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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Bern (Switzerland)

29 April 2008

Opening statement at joint press conference on Global Food Crisis

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media; Bonjour, Mesdames et Messieurs de la presse.

I am very pleased to be with you today, with my colleagues from the United Nations system, having just spent the last two days in a meeting of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) that I chair, and which comprises all the executive heads of the United Nations system organizations.

Today, I would like to inform you about the outcome of our discussions concerning the dramatic escalation of food prices worldwide, which has evolved into what we believe is an unprecedented challenge of global proportions that has become a crisis for the most vulnerable. This has multiple causes, which includes escalating energy prices, lack of investment in agriculture over the past years, increasing demand, trade-distorting subsidies and recurrent bad weather. This crisis has multiple effects, with its most serious impact on the most vulnerable in the poorest countries. We see mounting hunger and increasing evidence of malnutrition, which has severely strained the capacities of humanitarian agencies to meet humanitarian needs, especially as promised funding has not yet materialized.

I am very pleased today to have with me, as a symbol of the solidarity of the entire United Nations system, some of the leaders of the key institutions in the United Nations on the front line in dealing with food security. We have agreed on a series of concrete measures that need to be taken in the short, medium and long terms. The first and immediate priority issue that we all agreed was that we must feed the hungry. The CEB calls upon the international community, and in particular developed countries, to urgently and fully fund the emergency requirement of $755 million for the World Food Programme, and honour outstanding pledges. Without full funding of these emergency requirements, we risk again the spectre of widespread hunger, malnutrition, and social unrest on an unprecedented scale. We anticipate that additional funding will be required.

The second and also urgent priority is that we must ensure food for tomorrow. In addition to increasing food prices, we see at the same time farmers in developing countries planting less, producing less, due to the escalating cost of fertilizer and energy. We must make every effort to support those farmers so that, in the coming year, we do not see even more severe food shortages.

Concrete measures are already being taken. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has proposed an emergency initiative to provide low-income deficit countries with the seeds and inputs to boost production, and is calling for $1.7 billion in funding. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is already making available an additional $200 million to poor farmers in the most affected countries to boost the food production and the World Bank is considering the establishment of a global crisis response facility for this purpose.

We have identified actions that need to be taken in the short term for crisis response. The United Nations system will cooperate together in crisis response, the development of emergency safety nets, and social protection of the most vulnerable. The United Nations system will fully deploy its capacity in monitoring quick assessment and analysis of the rapidly evolving food price trends and their impact on vulnerability to support the response of affected national Governments. At the country level, United Nations resident coordinators, heads of World Bank missions, and country teams will urgently meet in affected countries to develop support strategies for national Governments and seek international support for their implementation.

In the medium term, we also stress the fundamental need to support productive capacity. The United Nations system will bring together its technical and analytical capabilities to fill, research and manage gaps to support Governments. We will make an assessment of the diverse impacts of the crisis and develop tailored policy instruments. Domestic policy measures that correct distortions without affecting the supply response should be put in place, together with a budget and balance of payment support. We call on the international community to urgently address trade-distorting subsidies in developed countries in the ongoing Doha trade round.

But also in the long term, we need to strengthen the policy environment for sustainable food production in the future. We underscored the urgent necessity to address structural and policy issues that have contributed to this crisis, as well as the challenges posed by climate change.

In order to take this forward, we have agreed to establish a United Nations Task Force on the Global Food Crisis that I will chair, and will bring together the heads of the specialized agencies and the Bretton Woods institutions into an effective and coordinated mechanism. I have appointed Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, to support this Task Force as Coordinator.

We underscored the importance of global leadership and call upon world leaders to make every effort to participate in the high-level conference on food security in Rome at the FAO, on 3 to 5 June 2008. I look forward to meeting world leaders in order to further develop our common strategy. Thank you very much.