30 November 2008
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank the organizers for bringing us together. Food security has always been a critical issue. Today is more urgent than ever.
Over the past two years, poor people around the world have had to cope with massive increases in the cost of food. In 2007, an additional 75 million people became undernourished. That is more than the population of Turkey, and about ninety times the population of Qatar.
Volatile food prices are a cause of suffering, but they are also a symptom that the global food system is in crisis. Reductions in global food stocks and the ever-tightening links between grain and energy prices are weakening food systems.
While world food prices have fallen in the past two months, the bill in poor countries is still twice what it was in 2002.
And the situation is expected to get worse as global population increases, as climate change accelerates, as fuel prices fluctuate and as the financial crisis continues to unfold.
One encouraging note is that we know how to tackle hunger. But unless we act, all this knowledge is worth very little.
We need to get food to people today, and enable them to feed themselves tomorrow. That requires funding for food assistance, cash transfers and safety nets.
Governments will have to avoid export bans, especially when on food destined for the most vulnerable people.
We need to make sure that smallholder farmers get the fertilizers and seeds they need for the next planting season.
We have to solve the underlying structural problems plaguing food systems
And we have to involve community groups, the scientific community and the private sector in long-term planning and in making strategic investments in new and existing technologies that will safely and securely boost future agricultural productivity.
This effort will not be easy. We face the possibility of a global recession. Foreign direct investment is declining. Remittances from migrant workers are also going down. Poor people are finding it even harder to cope with food insecurity.
But that is all the more reason to act. One billion people in our world are hungry. We have to respond to their plight.
We have a way forward. Earlier this year, my High-Level Task Force hammered out a Comprehensive Framework for Action. Governments and their partners must put this global policy document into effect, starting in the countries that are hurting the most.
We need an immediate infusion of resources, as well as long-term funding. To address hunger and put the world on course to achieve food security would take an estimated $30 billion annually for the next three to five years. I welcome the recent agreement by the European Union to give 1 billion euros to poor farmers in developing countries over the next three years.
This is not charity. It is an investment in our collective future. Ending hunger is critical to global stability and prosperity.
And the poor people of our world deserve no less.
Let us give priority to realizing the first Millennium Development Goal. And let us engage in a sustained campaign to roll back hunger.