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Panama
H.E. Mr. Martin Torrijos Espino, President

23 September 2008

Statement Summary

MARTIN TORRIJOS ESPINO, President of Panama, said the Assembly should focus on the impact of the world food crisis and poverty and hunger in the world.  Although the United Nations had been founded to prevent armed conflict between groups and nations, and it had acted as a deterrent to wars that could have been more devastating, now, it was necessary for the Organization to act on a new conflict faced by all States, the linked issues of hunger and poverty.  Why did 854 million people still suffer from hunger, and 1.7 million suffer from iron deficiency?  Since deliberations had begun this morning, some 5,000 children had died because they were poor.  The situation was unconscionable.  As for the Millennium Development Goals, a pledge had been made to halve the number of people suffering from hunger and living on a dollar a day.  The price of rice in the meantime had gone up by 100 per cent and wheat by 130 per cent.

The reality of poverty and the food crisis had generated social disruption, with no solution in sight.  The rise in food prices had been aggravated by unjustified speculation, which had raised the price of fuel to unjustifiable levels.  Hundreds of millions of people had seen their efforts to sustain their livelihoods go up in smoke.  The Assembly’s role should be strengthened so that the membership could act with authority to situations like this, especially since social peace was threatened because of spiralling food prices.  The forces of Governments and of private entities should come together and join in with the international community to work together and rescue people, he said.

Turning to global warming, he said food insecurity could not be separated from a changing climate.  If the problem of the lack of food was something to be dealt with comprehensively, the production of carbon would have to be limited in an equally concerted effort.  Action should be taken without further delay to tackle both problems in a comprehensive manner.  Human interaction with ecosystems was becoming ever more important.  A future could be built on opportunities in the market and commerce, while a simultaneous effort was made to tackle environmental problems.  The opposite of conservation was not development, but waste.  The best way to promote economic capital was through environmental and social capital.  The only way to do that was through environmental management shared by the global community.

On international peace and security, he said the United Nations must be made more democratic.  The Organization needed to bring itself forward as a world body representative of all 192 Members.  Before the end of the decade, a fundamental, transitory reform should be undertaken to start turning the wheels of modernization.  Small reforms now would lead to more profound reforms later.

[Source: GA/10749]

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