25 September 2008

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



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening remarks to a high-level evening event on the food and climate change crises, in New York today, 25 September:

I am delighted to welcome everyone to this evening event after a long day of meetings and I appreciate the opportunity to break the fast with many of you.  I am pleased that we have come together tonight to discuss concrete solutions for two of the key challenges of our and future generations: the ongoing global food crisis and climate change.

The elements of tonight’s modest meal have been selected with these crises in mind.  Most of the food has been grown locally to minimize the carbon footprint, and the size of the portion itself is meant to serve as a very small reminder of the scarcity of food many families around the world face every day.

On the global food crisis, the bad news first: the global food crisis is far from over.  In fact, commodity prices remain significantly higher than in previous years.  Rice, for example, is still 133 per cent higher than at this time last year.

As a result, the number of vulnerable people is continuing to increase.  United Nations data suggest that an additional 75 million people have slid into hunger due to the food crisis, lifting the total figure now to well above 900 million.  The nutritional status of many poor, among them millions of children, is further declining.  A moral outrage in my view.

Indeed the situation may get worse: the world’s population will grow by one third over the next 40 years, world food demand will double within that same time frame, water insecurity in all parts of the world will increase dramatically, and so will the effects of land degradation and climate change.

The poor and hungry of this world are looking at us for leadership and solutions.  We must not fail them.  The cost of inaction -- even in what may constitute tough economic times -- will be devastating, and the effects will be felt all over the world in the form of sharp increases in migration, social and political instability, losses of investment opportunities and stunted economic growth.

We must, therefore, reverse the negative trend of chronic underinvestment into the agricultural sector, strengthen markets and improve fair trade and ensure that those 400 million smallholder farmers around the world will benefit from our efforts.

With this in mind, my High-Level Task Force colleagues and I have made concrete policy proposals aimed at improving food security and advancing on the climate change challenge.  These are concrete actions that we can and should resolve to do urgently.  We must hold ourselves and each other accountable for making real progress.  I look forward to our discussion.

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For information media • not an official record