14 July 2008
SG/SM/11695/Rev. 1*

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



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the thematic segment of the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean, in Paris on 13 July:

It is a great pleasure for me to join you on the occasion of the launching of the Union for the Mediterranean.  This new initiative has the potential to bridge diverse and dynamic regions and to establish links between crucial cross-cutting challenges.  I commend President [Nicolas] Sarkozy for his initiative.

We have entered an era in which the problems -- development, food security, water and energy -- are unprecedented and interdependent.  While the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals was fixed at 2015, at the midpoint, a large number of countries are not even close to achieving a single Goal.  The astronomical cost of fuel is threatening world growth and, hence, our ability to continue to lift the poor out of poverty.

These issues are too big and too complex for any one country or Government to address on its own.  Instead, they require concerted and collective effort of the kind envisioned by the new Union for the Mediterranean.  Your initiative brings together a diversity of cultures, experiences and world views that is, I believe, fundamental to any effort to understand and address today’s transnational problems.

The global food crisis is one such challenge.  It requires us to act now and together to increase food security in the Mediterranean region and in the world.  If we do not act now, we will pay an unacceptably high price.

Last month, world leaders -- including many who are here today -- gathered in Rome to pledge $6 billion to supply emergency aid to feed the poorest and to develop long-term solutions to the food crisis.  These pledges must now be turned into immediate food assistance, as well as seeds, fertilizer and irrigation for smallholder farmers in countries worst affected by the food crisis.

It is also high time to reverse the dramatic and deplorable downward trend in investment in agriculture and rural infrastructure.  On 8 July, President Sarkozy and other G-8 leaders committed to reversing the overall decline of aid and investment in the agricultural sector.

I have urged G-8 leaders and international donors to build on this commitment and raise the proportion of official development assistance (ODA) to agriculture from 3 per cent to at least 10 per cent.  Supporting greater investment in agriculture and rural infrastructure is critical to improving food security.  I urge European countries to help us realize this goal.

Similarly, Europe can also support the world’s farmers by minimizing export restrictions and levies on food commodities, and reducing agricultural subsidies and thereby freeing new resources for agricultural investment in low-income, food-insecure countries.

Of course, advances in agricultural output can only be sustained by simultaneously addressing another looming crisis -- the challenge of securing safe and plentiful water for all.

High population growth, unsustainable consumption, pollution and poor management all threaten the world’s clean water sources.  Now, climate change is making a bad situation worse.

Addressing climate change has become crucial to promoting food and water security for all.  We need to increase investments in cleaner, more sustainable energy sources that can sustain global growth while reducing carbon emissions.  We must also help developing countries “green” their economies by spreading climate-friendly technologies as broadly as possible.  Above all, we must negotiate a new, comprehensive agreement on climate change to be adopted in Copenhagen in December 2009 -- one that enters into force by the time the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

It is true that we are facing an emergency situation in respect of development; however, if the international community acts together, we can still make up for lost time and set off on the right track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  A judicious combination of programmes and adequate resources would allow such a turnaround to happen.

I urge you to combine your efforts, to show creativity and to act boldly.  The future of our planet is, literally, in your hands.  I very much look forward to hearing your ideas on these issues.

* *** *


*     Reissued to include text translated from French.

For information media • not an official record