UN to draw up comprehensive plan to address world food crisis

John Holmes, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

30 April 2008 – The United Nations is aiming to have a comprehensive plan to tackle the global food crisis in place by the beginning of June, “around which the institutions and leaders around the world can coalesce,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said today.

Mr. Holmes is one of two coordinators, along with UN System Influenza Coordinator David Nabarro, of a new high-powered task force that was announced yesterday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organize responses to the global rise in food prices.

Speaking at a news conference today in Geneva, Mr. Holmes said that although the breadth and complexity of the issue needed to be recognized, there was no need to panic. “I think it is clear we can fix these problems. The solutions can be found; the solutions are there. They are very difficult, some of them, in the short term, but they can be done.”

On the role of biofuel production in the current crisis, Mr. Holmes said: “It is something that needs a new look in present circumstances without wanting to fall in any sense into knee-jerk reactions of saying all biofuels are bad or good. We need to look at it in a careful, sophisticated and differentiated way, between different regions of the world and between different products.”

The Under-Secretary-General also said the crisis was not affecting every country in the same way. “For many countries and population groups it is inconvenient, a problem for their daily budget and their purses, but it is not a matter of life and death. In some places and for some groups, particularly those living on less than a dollar a day, that quickly could become a matter of life and death, or certainly of increased suffering and malnutrition.”

The UN’s action plan is to be in place in time for a meeting of UN agencies in Rome at the beginning of June. The task force is chaired by Mr. Ban and consists of the heads of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and other organizations which will be invited to join.


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