Global food crisis could have been avoided – UN development experts

Aslam Chaudhry and Kathleen Abdalla at a press conference

6 May 2008 – A lack of investment in agriculture over a long period, as well as the use of precious natural resources for biofuel production, have contributed to the current global food crisis, according to two United Nations experts.

Kathleen Abdalla, of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), told a news conference in New York that while populations have grown and diets have changed, “we’ve had a lack of investment in agriculture for quite a long time now and a lack of aid for agriculture. Certainly it’s not been a high priority for development assistance and basically the productivity growth hasn’t kept pace with the increase in demand.”

Ms. Abdalla, Officer-in-Charge of the Division for Sustainable Development, was speaking on the second day of the current session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) which is tackling topics that are key to boosting the world’s food supply while addressing problems pertaining to poverty, hunger and the environment. These include agriculture, land use, rural development, desertification and drought.

Her colleague, Aslam Chaudhry, who is chief of the water and natural resources branch of DESA, said that crops used for biofuel production had also contributed to the current worldwide rise in food prices, since “they depend quite heavily on land and water resources – so we are using our precious natural resources for the production of these crops.”

“At the same time, poor people in developing countries do not have food and had those natural resources been managed for the production of cereal crops, we might not have seen this crisis,” he added.

Ms. Abdalla said that the aim of the CSD was to look at the linkages between rural development, desertification and drought and to tackle the global food crisis in a “very holistic way.”

The CSD’s session is taking place in New York and is scheduled to last two weeks.

Last week Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a new global Task Force which will prepare a plan of action to tackle rising food prices. The group, which brings together the heads of key UN agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as experts from the around the globe, will hold its first meeting in New York next Monday.


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