Statements home | Search results | Full text



Print this article

Email this article

News story

Radio report

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Rome (Italy)

04 June 2008


Opening remarks at press briefing on Food Security

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media.

I believe the Rome Conference has been the success that it needed to be - for us, for the Governments gathered here, and most importantly for the hundreds of millions of hungry people in the world. There is a clear sense of resolve, shared responsibility, and political commitment among Member States to making the right policy choices, and to investing in agricultural productivity for years to come, especially for smallholder farmers. There is an acceptance of the need to provide special support for the most affected countries, and the most vulnerable populations.

I would like to thank Dr. Diouf, the Director-General of FAO and the Vice Chair of my High Level Task Force, for this most timely conference on one of the most important challenges of our time: that of regenerating world food security. Our discussions yesterday showed me that our work is only just beginning. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the High-Level Task Force for working hard in producing a joint plan in such short time. Moreover, I would like to thank Prime Minister Berlusconi for co-hosting a meeting over dinner with Heads of State and Government, and other senior Government officials, from 44 countries. A press communiqué is being distributed now.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have just received a petition signed by well over 300,000 individuals all over the world, asking leaders for rapid action and fundamental reform to end the food crisis. As President Mubarak said yesterday, this issue has clearly touched many all over the world. Many people, rich and poor, farmer and consumer, city and country dwellers, are watching us here today.

I am therefore calling upon world leaders and all participants in the Conference to leave Rome with the following commitments:

- To move ahead, collectively, with a sense of urgency and purpose, collectively, to fighting hunger and promoting world food security.

- To creating a partnership of nations, multilateral organizations, civil society and the private sector, around a clear plan of action that we need to implement urgently. Hundreds of millions of the world's people expect no less.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am committed to working with my colleagues in the High Level Task Force to achieve these goals. We simply cannot afford to fail. We must not address only the immediate symptoms of the problem – that of soaring food prices. We must focus on the underlying causes of the problem: years of neglect of the agricultural sector around the world, and the lack of investment in increasing productivity.

To that end, I believe we must take immediate steps to achieve the following:

We must make the international trade system work more effectively to make more food available, at reasonable prices.

We must scale up humanitarian aid, to meet the needs of the hungriest, to cushion the impact of the high food prices on the most vulnerable populations. We are already paying special attention to the nutrition of children and women in communities at risk. This will require significant efforts by WHO, WFP and UNICEF, as well as the major NGOs, and much greater investment in the care of the malnourished.

We must find a way to significantly boost harvests in the next year, through the urgent provision of seeds, tools, and fertilizers for this year's planting cycle. In the longer run, only sustained, intelligent investment in agriculture will work. As I said yesterday, by the year 2030, we must increase global food production by 50%. In this respect, FAO, IFAD and the World Bank are in the process of establishing input support projects for 10 countries, and will do the same for another 20 countries in the following three months.

We must help governments struggling to cope with the impact of the food crisis. They already want to help the poor, and boost agricultural investment. We must help them do that through balance of payments and fiscal support.

These are four of several urgent actions identified in the Comprehensive Framework for Action, which was developed by my High-Level Task Force.

Most of you will have received copies of the key elements of the CFA, and Mr. John Holmes will be telling you more about the framework shortly after this press conference.

I would like to stress that we are not only presenting ideas in this document. We are already using the principles outlined in the CFA, by putting money and our time against the priorities identified in many of the most affected countries.

Substantial new resources will be needed – perhaps as much as $15 to $20 billion a year as our efforts build up. Most will come from concerned countries themselves, but bilateral donors; the UN; the World Bank, IMF and WTO; development banks and other international and regional institutions will need to contribute. We will be able to be more precise about resource needs as joint assessments at country level provide the reliable data we still lack.

I would like to commend the many important financial pledges and proposals made before and during the Rome conference. In particular, I was encouraged by President Sarkozy's commitment to the global partnership, and his intention to provide one billion euros in the next five years to boost agricultural productivity in Africa. In this context, I would like to encourage all member states to provide their financial contributions by utilizing and strengthening existing facilities and mechanisms.

And of course many member states have taken urgent measures of their own. We will continue to support them as best as we can.

Addressing the world food crisis in all its immediate and longer term aspects, requires substantial and sustained financial and political commitment. Rome is an opportunity: while we do not know all of the answers, we know what is most needed now and in the near future.

This is a fight we can not afford to lose. The enemy is hunger. Hunger degrades everything we have been fighting for in recent years and decades. Recent riots and protests showed that hunger and the threat of hunger breed unrest and instability. We are duty bound to act, to act now, and to act as one.

Thank you very much.