|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
19th, 20th & 21st Meetings (AM & PM)
Nobel Laureate’s Pessimistic Look at Global Prospects Warns of ‘Economic Suicide’
Risk in Briefing to Second Committee, Economic and Social Council
Delegates Take up Agenda Item ‘Agriculture Development and Food Security’
A Nobel Laureate’s pessimistic appraisal of global economic prospects at Headquarters today included a warning that the current emphasis on austerity in policy responses to the world financial crisis was not only failing to solve its underlying causes but might actually amount to “economic suicide”.
Meeting jointly to hear a briefing on “The global economic situation and sovereign debt crisis”, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and the Economic and Social Council heard Joseph Stiglitz, Professor of International Affairs at Columbia University and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, emphasized that austerity was not the answer.
He said there were four reasons why the United States had gone from having a large surplus a decade ago to such a large deficit — tax cuts for the rich, two expensive wars, the structure of deals in the pharmaceutical industry, and the recession. Reversing those problems would stimulate the economy, he stressed, while austerity measures were likely to exacerbate the situation across the world. He also underlined the need for fiscal stimulus in the form of higher taxation and increased Government spending, saying that spending would create jobs, and that even a dollar increase in taxation could boost gross national product (GNP) by $2 or $3.
He said that, although there was an agenda that could return the global economy to good health — one focused on helping in the short and long term, with policies encouraging investment and addressing inequality, climate change and other major long-term problems — a competing agenda aimed at making society more unequal. Furthermore, many of the problems that had caused the crisis remained, he said, warning that “too-big-to-fail” banks, bad accounting practices and lack of transparency remained prevalent, in addition to non-transparent, over-the-counter derivatives.
Underscoring the importance of interdependence, he pointed out that the effects of the subprime mortgage crisis, having started in the United States, had infected Europe and were now being exported back to the United States. Having bought 40 per cent of its “toxic” mortgages, Europe had prevented the United States from getting into serious trouble, he added.
The European debt crisis could be solved by States working cohesively, together, he said, cautioning that a refusal to do so would increase the likelihood of a serious global problem. He noted that Spain’s credit rating had been downgraded immediately after adopting austerity measures, and if other European States followed suit, they would all get weaker and interdependence would ensure everyone was affected.
When the crisis had struck, the dominant idea had been that repairing faults in the financial sector was all that was necessary, he recalled. Money had been poured into the banks without conditions, but instead of fixing their problems, they had paid out bonuses and dividends. Now the banking system was somewhat repaired but the economy as a whole remained at risk, marked by high unemployment. It was necessary to look back to the state of the economy before the crisis, he said, noting that an artificial bubble had been sustaining it and that the savings rate was down to zero, with the bottom 80 per cent of United States citizens spending 110 per cent of their incomes. “That which is unsustainable will not be sustained,” he warned.
In the ensuing discussion, he responded to questions about policy choices and the particular challenges faced by developing countries. He said investment and assistance were especially necessary in least developed countries, but the financial markets were not pushing the necessary resources in their direction.
He also noted that, since their founding, the Bretton Woods institutions had not kept pace with the global economy’s expansion and the shift in the global economic balance of power. Their governance had not changed or adapted quickly enough and it was time to rethink the global economic architecture, he said. It was also important to place emphasis on trade, he said, adding that the European Union and the United States had reneged on their development commitments.
Responding to a question from a representative of the European Union delegation, he said regional leaders had also recognized that austerity was not the answer and that some other form of assistance was needed. The main problem was that politics and economics were not travelling in the same direction. Implementation was slow, while democracy and the financial markets moved at different speeds.
Describing the construct of the European Union as “out of touch” with the unbridled financial markets that had been set loose, he said the bloc needed fiscal union to tackle the problems of individual countries because the common currency required more than just a trading union to operate effectively. The European Central Bank was currently geared to deal with an economic “fad problem” from the 1970s, he added.
Co-chairing the event were Abbulkalam Abdul Momen ( Bangladesh), Chair of the Second Committee, and Lazarous Kapambwe ( Zambia), President of the Economic and Social Council. The Moderator was Rob Vos, Director of the Development Policy Analysis Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Other delegates participating in the interactive discussion included representatives of Bangladesh, Venezuela, Nepal and Liberia.
Also participating were representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
Following the presentation, the Committee took up its agenda item on agriculture development and food security, with several delegates stressing the importance of developing strong and productive agricultural sectors to fuel growth and strengthen food security.
Nepal’s representative, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that inadequate financial resources, underinvestment in infrastructure and lack of technology, compounded by the prevalence of subsistence farming and dependence on primary-commodity exports and imported food and fuel, challenged the livelihoods of 70 per cent of people in the world’s poorest nations, who depended on agriculture.
Guyana’s representative, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that regional body was addressing the constraints inhibiting the growth of agriculture through the “Jagdeo Initiative”, which elaborated priorities for transformation. At the heart of the Initiative was the need to substantially boost the domestic production and consumption of agricultural products, and to move into high-value products for niche markets at all levels.
Several other delegates also underlined the importance of fruitful negotiations on the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations. Argentina’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noting the severe harm that subsidies and other trade-distorting measures by developed countries had caused developing-world agriculture sectors, limiting their ability to contribute meaningfully to poverty eradication, rural development and sustainable, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth.
Morocco’s representative said the failure to improve the lives of many in developing countries meant that the Millennium Declaration’s commitment to halve the number of people affected by hunger by 2015 was unlikely to be met. That reality was dramatic and tragic as the international community lagged behind the objective it had set itself.
Bolivia’s representative, echoing calls for a response to the famine in the Horn of Africa, noted the role of the United Nations in promoting food security, saying her delegation would present a draft resolution on the proclamation of 2013 as the Year of Quinoa, due not only to that crop’s properties but also because of the contribution it could make to combating hunger and malnutrition.
Senegal’s representative also emphasized the international dimension, saying that because food-security governance was so poorly suited to the current economic situation, a world body should be created to manage food stocks. Senegal was working closely with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to increase integration at the subregional and regional levels, he added.
India’s representative, meanwhile, called on the international community to improve regulation of the world commodities markets, where a recent surge in the flow of speculative capital into agricultural commodity markets, coupled with an increase in the number of futures contracts and excessive speculation, had led to higher prices and volatility in the market.
In other business, Argentina’s representative introduced, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, a number of draft resolutions and decisions on several agenda items before the Committee.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s report for the Committee’s consideration was the Chief of the Global Policy Branch in theDivision for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Other speakers today were representatives of Indonesia (speaking for the Association of South-East Asian Nations), European Union, Russian Federation, Sudan, Cuba, United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Mexico, Bangladesh, China, Singapore, Nicaragua, Ukraine and Afghanistan.
A representative of the European Union delegation also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 25 October, to conclude its consideration of agriculture development and food security.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to take up its agenda item on agriculture and development and food security.
Before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on Agriculture development and food security: progress on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit on Food Security (document A/66/277) dated 8 August 2011, which emphasizes that efforts to reduce the number and proportion of people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition have been made more difficult by higher and more volatile food and fuel prices, political conflict and persistent underinvestment in agriculture, food and nutrition. Many countries lack the social safety nets necessary to avert disasters such as the famine currently affecting Somalia, it says, adding that long-term investment in sustainable development is not happening quickly enough.
Country-led responses supported by the international community must be intensified to meet internationally agreed targets by 2015, the report stresses, calling in particular for greater national-level efforts to implement the decisions of the seventeenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. It notes that agriculture development and food security will remain high on the international agenda in 2011, and the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) provides a global opportunity to focus on the implications of the “green economy” in that regard.
The report recommends that the promotion of “green” or “climate-smart” enhancements to food production must be complemented by efforts to ensure access to food and sustainable development pathways. It also highlights existing efforts to link agriculture and food and nutrition security with the green economy theme. While it is still possible to halve the world’s hungry by 2015, that will require a comprehensive approach and a concerted effort by the international community, focused on scaling up successful approaches to sustainable development, mobilizing all stakeholders and ensuring the fulfilment of funding pledges, the report states.
Committee members also had before them a letter dated 1 June 2011 (document A/66/87) from the Permanent Representative of Namibia, transmitting to the Secretary-General the text of four resolutions adopted by the 124th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Panama City from 15 to 20 April 2011.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General (document A/66/76-E/2011/102) transmitting a note by the Chair of the Committee on World Food Security on progress towards reforming that body.
ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh), Chair of the Second Committee, described the global challenges posed by the financial crisis, noting that globalization had increased opportunities but also made countries more vulnerable to external financial and economic shocks. Financial meltdown in one part of the world had morphed into a global crisis affecting all countries, and the pace of that spread showed the interconnection of the world economy, he noted.
Most developing countries would fail to realize the Millennium Development Goals, he continued, pointing out that official development assistance (ODA) was declining and funding from innovative sources and the private sector was failing to meet expectations or bridge the gap. Calling for strong commitment to meeting financing promises, he said the watchwords were “implementation and financing”.
Describing the current meltdown as a new type of crisis, he explained that the private debt problems of the past had been replaced by sovereign debt problems. The combination of global slowdown and ongoing global financial turmoil and uncertainty could further impede efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, increasing frustration and reducing the capacity to realize the Millennium Development Goals.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ, Professor of International Affairs at Columbia University and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, said he was “fairly pessimistic” about the direction in which the world economy was moving and current policies. Global interdependence could clearly be seen in the subprime mortgage crisis, which, having started in the United States, had infected Europe and was now being exported back to the United States. Having bought 40 per cent of its “toxic” mortgages, Europe had prevented the United States from getting into serious trouble, he said.
When the crisis had struck, the dominant idea had been that repairing faults in the financial sector was all that was necessary, he recalled. Money had been poured into the banks without conditions, but instead of fixing their problems, they had paid out bonuses and dividends. Now the banking system was somewhat repaired but the economy as a whole remained at risk, marked by high unemployment. It was necessary to look back to the state of the economy before the crisis, he said, noting that an artificial bubble had been sustaining it and that the savings rate was down to zero, with the bottom 80 per cent of United States citizens spending 110 per cent of their incomes. “That which is unsustainable will not be sustained”, he warned.
He went on to describe the restructuring of the global economy as one of the reasons for the current crises. “We were the victim of our own success”, he said, comparing the current situation to that prevailing during the Great Depression. Then, increases in productivity had meant that decreasing numbers of people had been needed to produce food, as manufacturing replaced agriculture at “a very fast pace”. Today, a similar shift away from manufacturing to services was taking place, he noted.
The Government could play a role, not only in stimulating the economy but in helping the transition from the old economy to the new, he said, recalling that during the Great Depression, the Government had made the transition through the New Deal. However, inequality remained a particular problem, fuelled by the fact that those at the top consumed less than those at the bottom, he said, adding that while 1 per cent of the population had 20 per cent of the overall income and 40 per cent of the wealth, pushing demand down.
European nations could solve their crisis by working together cohesively, and if they refused to do so, they would increase the likelihood of a serious global problem, he said. Spain was an example of the negative effects of credit downgrades, having suffered a downgrade just after adopting austerity measures. The market understood that declining gross national product (GNP) and revenue was no recipe for growth, he said, warning that if all European nations followed the same path, they would all get weaker, with interdependence ensuring that everyone was affected.
Emphasizing that it was not difficult to reduce the deficit, he said that while economic forecasts were not perfect, there were four reasons why the United States had gone from having a large surplus to such a large deficit — tax cuts for the rich, two expensive wars, the structure of deals in the pharmaceutical industry, and the recession. Reversing those problems would stimulate the economy, he stressed, while warning against austerity measures, which were likely to exacerbate the situation across the world.
He went on to note that the past 20 years had been marked by underinvestment in infrastructure, science, and education, which had weakened prospects for the future. Global austerity was therefore a recipe for “global economic suicide”. While the stimulus that had followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers had worked, it had not gone far enough. Without it, there would have been a high risk of global depression, yet many around the world were using the global crisis to advance other agendas, such as the need for small government instead of restoring jobs and growth. That was short-sighted, he warned.
Increasing taxation and Government spending would create jobs, boosting GNP by $2 or $3 per dollar increase in tax, he emphasized, noting that there was a worrying agenda to make society more unequal. Many of the problems that had caused the crisis remained, he said, warning that “too-big-to-fail” banks, bad accounting practices and lack of transparency remained prevalent, in addition to non-transparent, over-the-counter derivatives. The markets were currently characterized as knowing that they did not know, he said, stressing that there could be no return of confidence while the credibility of the forecasters was so lacking and clearly not based on facts.
He asked where all that led, saying that although an agenda existed that could bring health back to the global economy, one focused on helping in the short- and long-term, with policies encouraging investment and addressing inequality, climate change and other major long-term problems, he said he remained pessimistic. He said that a malaise similar to what Japan had experienced for a long period was the most likely outcome.
Recalling his Commission’s report to the United Nations in 2009, he said it stressed global interdependence. As the crisis had unfolded, it had taken unusual turns, with emerging markets still doing well, a trend that might continue, but the situation would be better for all if the European Union and the United States improved their performance. Current frameworks for handling the crisis were inadequate and his Commission had recommended the creation of a global coordinating council, he said, stressing that far more coordination was clearly necessary. Hopefully there would be greater global recognition of interdependence and the need for global cooperation, he added.
Summing up the briefing, the Moderator said Mr. Stiglitz had recognized an economic, financial and monetary crisis and that returning to previous growth patterns would mean going back to unsustainable bubbles, which would not help future recovery and growth. Mr. Stiglitz was pessimistic about current policy responses to the crisis, which were not solving problems but might actually amount to “economic suicide”, he said, emphasizing that it was vital to tackle the problem of boosting aggregate demand and to recognize the structural transformation through which the economy was going.
In the ensuing discussion, participants asked questions about how to safely promote greater consumption at a time of rising saving rates; the nature and composition of the proposed global coordination council; what policies developing countries should choose to minimize their exposure to risk; and how their particular challenges could be integrated into global discussions on the crisis.
Mr. STIGLITZ responded by saying that current 5-6 per cent savings rate of the United States was not instructive, pointing out that only the wealthiest were saving anything while about 80 per cent saved nothing at all. Before the crisis, however, the bottom 80 per cent had been saving minus-10 per cent because they had been spending so much, he said. The G-20’s wish to encourage consumption ran contrary to physics because the planet could not support that, he said, adding that investment was required in economic restructuring. The challenge was how to restructure and move people from where they were not needed to where they were.
The challenges were even greater for least developed countries, he continued, noting that they needed the investment and assistance most, but the financial markets were not naturally pushing the necessary resources in their direction. The Bretton Woods institutions had not kept pace with the global economy’s expansion and the shift in the global economic balance of power since their founding. Their governance had not changed or adapted quickly enough and it was time to rethink the global economic architecture, he said. The proposed global coordinating council, to be based at the United Nations, would have the necessary representative nature and legitimacy. While there was much discussion about developing countries helping themselves, trade was a particularly important mechanism through which to tackle their problems, he said, adding that the European Union and the United States had reneged on their development commitments
Asked about the possibility of a “grand bargain” that could work for countries with little fiscal space to stimulate their economies but which wished to avoid the “austerity trap”, he said monetary policy was not the answer as it created bubbles, including those that had led to the current crises. In the United States, the problem was not interest rates but the failure to translate low interest rates into low lending rates. Bailout had targeted big banks but not the small ones that provided loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises. He said he was pessimistic about the possibility of a grand bargain, noting that although taxing the rich was a way out, with both long-run and short-run benefits, it was not where the country’s politics were today. The only grand bargains currently available did not address the underlying or immediate problems.
Responding to a question from a representative of the European Union he said European leaders were highly committed to tackling the crisis and correcting problems. They had also recognized that austerity was not the answer and that some other form of assistance was needed. The main problem was that politics and economics were not travelling in the same direction. Implementation was slow and democracy and the financial markets moved at different speeds. Describing the construct of the European Union as “out of touch” with the unbridled financial markets that had been set loose, he said the European Union needed fiscal union to tackle the problems of individual countries because the common currency required more than just a trading union to operate effectively. Currently, the European Central Bank was geared to deal with an economic “fad problem” from the 1970s, he added.
Asked about international policy coordination, he replied that he did not feel optimistic but it was necessary for international policymakers to explore the links connecting the global economy and to think more globally. As for the policy options available to Governments in the Arab world at a time of political instability caused by high unemployment, he said the problem ran deeper than just unemployment and was more about inequity, with people’s frustrations centring on a sense of corruption and unfairness in the system. Arab Governments should employ a new variation of the market economy model, he said, suggesting that the European social model could be the right one, having previously followed socialist and neoliberal approaches with limited success.
Council President KAPAMBWE ( Zambia) then closed the discussion by urging strong international policy coordination and action, similar to the concerted reactions of 2008 and 2009, to address the global financial crisis.
Introduction of Report
MUHAMMAD ASLAM CHAUDHRY, Chief, Global Policy Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report “Agriculture Development and Food Security”, noting the magnitude of the food crisis, highlighting its key drivers and presenting an overview of ongoing efforts and initiatives to address it.
Describing the food crisis as the worst facing the world today, he said 32 countries and 13.3 million people needed external food assistance, adding that rising prices, climate-change patterns, investment trends and population growth had all driven the crisis. The international community was taking a comprehensive, “twin-track” approach to food security with the aim of addressing short- and long-term needs as well as the structural causes of the crisis, strengthening local capacity and building more resilient livelihoods and providing humanitarian assistance to those affected.
He said the High-Level Task Force on Food Security had intensified its work in the past year, with the World Bank Global Food Crisis Response Programme and the European Union Food Facility also working to address challenges. The L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, the Multi-Year Action Plan on Development, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme and other initiatives were also contributing to long-term food security, he said, adding that scaling up successful practices, increasing investment in social protection, integrating small farmers into the value chain and working to develop small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprises were priority areas for boosting long-term food security.
MARCELO SUÁREZ SALVIA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed that hunger constituted a violation of human dignity and called for urgent measures for its elimination. Achieving food security required strengthening and revitalizing developing-world agriculture sectors, including by empowering women, indigenous peoples, rural communities, small- and medium-scale farmers; providing technical and financial assistance, access to and transfer of technology; and capacity-building and research on food and agriculture. He emphasized the urgent necessity to increase efforts at all levels to address food security and agricultural development as an integral part of the international development agenda.
He went on to underline the need for sustained funding and increased targeted investment to enhance world food production, and called for new and additional financial resources from all sources. Subsidies and other trade-distorting measures by developed countries had severely harmed agriculture sectors in developing countries, he noted, limiting their ability to contribute meaningfully to poverty eradication, rural development and sustainable, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth. He urged developed countries to demonstrate the necessary flexibility and political will to address those key concerns of developing countries at the Doha Round, pointing out that the profound neglect of agriculture had marginalized and destroyed smallholder livelihoods in developing countries. The recent food crisis spoke to the need for sustained international cooperation to ensure global food security, he added.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that inadequate financial resources, underinvestment in infrastructure and lack of technology, compounded by the prevalence of subsistence farming and dependence on the export of primary commodities as well as the importation of food and fuel, among other things, challenged the livelihoods of the 70 per cent of people in least developed countries who depended on agriculture. In addition, the multiple global crises, along with food volatility and climate change, had undermined internationally agreed development targets, including the eradication of poverty and hunger.
Pointing out that most people in least developed countries could not meet their daily nutritional needs, he said ensuring the right to survival was a common international responsibility. Eradicating poverty required agricultural and rural development, infrastructure, enhanced food and nutritional security, supported by adequate long-term investment and productive rural and urban jobs, among other things. Increased agricultural productivity was imperative to enabling least developed countries to achieve food security, which was linked to sustainable growth, poverty alleviation as well as peace and security. To that end, there was a need to build upon institutional arrangements for global food security within the United Nations system and the international financial institutions in a coherent and sustainable manner, he said.
Describing the drop in ODA to agriculture over the past two decades as disheartening, he said there was an urgent need for development partners to reverse that trend in a substantial way. Members of the World Trade Organization must fulfil their 2005 pledge to ensure the elimination of subsidies for agricultural exports and disciplines on all export measures with equivalent effects, to be completed by the end of 2013, as agreed in the Istanbul Programme of Action adopted last May at the United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. Policy measures should be in place to reduce price volatility, including improved information systems for stocks and production, greater transparency in commodity markets and the free movement of food supplies, he said.
The representative of Argentina introduced, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, 12 draft resolutions relating to macroeconomic policy questions, financing for development, globalization, countries in special situations, poverty eradication and other development issues, and operational activities for development. He also submitted two decisions on South-South cooperation.
Concerning macroeconomic policy questions, he tabled draft resolutions on the international financial system and development (documents A/C.2/66/L.5 and A/C.2/66/L.7); and external debt sustainability and development (document A/C.2/66/L.9).
He then introduced texts on: follow-up to and implementation of the outcome of the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development and the 2008 Review Conference (document A/C.2/66/L.11); globalization and interdependence (document A/C.2/66/L.1); follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/C.2/66/L.8); and specific actions related to the particular needs and problems of landlocked developing countries: outcome of the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Countries and International Financial and Development Institutions on Transit Transport Cooperation (document A/C.2/66/L.14).
The representative then submitted draft resolutions on implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008–2017) (documentA/C.2/66/L.15); women in development (documentA/C.2/66/L.12); and human resources development (document A/C.2/66/L.10).
He then tabled draft resolutions on operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/C.2/66/L.6); a draft resolution on South-South cooperation for development (document A/C.2/66/L.2), as well as draft decisions on that subject (documents A/C.2/66/L.3 and A/C.2/66/L.4).
GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that in an era of greater global trade liberalization — particularly as a result of the lost preferential treatment for the region’s major agricultural resources — a transformation of CARICOM’s agricultural sectors was needed. Its food import bill came to almost $4 billion, and the current volatility in food prices had been exaggerated by the close links between commodity markets and the “often speculative activities” of financial investors. Left unchecked, such practices could make efforts to address critical food-security challenges even more difficult, he warned.
In that context, CARICOM was addressing the constraints inhibiting the growth of the region’s agriculture sectors through the “Jagdeo Initiative”, which elaborated priorities for transformation, he continued. At the heart of the Initiative was the need to substantially boost domestic production and consumption of agricultural products, and to move into high-value products for niche markets at all levels. Influencing the tastes and preferences of households for locally produced nutritionally balanced foods was one important part of the strategy, he said, adding that, for that purpose, CARICOM had adopted a Regional Policy for Food and Nutrition Security.
However, to successfully implement such changes, the region would need to attract more significant resources. CARICOM therefore saw the need for continued strategic partnerships, he said. Moreover, a “universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable” multilateral trading system would contribute to the promotion of agriculture and rural development, he said, underscoring the need for expeditious action to remove distortions in global agricultural trade, as well as the successful completion of the Doha Round, taking into greater account the needs of small and vulnerable economies.
YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said food security remained as crucial today as ever, in particular for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. “Food security and development are two sides of the same coin”, he stressed, noting several worrying signs in those areas. The price of food had recently reached an all-time high as millions suffered extreme drought in the Horn of Africa. In South-East Asia, floods had inundated homes, crops, livestock, infrastructure and farmland in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. “A concerted effort to tackle the global problem of food security is of vital importance”, he stressed.
The 2009 ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework and Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security presented a holistic approach to food security in the region, he continued. Similarly, the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve Agreement provided a timely and predictable response in the event of unanticipated natural calamities. Nevertheless, small farmers needed help from market mechanisms to integrate into the global value chain, he said. Trade rules must be conducive to agricultural development and in that vein, the Doha Round must be concluded without further delay, he stressed.
Meanwhile, agricultural innovations should promote sustainable production and enable more efficient use of resources, he said. ASEAN was committed to forging partnerships to promote innovation and investment, and called for the increased transfer of technology as well as capacity-building in that area. There was also a crucial role for the United Nations to play in improving developing-world agricultural sectors, he said, noting in that respect that ASEAN was finalizing a draft memorandum of understanding with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the area of agriculture and forestry.
PHILIPPE LATRICHE, delegation of the European Union, said it was unacceptable that one billion people remained hungry or undernourished in the world today. It was the responsibility of all countries to ensure that crises like the one in the Horn of Africa would not happen again. Urging the promotion of sustainable farming, he said protecting the future food supply in the face of a growing world population required all countries to reinforce the resilience of agricultural systems and to limit the negative effects of climate change. Special attention must be paid to smallholder farmers, particularly women, he stressed.
Citing the Food FAO State of Food and Agriculture report, he went on to note that the number of hungry people could be reduced by 150 million if female farmers in developing countries were given the same access to land, credit, seeds and tools as their male counterparts. Alongside the needed increase in agricultural production and food security, he called for adequate and balanced nutrition to avoid severe and irreversible consequences, in particular for pregnant women and for children under the age of 2. Additionally, open trade flows and efficient markets were important tools for integrating developing countries into the global economy, which would create growth and improve food security. The European Union continued its efforts to seek the conclusion of an ambitious, balanced and comprehensive agreement on the Doha Round, he said.
SERGEY KONONUCHENKO ( Russian Federation) said agriculture played a key role in promoting growth and eradicating global poverty. Given that the global food crisis was one of the biggest crises facing developing countries, and was even causing political instability, there was need for actions on all levels to tackle the problem, he said, stressing that a focus on the country level was especially important. Recognizing the need to raise output, the Russian Federation was boosting food production to help meet demand and address hunger. It was also increasing the amount of food aid it would contribute during the current food crisis, he said, recalling that in October 2010, the Government had approved plans to increase agricultural, fisheries and food-security efforts in accordance with the L’Aquila Agreement. Stressing the importance of cooperation with the World Food Programme (WFP) he said his country had contributed $20 million and planned to give $10 million for emergency aid assistance.
AMAR A. I. DAOUD(Sudan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, called upon the international community to enhance its role through a sustainable and coordinated effort to help provide additional resources to assist in feeding those in need. The outcome of a conference on agricultural security that Sudan had hosted in Khartoum stressed the importance of addressing the needs of developing countries, particularly those in Africa, so they were integrated into the global economy, he recalled.
Explaining that his country was addressing agriculture through a “green mobilization” campaign, he expressed hope that the results would be positively reflected in industry, and in the trade and transportation sectors. He pointed out that despite its efforts to meet, and having met, the criteria of the World Trade Organization, Sudan was having trouble joining that body. That did not help poor countries develop, he said, calling upon developed countries to meet their dedicated financial pledges, particularly to least developed countries.
MAYTE MASOT PLANAS ( Cuba) expressed solidarity with countries in the Horn of Africa, where climate change had caused the worst drought for 50 years. The targets for reducing the number of under-nourished people in the world would not be met and there would still be 600 million of them in 2015, even if the relevant Millennium Development Goal was realized. That could never be acceptable, she stressed, calling on the international community to act “energetically” in response.
Food security was so grave a concern that it must become the focus of development efforts before looking to build a development agenda for the post-2015 period, she continued, citing the 2011 FAO report, which predicted continued high and volatile food prices, with food importers particularly vulnerable. With transnational food-industry companies enjoying too much power in the market, it was unlikely that a proper solution to developing-world hunger could be found, she said.
Countries that had lived up to their commitments to provide 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) as foreign aid should focus their support on agricultural production, she said. Cuba was already meeting its targets, she said, emphasizing that the right to food was an inalienable human right that her own country and most other Member States supported. The blockade of Cuba was the main obstacle to the island nation’s ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals, she said, describing such unilateral political and economic pressure tactics as morally and ethically unsustainable.
ROBERT MARKS ( United States) said that despite difficult times, his country was determined to fulfil its commitment of more than $3 billion to combat poverty over the next three years. The United States had donated $650 million in life-saving assistance to the Horn of Africa, where 13 million people were in dire need of assistance, he noted. However, there would be no quick fix and the United States was proposing a long-term strategy that would improve productivity and increase access to food. The United Nations system must continue to deliver aid and support financial programmes dedicated to helping the world’s poor, he said, adding that his country continued to look to the Organization for cost-effective ways to make the most of donor support.
The gender component played a major role in food security and nutrition, he said, emphasizing the importance of nutrition during a woman’s pregnancy. That determined the health of the child as he or she grew. “The children of the world deserve nothing less.” He also emphasized the importance of empowering developing-world female farmers, who often lacked opportunities to make a sustained living through agriculture. Citing FAO statistics, he said giving female farmers such opportunities could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by up to 17 per cent. The United States had donated $5 million to programmes promoting women farmers as agents for change in fighting hunger, he said, adding: “If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime; perhaps if you teach a woman to fish, she will feed her family for a lifetime.”
FAISAL HASHIM ( Saudi Arabia) said a concerted effort by the entire international community was needed to address the global food crisis, including an international partnership to help develop agriculture and sustainable food security. Saudi Arabia had donated $500 million to help the WFP meet rising food prices, he said, adding that the funds had benefited 62 developing countries around the world. In addition, the country had developed and implemented programmes designed to provide adequate, safe, and reasonably-priced food within. They worked on developing trade and commodities-consumption policies that would ensure continuous and adequate supply.
He expressed hope that sustainable agricultural development in his country through optimal use of natural resources would ensure food security, sustainable rural development and the preservation of the ecological balance and rural communities. The programmes mentioned encouraged the private sector to invest in countries with high agricultural potential, which hopefully would raise agricultural production to global levels. Saudi Arabia was ready to participate with the international community in countering hunger and poverty by providing aid to developing and least developed countries, in addition to supporting their efforts in economic and social development, he said.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted that more than one billion people currently suffered from hunger and the international community must avert a new global food crisis as well as climate change-related disruption of agricultural seasons and water shortages. Population growth, mostly in developing countries, where most of the hungry and poor lived, combined with reduced income — also likely to occur in the developing world — was expected to raise global demand for food 70 per cent by 2050. Simultaneously, agriculture would be further linked to energy, both as a consumer and producer of fuel, he noted, saying biofuel production policy would be critical to the evolution of demand for agricultural products, and thus for food security.
The crisis in the Horn of Africa demonstrated the imperative of international action, he said. The multiple and complex causes of the food crisis required coordinated, comprehensive and sustainable efforts from the international community, including investment in agriculture. That would also spur overall economic growth, given that 70 per cent of the world’s poor made their livelihoods from agriculture. Developing countries must be provided with assistance in the form of the necessary technical and financial solutions as well as policy tools to mitigate the effects of climate change on agriculture. Stable and effective policies, regulatory and institutional mechanisms, and functional market infrastructure that would promote investment in agriculture were of paramount importance.
MAMADOU N’DIAYE (Senegal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the solution to the current global problems would come about through developing agriculture, which was the main source of food for most people. Referring to a forum held in Dakar, he said it had created the basis for focusing on the sector with a strong development slant. Among its proposals, the forum urged the promotion of agri-enterprise through ambitious training schemes, with financing from the international community. That meant foreign direct investment (FDI) and granting agricultural and rural development a significant share of resources gathered from innovative financing sources.
There was also a need for regulatory policies to ensure better access for producers to markets, and for increased food stocks to ensure a guaranteed market price, he continued. Soil and water improvements were also important in helping to close the production divide. Food-security governance was poorly suited to the current economic situation, he said, urging the establishment of a world body and fund to manage food stocks. Since food security required concrete action, Senegal had launched many initiatives to help, including the enactment of the Agriculture, Forestry and Pastoralism Law and the Rural Revolution policy, which sought to unionize farmers. Senegal was also working closely with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to increase integration at the subregional and regional levels, he added.
JORGE LAGUNA (Mexico) called for international cooperation and concerted measures to overcome food insecurity, saying the alarming situation in the Horn of Africa needed international attention as 13 million people there were at risk of starvation, including two million children. Food prices had increased by more than 50 per cent over the past five years, which meant that the poorest families who devoted most of their income to food were sinking further into poverty.
Emphasizing the importance of applying a human rights focus in promoting the right to food, he said that called for a fairer and more open form of trade. Mexico would welcome swift conclusion to the Doha Round and hoped the current stalemate would be broken. He said “multi-action measures” had been taken to help small farmers in his country increase food production, and joined the call for the establishment of an open-ended working group to seek a reduction in price volatility in the international food market.
MD TAUHEDUL ISLAM ( Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the group of Least Developed Countries, said Governments in developing and particularly least developed countries faced a “herculean” task in providing essential meals to their citizens. Keeping people hungry was a violation of human dignity and humankind should respond to the “elegy of human suffering”. Lack of food and nutrition resulted in reduced immune capacity, leading to widespread outbreaks of communicable diseases, he said. The global problem was leading to social and political instability in many countries, and in a globalized world, no one was immune from the “epidemic” if it was not contained immediately, he warned.
Citing a number of interrelated factors that were responsible for the “fiasco”, he said they included a lack of coherence in international policy and an unfavourable environment for the development of rural areas, agriculture and food production. In addition, trade barriers in developed-world agricultural sectors posed a continuous obstacle to global food production, he said, calling for new and additional financial resources to facilitate sustainable development of agriculture and food security, particularly for countries with the poorest populations.
He went on to note that the energy crisis, lack of seeds and irrigation, improper watershed management and, most importantly, lack of modern cutting-edge technologies were among the challenges that developing countries faced. Their developed partners must provide affordable technology that would give people the means to prevent hunger, he stressed. Moreover, subsidies and other trade-distorting measures by developed countries had “mercilessly” damaged agriculture in the developing world, limiting its ability to contribute to poverty eradication and rural development, he added.
CHEN YINGZHU ( China) said countries needed to invest more in agriculture, particularly in raising the scientific and technological levels of farming, and to oppose trade protectionism by resolving the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations. She urged developed countries to show flexibility on agricultural subsidies and trade barriers, and to expand market access for developing countries. Stressing the need to rein in commodity price hyping, she urged greater international cooperation, adding that the “green economy” could work as an active force for global food security.
She said her country had always sought food security, relying on domestic production and continuously enhancing productivity. That had helped China to realize the Millennium Development Goal relating to poverty reduction ahead of schedule and made a positive contribution to global food security. Meanwhile, the country had also joined in international efforts to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty, she said, citing China’s recent assistance to countries of the Horn of Africa in response to the drought and famine there.
CARLA ESPOSITO GUEVARA ( Bolivia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, called upon the international community urgently and actively to coordinate in fighting the famine in the Horn of Africa, where drought was at its worst in 50 years. With food security endangered, the right to food was endangered, too, she said, calling for equitable access to land, seeds, water and credit for small- and medium-scale producers. Emphasizing that local diversification must take place and that agricultural development must be sustainable, she said that a poor and unfair international trading system had destroyed many local markets and caused the transformation of many former exporting States into food importers.
While food production was fundamental to food security, it was also essential to do something about the inequitable distribution of food in the world, she continued. Networks should be designed to prevent hoarding and all speculative practices concerning food should be brought to a halt. Recalling that the United Nations had a prominent role to play in promoting food security, she said it had adopted a resolution proclaiming 2013 the Year of Quinoa, due not only to that crop’s properties but also because of the contribution it could make in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. It was one of the most promising crops for the benefit of humanity, being healthy and a positive alternative to others, she said, adding that her delegation would present a draft resolution on the subject.
JASSER JIMÉNEZ ( Nicaragua), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed the need to join hands in preventing the reoccurrence of a major food crisis. The international community had recently celebrated the International Day of Food, but almost one billion people were suffering from hunger, he pointed out, saying it was “unbelievable” that the Committee was discussing food without referring to the crisis in the Horn of Africa, which required $1 billion in immediate crisis assistance. The international community should make a collective effort to address that crisis, he stressed.
Noting that the world economic order went against developing countries, he said his country had established a national strategy for food sovereignty and food security, explaining that the former consisted of a developing country’s capacity to grow its own food and feed its own people without outside interference. In addition, Nicaragua had created a school feeding programme recognized as the fourth best in the world. The country had met Millennium Goal 1 on the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, because it had opened its doors to microcredit with an emphasis on empowering women, he said.
He went on to underscore the importance of “backyard markets” which helped small-scale farmers. For example, Nicaragua’s “Zero Hunger” programme empowered the dispossessed by providing them with the instruments they needed to produce food to sustain themselves as well as a surplus that would allow families to sell their goods, effectively bolstering the national economy. However, that progress was threatened by climate change and Nicaragua was currently experiencing floods and landslides, which had uprooted thousands of people who were now in shelters throughout the country.
JASON BAY ( Singapore), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the world faced a Malthusian challenge in feeding the seven-billionth human. Food security was not merely about economics but also had a critical socio-political dimension, he said, recalling that five Member States had experienced demonstrations during the 2007/08 food crisis. Food security was also linked to energy and water security and required urgent international policy coordination.
Committed to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Action Plan on Food Security and the Niigata Declaration, Singapore welcomed the spotlight that the G-20 had cast on the issue of price volatility, he said, emphasizing that an open, universal and equitable trading system was vital to food security. Trade-restricting policies increased price volatility, he said, citing an International Food Policy Research Institute study which had found that global cereal prices would be 30 per cent lower if all taxes, quotas and restrictions on food exports were removed.
He said his country imported 90 per cent of its food and was therefore vulnerable to food insecurity. However, Singapore had diversified the sources of its imports had encouraged local firms to explore contract farming. They had also been urged to invest in joint ventures and to create overseas food zones, in partnership with local partners, to secure food sources for both parties. That had enabled Singapore to respond effectively to food-safety incidents, he said, adding that those externally-directed initiatives had been complemented by local farming, with production targets for key food items and funding schemes to enhance local food productivity by supporting research and development efforts in fish breeding, seed banking and sustainable farming.
Describing his country’s approach to food security as “holistic”, he said it took a global view. Despite not growing rice, Singapore had collaborated with the International Rice Research Institute to improve rice yields and raise resistance to disease. The private sector was also heavily involved, he said, noting that the Government provided support to agri-businesses trying to apply genomics to improve crop varieties. Local research was also focused on urban food security, and Singapore was piloting potential solutions, including a vertical farming prototype, he said.
HANNA PROROK ( Ukraine) commended recent efforts to reduce hunger but said that overall implementation of the outcome of the World Summit on Food Security had not met expectations. Stable and predictable food markets were vitally important to food security, she stressed, expressing support for the creation of a world grain reserve under United Nations auspices. Operated by the FAO and funded by international financial institutions, it would help regulate world grain prices, she said, adding that Ukraine, as a major grain producer, would contribute significantly.
Stressing the importance of sustainable agricultural development in promoting sustainable development as a whole, she said there was also a need to strengthen implementation of the decisions of the seventeenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Ukraine’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food had prepared a programme to foster grain productivity, developing logistics and enhanced use of modern technologies and financial support. Implementation of the programme was likely to increase grain production by 80 million tons, she said.
DUSHYANT SINGH (India), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that unsustainable consumption patterns, emphasis on producing non-food crops, consistent spells of drought, environmental degradation and stagnant agricultural productivity had led to a “mismatch” between global demand for food and supply. The recent surge in the flow of speculative capital into agricultural commodity markets, the rising number of futures-trading contracts and excessive speculation had led to higher prices and volatility in the market. The international community must improve regulation of the world commodities markets, he stressed.
The argument suggesting that food security was a function of aggregate population was too simplistic and smacked of unreasonable understanding, he said. If that were the case, then developing countries, by virtue of being home to larger populations, would consume much more than developed countries, which was not the case, he pointed out. If farm wastage in developing countries and plate wastage in developed countries diminished, the world would be able to feed 9 billion people with current levels of food production, he said.
About 70 per cent of India’s population was dependent on agriculture, two thirds of which was rain-fed, which meant they were totally dependent on the vagaries of nature, he said. The country considered enacting food-security legislation to make access to food a right, and the Government had already launched the National Food Security Mission to enhance the production of rice and wheat, he said, adding that efforts had also been made to protect small-scale and marginal farmers from the volatility of the market by way of a price-support system. India called for a collective international effort to ensure higher investment in agriculture, the transfer of modern technology and access to farm credits to enhance agriculture productively and growth.
ENAYETULLAH MADANI ( Afghanistan) said nearly 12 million people in his country were currently facing food shortages due to drought, and the Government would need to help 61 per cent of the population in some of the 14 provinces affected. Afghans were going hungry, facing malnutrition and undernourishment, with nearly 80 per cent of the population dependent on agriculture and related sectors for their livelihoods. The world’s poorest countries depended heavily on rural and agricultural economies, and agricultural development was therefore a crucial means of combating both hunger and poverty, he stressed. However, Afghanistan lacked proper marketing and processing services, and agricultural production was constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water, he continued. The Government had made agriculture development the number-one priority through the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.
As a result of more than three decades of conflict, Afghanistan’s infrastructure, including in the agricultural sector, had been severely damaged. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, with the support of international partners and the United Nations system, had launched a number of innovative programmes aimed at supporting the agriculture sector. For instance, one such initiative was the establishment of the Agriculture Development Fund with a $100 million grant provided by the United States Agency for International Development, which provided credit to small commercial farmers, agribusinesses, producers of high-value crops, as well as processors and exporters. Climate change was another major challenge, he said, noting that it adversely affected food production and the entire rural economy. He reiterated an appeal for an additional $142 million in disaster aid to be provided through the WFP to help farmers through the coming difficult winter months.
FAIÇAL SOUISSI ( Morocco), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said high food prices continued to impact economic growth. Price volatility had placed an unbearable burden on developing countries, especially in light of declining ODA. To address the alarming food situation, there was a need for alleviation measures to reduce the impact of the food crisis, including public investment in food production, the regulation of food markets, and the monitoring of stocks worldwide to head off speculation. Restrictions on exports must be limited, he said, adding that it was time to work with developing countries to make them agriculturally self-sufficient.
Emphasizing the link between environmental sustainability and food security, he said the “Green Morocco” plan addressed that link. Agriculture was the key tool for tackling drought, and the Government had set up a national rural development and solidarity fund. Besides programmes targeting new areas of agriculture, it also sought to bolster reforestation with watersheds to prevent soil erosion and early-warning systems to protect output.
The world needed coherent national, regional and global action without delay, he stressed, urging the Committee to raise awareness of the seriousness of the food crisis in Africa. Niger and other Sahelian countries were affected. The Nile Basin Initiative worked to strengthen links between the Nile Basin countries and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as an appropriate approach to building agricultural sustainable development in Africa, he said, calling on African Governments to work hand-in-hand with NEPAD to replicate policies at the local level. Political will remained the key to implementation, he stressed.
* *** *For information media • not an official record