8 July 2008
Secretary-General
SG/SM/11688

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘WE MUST ACT NOW’, TOGETHER AS ONE WORLD COMMUNITY, TO AVOID COLLAPSE OF FOOD


SECURITY, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN HOKKAIDO UNIVERSITY ADDRESS


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address at Hokkaido University in Japan, 8 July:


Saeki Hiroshi Gakucho.  Kyushokuin to gakusei no minasama ohayogozaimasu.  Watashi wa Kokuren Jimusocho no Ban Ki-moon desu.  Minasama ni omenikakarete koei desu.  [Dr. Hiroshi Saeki, President of Hokkaido University, distinguished faculty, dear students, good morning.  I am Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  It is an honour to meet all of you.]


I hope my United Nations staff has understood what I said.


I am delighted at this opportunity to address this highly informed and esteemed institution.  It is a special privilege to be here during your “sustainability weeks”, which bring together so many meaningful activities on environmental issues to coincide with the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit here in Hokkaido.


Endeavours such as yours -- to sustain, protect and improve lives and livelihoods on our planet -- have never been more important.  Today, the world is struggling with three major, interlinked crises: the global food crisis; climate change crisis; and a development crisis -- which we seek to address through the Millennium Development Goals, the vision agreed by all countries for a better world in the twenty-first century.


We can succeed in confronting these problems only if we act globally, with a common understanding, bringing together all key players: Governments, donors, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and academia.


And, we can succeed only if we act now.  If we do not take urgent steps to halt and reverse the current trend in rising food prices, the people who can least afford it will suffer the most.  Hunger and severe malnutrition will spread further.  With climate change already taking an erosive toll on our common humanity, it threatens to deepen the food crisis.  And, with food and fuel prices soaring, accelerating global inflation pressures, we risk losing ground in our race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), just as we pass the midpoint to the target date of 2015.


Let me focus today on the food challenge -- a subject where institutions like yours, Hokkaido University, have a crucial role to play.


We are already beginning to see the ripple effect of this crisis.  It is having the greatest impact on the most vulnerable countries and vulnerable people -- women and children, especially in Africa.  Yesterday, we had in-depth discussions under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Fukuda with many African leaders and G-8 leaders.  Ties between neighbouring States are being worn down, as those with food restrict the supply to those without. Ties between Governments and their citizens are coming under stress, as populations protest when they cannot sustain their standards of living.  Families are forced to make choices no family should have to face: a bowl of rice versus a visit to the doctor or school tuition.


This crisis is commonly labelled a crisis of high food prices.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food price index rose by 51 per cent in the last 12 months, and the world is expected to spend $215 billion more on food imports than in 2007.  But a closer examination reveals a much more serious structural crisis of food production and food security.


As this institution knows better than anybody else in the world, the world’s demand for food is rising.  By 2030, the World Bank estimates, world food demand will have risen by 50 per cent.  And by 2050, the world’s population will have increased by a third, to more than 9 billion.  At the same time, the energy, water and land needed for agricultural production are becoming increasingly scarce.


Already, there are more than 800 million hungry people in the world and over 3.5 million children die every year -- nearly 10,000 every day -- from hunger and malnutrition.  This is an unacceptable number.  In Asia alone, more than 1 billion people are seriously affected by the current surge in food and fuel prices, potentially sending tens of millions more into a life of struggle and want.


We must act now and together, responsibly, as one world community, for one shared humanity, to avoid a collapse of what food security the world enjoys today.  If we do not, we will pay an unacceptably high price.  As many as 100 million more people could become hungry.  Insecurity in low-income countries could spiral out of control.  The cost of intervening to address crises will rise.  Migration will increase.  Global inflation will worsen.  And we will see an erosion of economic opportunities and sustainable growth, including the gains made in recent years towards realizing the MDGs.


But, if we work together, with a sense of urgency, we have an opportunity to halt, and even reverse, these trends.  That is why, as Secretary General of the United Nations, I have convened a High-Level Task Force bringing together all key partners from the United Nations, the Bretton Woods Institutions and beyond.  These organizations, including the World Bank, IMF, WTO, FAO, WFP, IFAD and the OECD, have developed a joint and coherent plan to address the food crisis -- the Comprehensive Framework for Action.


This Comprehensive Framework for Action, the CFA, identifies short- and longer-term actions and policy shifts to provide urgently needed food assistance and safety nets to the most vulnerable, while at the same time improving food security, agricultural production and the functioning of food commodity markets.


We are working with Governments to ensure their vital support.  At last month’s World Food Security Conference in Rome we shared the key elements of the Framework.  Since then, we have worked with the G-8 countries to enlist their much needed engagement.  The Summit in Hokkaido provides an unprecedented opportunity for global leadership.  We need the G-8 leaders’ commitment and political will.  We need them to join a partnership for food and take the political, financial and economic steps needed to stop the global food crisis from deepening.


The steps are clear.


First, immediately, we must ensure that vulnerable populations are not left without urgent help in the midst of this emergency.  We do this by scaling up food assistance and other nutrition interventions; increasing predictable financial support for food aid; reducing restrictions on donor contributions; and exempting purchases of humanitarian relief food from export restrictions and added export taxes.  We may also need to establish a global reserve system for humanitarian food.


Second, we must act immediately to boost agricultural production this year.  We do this by providing urgently needed seeds and fertilizers for the upcoming planting cycles, especially for the world’s small-scale farmers.  There are 450 million of them, and counting their families, one third of the world population directly depends on smallholder yields.  It is high time to reverse the dramatic and deplorable downwards trend in agriculture’s share in official development assistance (ODA).  ODA has dropped from 18 per cent 20 years ago, to just around 3 per cent today.  I have urged the G-8 leaders and international donors to raise this portion of ODA to agriculture from 3 per cent to at least 10 per cent.  And they must honour the promise they made at Gleneagles in 2005 to increase overall ODA for Africa.


Third, we must improve fair trade and the free flow of markets, by reducing agricultural subsidies in G-8 countries.  The rise in agricultural commodity prices in low-income, food-insecure countries offers an opportunity to reallocate savings to agricultural investment.


Fourth, we must increase significantly investment in agriculture and rural development, so as to make it a viable sector of economy.  We do this by boosting public spending on agriculture and rural infrastructure.  And, we do it by providing more funding for agricultural research to improve productivity.  This will help attract the private sector investment needed for lasting productivity and income boosts in developing economies.


Fifth, we must strengthen global food commodity markets to meet the needs of all countries and people, particularly the poor, including by minimizing export restrictions and levies on food commodities to help stabilize food prices.  I call again for a rapid conclusion of the next World Trade Organization Doha Development Round, including a package on aid for trade for developing countries.


Sixth, G-8 countries and their partners must reassess subsidies and tariff protection for biofuel production.  It is true that biofuels will need to remain a part of the equation in our fight against climate change.  But we also need to establish an international consensus and agreed policy guidelines on ways to balance the development of biofuels with food production priorities.  This includes a reassessment of current subsidy and tariff policies.


In all these ways, the Hokkaido Summit is a potential turning point -- an opportunity to initiate actions and policy shifts on food security, and ensure the focus stays on global food security over the next two G-8 presidencies.  The High-Level Task Force will keep working with G-8 countries on implementing the actions and policy shifts identified in the Comprehensive Framework for Action by monitoring and tracking progress over the next 3-5 years, and to call for further adjustments where necessary.


And the Summit is a singular chance to show leadership on the related challenges, too.  Addressing climate change will be crucial for attaining food security for all.  As glaciers melt at an accelerated rate, water supplies are being put at risk.  And, for one third of the world’s population living in dry lands, shifting weather patterns caused by climate change threaten to exacerbate desertification and drought.


Much was achieved at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali last December.  We must press forward to achieve the agreement that the world expects and needs.  The G-8 and other developed countries must lead the way, given their historical responsibility for the bulk of carbon emissions.  With the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen less than 18 months away, the future of the planet is at risk.  We must negotiate a new, comprehensive agreement to be adopted in Copenhagen -- one that enters into force by the time the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.


I think the Japanese Government and people will have a very historical political responsibility again.  As the second largest economy, and the country which produced the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, you have a political responsibility to help move this negotiation.  You are the leaders of our future generation.  You will be responsible for the future.  The current generation, including myself, have a political responsibility to deliver, to handover this planet Earth to you -- a more hospitable, more environmentally sustainable world.  This is our commitment and responsibility.  I have been doing my best to galvanize political will.


Countries like Japan, who have financial and technological capacity and resources, must lead the campaign.  This is what I have been saying: the industrialized countries, including Japan, the United States and European countries, reflecting on the historical responsibility, they have to lead this campaign while helping developing countries to be able to overcome their challenges coming from the impacts they are feeling.  They have not contributed much to the global warming phenomenon.  But still, global warming does not distinguish between industrialized or poor developing countries.  The impact is being felt worldwide, globally.  But the measures which we have to take can be differentiated, on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities.  This is a basic principle.  And we must agree on a very balanced, inclusive and ratifiable treaty by the end of December next year in Copenhagen.  That is the responsibility of Japan as the President of G-8, and I count on your commitment.


At the same time, as we approach 2015, the Millennium Development Goals target, we are now going through the midpoint year -- exactly the midpoint, 2008 -- we must recommit ourselves to realizing these Millennium Development Goals, which were presented by world leaders as a blueprint for common prosperity of the world in the twenty-first century.  Among the eight Goals, maternal health is not only the slowest moving target; setbacks in this area hold back progress on many of the other Goals.  Equally unacceptably, malaria continues to kill at least 1 million people a year. And, 1 billion people -- one sixth of the world’s population -- suffer from one or more neglected tropical diseases.


Collectively, we know exactly what needs to be done to confront these global challenges.  We just have to do it.  We look to the G-8 and other donor Governments not only to deliver on agreed targets for official development assistance, particularly for Africa, and to help growth and development by cutting down on market-distorting tariffs and subsidies.  We look to them to focus on building comprehensive primary health care systems; ensuring universal access to reproductive and children’s health; mobilizing action against AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases in Africa, including by funding 120 million desperately needed insecticide-treated bednets.  If we push harder, we can end malaria deaths by 2010.  This can be done if we have the political will.  My Special Envoy and myself are working hard, very hard, to see the end of malaria deaths.


These interlinked global challenges require interconnected, collective efforts.  They cannot be addressed separately by individual ministries, organizations or institutions.  They require all of these to act together -- including the scientific leaders of today and tomorrow, such as all of you.  The United Nations is well placed to be the forum for bringing all these communities together around a shared global vision.


At the same time, they require political leadership at the highest level, which only the Group of Eight themselves can mobilize.  We have capacities, we have technological innovations.   Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries.  You have the financial resources.  The only thing lacking among the world leaders is political will.  If they decide to put their priorities -- national policy priorities -- on climate change, the global food crisis and the Millennium Development Goals, I think we can address all these global challenges for our future.


Let us hold them to their responsibilities.  For my part, I stand ready to continue playing my leadership role in advocating and coordinating our joint efforts.  And, I pledge to marshal the United Nations best resources to support the G-8 and other national Governments in this noble cause.


Let us join forces in our mission to build better lives and livelihoods on our planet, for today and tomorrow.  And I count on your commitment, initiative and leadership.


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For information media • not an official record