in the diagnosis of hunger and malnutrition include (in order of sensitivity): mortality, morbidity, and anthropometric indices of growth and development. Indicators for the prevention of malnutrition are best reflected by the same indicators but in reverse order. All three types of indicators, and especially anthropometric standards, such as weight, also function as surrogates for an entire constellation of social conditions- both intra-family and intra-community- that are most usefully measured among the bottom 10 per cent of the socio-economic strata. It was generally argued, however, that specific goal indicators of social change and of the overall quality of life are still extremely crude and unreliable. In order to be more appropriate, such indicators would need to be generated endogenously in a manner that was locally applicable while not culturally biased.

The need was emphasized for social science indicators as "predictors of hunger," particularly from a public health perspective. The social science community was urged to focus on "early-warning indicators" such as the impact of disrupted marriage unions or the manner in which the macro processes are manifested at the micro level. Other suggestions for early-warning social science indicators concerned the process of industrialization (particularly in extractive industries) and the rate and type of urbanization.


When the workshop discussion turned ultimately to the matter of formulating specific goals for the World Hunger Programme, one participant set the situation in clear perspective: "What can we do next on the world hunger problem? Do we just set a list of researchable areas under the heading Food and Nutrition Policy, or do we really set up some mechanisms by which the whole food problématique can be re-examined before we put down 'what' research, 'who' research, and 'where' research, or 'what' training and 'where' training, and so on?" There appeared to be wide agreement that, of necessity, this broader involvement, linking food and nutrition to overall human development, represented the most useful course of action for the WHP.

A certain amount of disagreement was evident, however, in the consideration of goals. One the one hand, some viewed the food problématique as merely one complex of issues involved in development and argued that the WHP should be concerned more with treating the structural causes of the problem than its "symptoms" (i.e., hunger and malnutrition). Other participants, however, found it generally difficult to accept such amorphous, long-term goals - no matter how correct they might be in theory- as actionable by the WHP, given the current severity of the problem.

This conceptual difficulty led to a general recognition that the work of the social and biological sciences need not be compartmentalized either in terms of the time frame (i.e., short-term vs. Iong-term)) or in terms of areas of responsibility (i.e., local, national, international levels). It was agreed that two-way linkages are necessary up and down the chain of causality between the situation investigated by the nutritionist at the village level and the impacts of national and external forces studied by the social scientists.

Some workshop participants pointed out that the WHP clearly does not have it within its power to ensure that every person has enough food. It was agreed that, at the present stage, the UNU Programme should seek instead to establish broad goals for research and training designed to expand the stocks of knowledge regarding the food problématique. The notion of food security was proposed as the most explicit and useful broad-based goal, and it was suggested, in fact, that the name "World Food Security Programme" might make a better title for the Programme, especially when translated from English.

Discussion shifted to the unique, semi-autonomous position of the UNU and to the advantages inherent in the concept of "networking." It was noted, for example, that the GPID Project now involved a network of 27 different institutions in developed and developing countries. It was proposed that the WHP could develop a similar networking system that would facilitate more comprehensive exploration of food and nutrition policy and that would help "to create a ferment," carrying other individuals and institutions along at the end of the research.

Little general agreement was reached regarding specific research goals for the WHP beyond the need to eliminate hunger and to understand more fully the question of the world food system, particularly its relationship to national, regional, and local food systems. Rather, it was noted that specific goals will tend to vary with needs in each region. Moreover, it was emphasized that, since most important decisions are made by governments, it is essential to design realistic goals for the WHP that are at least somewhat compatible with the constraints under which governments must operate.


In the final stages of the workshop, consideration was given to the implications of the workshop discussions both for the UNU in general and for the World Hunger Programme in particular. It was suggested that the UNU has a special role to play within the United Nations system, since it is neither an operational line agency nor a funding agency in the strictest sense. The UNU does, of course, disseminate money, but its main purpose is to function as catalyst, knitting together research institutions all over the world in order to question existing stocks of knowledge and to generate new information and, it is hoped, new solutions.

Thus, the role of the UNU is clearly different from that of other universities. While all universities can invoke the shield of academic freedom (at least in theory) to protect the objectivity of research and training, the UNU derives special benefit from the fact that it is subservient to no individual sovereign state. Two other features of this arrangement should also be noted. First, the global nature of the UNU organization promotes the notion of inter-institutional networking on broad substantive issues. Second, the UNU framework facilitates the initiation of trans-disciplinary dialogues on matters of mutual interest among scholars from different fields (e.g., the present workshop on food and nutrition policy).

Some interesting and provocative questions were raised during this discussion regarding the specific role and objectives of the WHP. Some wondered whether, despite the supposed neutrality of the UNU, the WHP is sufficiently detached from the politics of its affiliated institutions. It was reiterated, for example, that there is no such thing as value free research and that the WHP must guard against the situation where nutrition research serves the dominant class either by standardizing diets, promoting commercialized foods, or increasing the dependency of less developed countries on external food sources. Representatives of the WHP responded by acknowledging these dangers, but underscoring the fact that there is an urgent need for short-term solutions to aid populations at high nutritional risk who are now starving (and dying) needlessly.

The discussion of the proper research orientation for the WHP led directly to the matter of training. It was pointed out that, just as research is not value free, so too, training can have an ideological component. For this reason, a number of participants worried about whether those being selected for training as UNU Fellows were from the elite strata of their societies and were, in some cases, being trained in elite Western institutions. This raised the possibility that the WHP might be facilitating the transfer of the "dominant model" through its training, which helps to perpetuate dependency relationships. The stated WHP policy on this matter is to expose its students to a broad range of ideological and disciplinary perspectives. Many participants urged especially that the Programme not shy away from having its students raise and examine highly sensitive issues, such as the matter of social control and incorporation of the peasant.

Finally, many of the most significant outcomes of the workshop bear repeating as guidelines for the establishment of future WHP research priorities. Research needs mentioned with most frequency included: (i) the need for greater sensitization to the moral aspects of food and nutrition issues; (ii) the need to study and learn from the results obtained in non-capitalist countries; (iii) the need to understand the impacts on society and the individual caused by the passage from pre-industrial to industrial socio-economic status; (iv) the need to ensure that the poor are incorporated into the industrial process on the most favourable terms; (v) the need to expand the power of the poor and their control of surplus; and (vi) the role of transnational interests in food and nutrition, including the transnational corporations and UN line agencies.

Clearly, the approach to the food problématique adopted by the GPID Project has many features that are relevant and useful to the formulation of goals and goal indicators for the WHP. But it was recognized that the World Hunger Programme must still forge its own goals. It was also pointed out that there is much to be learned in this regard from the experience and mistakes of other UN agencies that are directly involved in combatting hunger and malnutrition. The WHP must also learn to exploit more fully the unique advantages of the UN University: academic freedom, an endowment free of the politics of the annual appropriations process, and the capacity to view problems holistically.

In many respects, the availability of the UNU forum provides a unique opportunity to bring together those with widely divergent world views with the hope that, by focusing attention on a common problem, the results produced might be synergistic in nature; i.e., they will represent more than the sum of either group's collective wisdom. Indeed, it may be concluded from the outcome of this first experiment in the conduct of a trans-disciplinary dialogue on the subject of world hunger that substantial promise exists for similar UNU endeavors in the future.


1. T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1962).

2. N.S. Scrimshaw, "Conceptual Basis of the World Hunger Programme, " Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 1 (4) 1 (1979).

3. S. George, rapporteur, "An Issues Paper- Contributed by the Food Study Group of the GPID Project," HSDRGPID-2/UNUP 54 (United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan, 1979).

4. P. Wignaraja, "From Village to the Global Order- Elements in a Conceptual Framework for 'Another Development,' Development Dialogue, 1: 35 - 48 (1977).

5. B. Hettne and P. Wallensteen, "Emerging Trends in Development Theory," Report from a SAREC Workshop, R 3 (1978).

6. UNRISD, Social Development and the International Development Strategy, Report No. 79: 2 (Geneva, 1979).

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