H.E. Mr. Rais Yatim, Minister for Foreign Affairs
27 September 2008
© UN Photo
Click for caption and to enlarge
RAIS YATIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, said that the world was facing “unprecedented” challenges, including skyrocketing prices of fuel and food, which had caused distress and widespread hardship. The current financial crisis, as well as the effects of global warming, was also tearing the social fabric of Member States. To merely label those issues an overall “economic crisis” was to understate the severity of what was happening today.
Indeed, the sheer complexity of and connectivity between food, fuel and global warming, and between finance and climate change, was what made the task of addressing the convergent crises so bedevilling. All those issues must be faced and resolved by the United Nations and, if States failed to address and remedy the calamities, then the role, authority and responsibility of the world body would be questioned.
Some had called the present situation -- particularly regarding global food shortages and price spikes in commodities -- a “silent tsunami”, but he begged to differ. In fact, the rumblings had been heard for some time, most particularly in Africa. The international community had gathered in Rome as far back as 1974 to address global food security, and seven commitments had been adopted. The latest figures, however, showed that, at present, 850 million people faced hunger on a daily basis, so States had clearly failed to take heed of the warnings made 34 years ago.
Liberalization had fundamentally changed the market structure for food and energy sources, and that allowed for greater market speculation. In view of the volatility of food prices, he strongly supported efforts to promote agriculture and food production. Moreover, the cause of the crises related to fuel and food, as well as climate change, were due squarely to the unfulfilled hopes and broken promises of sustainable development.
It was time for the international community, particularly the developed world, to demonstrate greater political commitment. The focus of the developed nations should be on fulfilling their commitments and, in so doing, setting a standard for the entire world, rather than trying to pass the burden of action on to the developing world. It was also necessary to find the right mix in balancing the competing interests of the three pillars of sustainable development: economic growth, social development and environmental protection. The optimal mix between governmental and private-sector action must also be found, and the role of Governments, in particular, was critical to providing policy integration and balancing the competing interests of the three pillars.
Government intervention was also required if technologies were to be made available at concessionary rates, he continued. If energy security was indeed a global public good, then infrastructure build-up should also be seen as such. Resolving the problems in the world’s most volatile regions –- which, coincidentally, were some of the world’s largest producers and distribution channels of oil -– was also necessary, and the United Nations must play a more forward role in the need for peace and security.