Ban Ki-moon hails $500 million offer by Saudi Arabia to deal with food crisis

WFP helicopters help with the distribution of urgently needed relief supplies

23 May 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s landmark offer to contribute $500 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to help with efforts to combat the global food crisis.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson today, Mr. Ban said the offer, made under the guidance of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, means the WFP has achieved its target of $755 million to deal with the recent surge in food and fuel costs.

“The Secretary-General notes that this contribution of an unprecedented size and generosity comes not a moment too soon, given the needs of millions of people dependent on food rations,” the statement added.

Earlier this month the UN relief chief, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, announced that $100 million is being reserved from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to tackle the immediate issues stemming from the food crisis.

Next month the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will host a major summit at its Rome headquarters to discuss how agriculture can be harnessed to produce enough food to meet the demands of the world’s growing population.

Meanwhile, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) last night wrapped up three days of inter-governmental discussions on the food crisis last night with a 15-point plan outlining both short-term and long-term measures the world should take.

Summarizing the discussions, ECOSOC President Léo Mérorès said in a statement that countries agreed on the need for policies that can turn “a threatening situation into an agricultural renaissance.”

The discussions concluded that more and better seeds are needed for planting, fertilizers and irrigation must be improved, and transport and storage facilities can also be reformed, Mr. Mérorès said. Poor farmers also deserve more secure land tenure.

The summary called for flexibility and political will so that the current Doha round of international trade negotiations can be concluded successfully, particularly regarding the questions of agricultural subsidies and tariffs in industrialized countries.

The Bretton Woods institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are also asked to consider financial support for poor countries enduring food insecurity, such as compensatory financing mechanisms. South-South cooperation should also be expanded.


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