Ban urges greater efforts to feed world’s hungry amid ongoing recession

27 January 2009 – In spite of the “unprecedented” effort launched last year to respond to the food crisis, greater efforts are needed to feed the hungry as the world faces an economic slowdown, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“Much good work” – including bolstered national food security programmes, increased donor assistance and international cooperation – was done in 2008, Mr. Ban told the Food Security for All meeting in Madrid, which he co-chaired with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

“As food prices rose and brought the number of hungry people close to one billion, we achieved the largest emergency scale-up against hunger and malnutrition in human history,” he said at the close of the two-day gathering, attended by participants from 126 nations, including 62 government ministers, as well as civil society groups, trade unions and others.

Although food prices have fallen for the short-term, the Secretary-General cautioned that the global recession could push more people into hunger.

“We must do better in 2009,” he stressed, adding that “we must build on what was done last year, sustain our successes and scale up our responses, especially as the financial crisis compounds the impact of the food crisis.”

In addition to the twin-track approach of providing food and nutrition aid along with boosting food production, Mr. Ban called for a new element – the right to food – to be added to fighting food insecurity.

He and Mr. Zapatero underscored the need for a “comprehensive approach that links nutrition, food security, agriculture and trade” to address the food crisis.

“It depends on inclusive, broad-based partnerships bringing together governments, civil society, farmers’ organizations, businesses and international organizations,” they said in a joint statement issued at the end of the Madrid gathering.

Also at the conclusion of the meeting, participants called for social protection systems and the elimination of competition-distorting subsidies as a means to spur fair agricultural trade.

They also “supported the importance of including marginalized and excluded men, women and children and indigenous groups in this process, giving them voice so that their views are prioritized when analyzing the problems, searching for viable solutions and implementing them.”

The event in Spain is a follow-up to last June’s High-level Conference on World Food Security in Rome which was hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

While in Madrid, the Secretary-General also paid tribute to Spain for reaching the 20-year mark since it first began taking part in UN peacekeeping missions.

In the past two decades, the European nation has contributed over 15,000 peacekeepers to 22 missions. Currently, 1,200 Spaniards are serving in places such as Lebanon, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“I have seen how communities shattered by decades of war have begun the process of building peace and stability with their help,” Mr. Ban said at a ceremony.

He also paid tribute to the 2,400 men and women – including 29 from Spain – who have given their lives serving the UN. “Today, we recommit ourselves to ensuring that their sacrifices are never forgotten, and that the vital work of the blue helmets will continue as long as they are needed.”

This evening, the Secretary-General will meet with the King of Spain and have a working dinner with Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Tomorrow, Mr. Ban will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he will hold a series of bilateral meetings with world leaders and chief business executives, and deliver remarks on subjects ranging from climate change and water scarcity to the global financial crisis.

He plans to call for a new chapter in corporate engagement on these critical issues, and is also scheduled hold a press conference on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the internationally agreed upon targets to eradicate poverty and other social ills by the target date of 2015, as well as participate in a special session on Gaza.


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