Philippines calls on UN to help poorer countries fight soaring food, fuel prices

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Republic of the Philippines

23 September 2008 – The developing world is at a “tipping point” due to fluctuations in the global economy, the President of the Philippines told the General Assembly today, calling on the United Nations for its assistance in ensuring that financial uncertainties do not roll back development gains.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, addressing the annual high-level debate in New York, underscored how her country is suffering from the burden of soaring prices of food, fuel and rice.

“Our people pursue the universal dream of a better life for themselves and their children: better education, better health care, higher wages, a dignified retirement,” she said.

The Philippines has made “hard-earned” gains over the past seven years that have allowed the South-East Asian nation to weather the first tide of global price surges that swept across the world earlier this year, Ms. Arroyo said, but the recent economic turmoil in world markets has had a profound impact.

“To address these global challenges, we must go on building bridges among allies around the world: to bring the [price of] rice to where it is needed to feed the people, investments to create jobs; and keep the peace and stability in the world,” she stated.

The President praised Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for taking swift and decisive measures to address the global food crisis that brings together multilateral organizations, donor countries, civil society and the private sector.

“This is a model of the Untied Nations in action,” she said.

Regarding the southern island of Mindanao, which has been wracked by recent deadly violence, Ms. Arroyo voiced her commitment to peace based on inter-faith dialogue.

“We maintain high hopes in inter-faith dialogue as a means to building bridges rather than barriers between communities of different cultures and ethnicity.”

Viewing the global food crisis through the lens of climate change, Finnish President Tarja Halonen said that managing natural resources in a more sustainable manner will help to alleviate poverty, especially in rural areas, offering her nation’s support in this arena.

Global warming has the potential to “bring into question the whole future of mankind,” she said, adding that recent extreme weather phenomena are a harbinger of worse events to come.

“Multilateral engagement and shared responsibility are the only effective means to tackle this global menace,” Ms. Halonen said. “There is no place for petty politics and recrimination.”

She highlighted the importance of the UN in responding to climate change, emphasizing the need to reach agreement next year in Copenhagen, Denmark, on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012.

Many sectors of society – including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, individual citizens and governments – must be involved to mitigate global warming, the President noted. “We need everybody; it is necessary that also women can participate in this work.”

Further, both industrialized and developing nations must take part in combating climate change, she said.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame warned that Africa was at the frontline of the impact of climate change, with deserts and dry zones expanding across the continent.

“Over-reliance on wood for energy by our populations is leading to severe deforestation,” he said. “Further, unpredictable weather and rainfall patterns, combined with limited scientific and technological capacities, are already undermining our continent’s ability to effectively manage water resources.”

Mr. Kagame pledged to intensify his Government’s efforts in reforestation, terracing and irrigation so that water and land are more effectively used.


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