|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
112th & 113th Meetings (AM & PM)
Secretary-General calls for increased public spending to meet needs triggered
by soaring costs of food, energy as General Assembly considers global crises
With soaring costs of food and energy potentially pushing some 100 million people into poverty and threatening progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged Member States immediately to scale up public spending to meet the growing needs of the world’s hungry people as he opened the General Assembly’s debate on the global food and energy crises.
“This crisis is not a short-term issue -- it will require the sustained attention of Governments, donors, international and regional organizations, civil society and the private sector for years to come,” he stressed. Indeed, the three critical challenges facing humanity -- realizing the Millennium Development Goals, addressing climate change and responding to the global food and energy crises -- were interrelated and global in nature and, as such, required a global response.
Noting that action was under way, he said United Nations agencies were shifting resources and mobilizing new funds to ensure that food assistance reached those most in need. In addition, seeds and fertilizers were being supplied to small-scale farmers in developing countries so they could grow more crops. “That’s a start,” he said, emphasizing, however, the importance of stepping up and sustaining such efforts over the next three to five years.
In that context, he called for the creation of a Global Partnership for Food, which would feature Governments at the centre, and be guided by the Comprehensive Framework for Action developed by the High-Level Task Force on Food Security. The Framework was not a “one-size-fits-all” blueprint, but a “menu of actions” to be tailored to specific country needs. It would aim to catalyse country-level action by providing Governments with the main elements for the formulation of responses. The Framework had two key objectives: to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, and to build long-term global food security.
To achieve the Framework’s goals, an estimated $25 billion to $40 billion would be needed annually, the Secretary-General said. “Whatever the exact sums, this is the order of magnitude required.” Member States should scale up food assistance, provide predictable financial support for food aid, exempt purchases of humanitarian relief food from export restrictions, and focus on boosting agricultural production and reversing the dramatic downward trend in agriculture’s share of official development assistance flows, which had dropped to just 3 per cent.
The cost of inaction would be unacceptably high and could reverse the most important gains made towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals, he warned. “If we do not seek lasting solutions now, more children will die each day”, and the threats left to the next generation would be even greater.
General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, echoed the Secretary-General’s call, warning that the amount of financing raised to deal with the crisis was well below the $25 billion annual benchmark. “We must now begin to take the tough initial steps so that over the long term we can inject new life into multilateralism and move to a new economic paradigm for the twenty-first century,” he said.
A swift and successful outcome to the Doha trade negotiations was imperative, he continued. “As long as agriculture continues to experience more market-distorting policies than any other sector, we cannot count on sustainable global food security,” he stressed, while encouraging Member States to seize the opportunity to collectively agree on policies to promote trade efficiency while boosting agricultural production.
Though Member States expressed general support for the Comprehensive Framework for Action as a positive step towards a coordinated response to the food and energy crises, numerous concerns were expressed regarding the document’s financial implications. The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that, despite the recognition given to the considerable financial implications of the crisis, the High-Level Task Force only urged donor countries to increase official development assistance for food aid, thereby inviting a reallocation of existing assistance.
The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, reinforced those remarks and expressed concern over the lack of concrete recommendations as to how countries that were constrained in terms of resources would finance the implementation of various measures. In addition, the document did not properly address the concerns of the least developed countries -- those hardest hit by the global crises.
However, the Comprehensive Framework was cause for hope, Ethiopia’s representative said, speaking on behalf of the Group of African States. The revised version of the Comprehensive Framework was concrete testimony to the continued efforts of the United Nations system, and the Bretton Woods institutions, to respond in a coordinated manner to the global food crisis.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Comprehensive Framework should serve as the basis for an “international strategy for food security” based on international partnership, dialogue, coordination and mobilization for food security. For its own part, the European Union had already provided significant humanitarian and food aid to a large number of the world’s worst-hit regions and it was committed to reaching an ambitious agreement at the Doha Round that would create an international trade environment supportive of small producers in developing countries.
Such actions were imminently necessary, according to the representative of Tonga, who spoke on behalf of the Pacific small-island developing States, describing them as being on the frontlines of the twin global crises. More than 90 per cent of the population of that region was involved in agriculture or fisheries and the recent state of emergency declared by the Marshall Islands due to rising food and fuel prices was evidence of the gravity of the situation.
His comments echoed those made by the majority of speakers during today’s plenary meeting in calling for an urgent, coordinated and comprehensive response to overcome the complex short- medium- and long-term challenges of the crises.
Also speaking today were three Ministers for Foreign Affairs: Edmundo Orellana Mercado of Honduras, who spoke on behalf of the Central American Integration System; Carlos Morales Troncoso of the Dominican Republic; and Marisol Argueta de Barillas of El Salvador.
Speaking on behalf of regional groups were the representatives of Dominica (the Caribbean Community or CARICOM) and New Zealand (on behalf of Canada and Australia).
Other speakers were the representatives of Belarus, Egypt, Algeria, Philippines, China, Japan, Croatia, Brazil, Thailand, Pakistan, Chile, Indonesia, Ghana, Ecuador, Ukraine, Panama, Namibia, Morocco, Uruguay, Yemen, India, Norway, Marshall Islands, Republic of Korea, Colombia, Venezuela, Malaysia, United States, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Cuba, Tunisia and Viet Nam.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 21, when it will hear the remainder of the speakers.
The General Assembly met today to consider the global food and energy crises in the context of its work on the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.
Before the Assembly was a letter from the Assembly President dated 16 July to circulate the Comprehensive Framework for Action prepared by the High-Level Task Force on Food Security inaugurated by the Secretary-General on 12 May.
Address by General Assembly President
SRGJAN KERIM, President of the General Assembly, said the alarming increase in food and oil prices had been compounded by the unpredictable effects of climate change and the depressed world economy. Recent reports from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that the rise in food and oil prices could severely weaken the economies of up to 75 developing countries, slowing growth and raising inflation and unemployment rates for many.
“The global food and energy crises, therefore, require an immediate, coherent and coordinated response, with the United Nations system playing a central role,” he said. The Comprehensive Framework for Action currently before the Assembly provided that coherent and coordinated strategy. It was now necessary for all Member States to apply “full, continuous and high-level commitment” to the food and energy crises. “While dealing with the dramatic effects of these crises we must use this opportunity to inject new life -- a new deal -- into the multilateral system.”
Since the beginning of 2008, commodity prices had surged by more than 30 per cent, he continued. A complex cycle of factors -- such as skyrocketing energy costs, growing demand from emerging economies, the credit crisis, climate change and the increasing popularity of ethanol -- were at the root of the food crisis. A comprehensive multilateral approach based on the Framework was necessary to address those issues.
The Framework for Action had two key objectives, he explained. The first was to meet the needs of vulnerable populations and the second was to build long-term global food security. To achieve that, the Secretary-General had called on the international community to provide $25 billion per year to support those goals. Currently, the amount raised was well short of what was needed annually. Donors and the multilateral system must do more.
“We must now begin to take the tough initial steps so that over the long term we can inject new life into multilateralism and move to a new economic paradigm for the twenty-first century,” he continued. Doing so would require the use of every available process and mechanism, such as financing for development, climate change, upcoming meetings on the Millennium Development Goals and Africa’s development needs, as well as the overall United Nations reform agenda. A swift and successful outcome to the Doha Trade Round was also imperative.
“As long as agriculture continues to experience more market-distorting policies than any other sector, we cannot count on sustainable global food security,” he stressed, encouraging Member States to seize the opportunity to collectively agree on policies to promote trade efficiency while boosting agricultural production and reducing the vulnerability of the poorest around the world. Calls by Member States to make food security and development priorities in the sixty-third session of the Assembly deserved support. Member States should adopt a resolution calling for immediate and concerted global action.
Address by Secretary-General
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened today’s debate by noting that his High-Level Task Force on Food Security brought together the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and other international organizations with the aim of responding to the food crisis in a coherent and coordinated way. Even before prices had started to rise dramatically, nearly 10,000 children had been dying every day from causes related to malnutrition, and some 800 million people had been going to sleep hungry every night. “This is a moral outrage,” he stressed.
At the same time, he said, the effects of climate change were threatening water and agricultural systems, potentially condemning millions more to malnutrition, while soaring energy costs and food prices -- which had increased by more than 50 per cent in the past year alone -- could potentially push an additional 100 million people into hunger and poverty. Indeed, the “double jeopardy” of high food and fuel prices threatened to undermine much of the progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The three critical challenges to shared humanity -- realizing the Millennium Goals, addressing climate change and responding to the global food and energy crises -- were interrelated and global in nature, he said. They required a global response, through global partnership. “This crisis is not a short-term issue; it will require the sustained attention of Governments, donors, international and regional organizations, civil society and the private sector for years to come.” Leaders at the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit of the world’s richest countries had made commitments to tackle climate change, the Millennium Goals and the food and energy crises while the Economic and Social Council, in its recent Ministerial Declaration, had reiterated the need for a comprehensive response from the international community. “This action is under way,” he added.
United Nations agencies were shifting resources and mobilizing new funds to ensure that food assistance and nutritional care reached those most in need, he said. In addition, seeds and fertilizers were being supplied to small farmers in developing countries to help them grow more crops. “That’s a start,” he noted, adding that those efforts must be stepped up and sustained over the next three to five years. The European Commission proposed to provide a special $1.5 billion rapid-response facility for the food crisis, with those funds going to the countries most in need.
Calling for a Global Partnership for Food to help attain the Millennium Goal on reducing poverty and hunger, he said it would feature Governments at its centre. It should be guided by the Comprehensive Framework for Action developed by the High-Level Task Force. It was important to understand that the Framework was not a “one-size-fits-all” blueprint, but rather a “menu of actions” that must be tailored to the specific needs of each country. Nor was the Framework a fund-raising vehicle; it was intended to catalyse country-level action by providing Governments with the main elements for formulating responses. Its suggested policies and actions were intended to build resilience to future shocks.
The next steps were clear, he said. The global community must ensure that vulnerable populations were not left helpless, notably by scaling up food assistance, increasing predictable financial support for food aid and exempting purchases of humanitarian relief food from export restrictions. Immediate action was also needed to boost agricultural production, especially by providing seeds and fertilizers to small-scale farmers ahead of the next planting cycle. It was “high time” to reverse the dramatic downward trend in agriculture’s share of official development assistance, which had dropped from 18 per cent 20 years ago to just 3 per cent today. It should be raised to at least 10 per cent.
He called for improved fairness in trade, particularly through the reduction of agricultural subsidies in G-8 countries, and increased investment in agriculture and rural development, which could be achieved through increased public spending. Global food commodity markets must be strengthened to meet the needs of the poor, by minimizing export restrictions and levies on food commodities. In that context, there must be a rapid conclusion to the Doha Development Round. In addition, States must reassess subsidies and tariff protection for biofuel production. While biofuels must remain “part of the equation” in the fight against climate change, an international consensus was needed on ways to balance their development with food-production priorities.
The financial implications of the crises would require substantial political and financial commitments from national Governments and donors “first and foremost”, he said, but also from the private sector and the international systems. To achieve the Framework’s goals, an estimated $25 billion to $40 billion would be needed annually. “Whatever the exact sums, this is the order of magnitude required.” States should immediately scale up public spending so as to respond effectively to the pressing needs of the world’s hungry.
He warned that the cost of inaction would be unacceptably high. Political instability in the most affected countries could grow, global inflation would worsen, and trade opportunities between regions would be lost. Moreover, some of the most important gains towards realizing the Millennium Goals would be squandered. “If we do not seek lasting solutions now, more children will die each day” and the threats left to the next generation would be even greater. Addressing the global food and fuel crisis “swiftly and responsibly” would be a generational challenge that would impact people’s collective future.
EDMUNDO ORELLANA MERCADO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Honduras, speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration system (SICA), said the global food and energy crises must be tackled immediately at the regional and international levels. While the extent and effects of the crises were still unpredictable, the conditions created an excellent opportunity to make long-overdue changes to social, economic and development levels.
The Central American Integration System had held a summit to consider the situation and adopt common measures to address the crises, he recalled. Many issues had been agreed upon, including the threat posed to the health, welfare and very existence of millions of the world’s people by speculative behaviour on the stock market with regard to agriculture and fuel. There had also been agreement on the need to change global trade practices, and that tackling the challenges of climate change and food insecurity would require the world to work together. Those with the greatest means must help those with less in addressing those issues on a global scale and bridging the gulf between both so that all countries could do more. Trade must be reformed, markets opened, and trade barriers and subsidies dropped. Solidarity must govern relations between all the world’s peoples and regions.
CARLOS MORALES TRONCOSO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, said large numbers of people were struggling with the effects of the food and fuel crises, with many of them starving to death. Already, 850 million people worldwide were underfed and another 100 million would be added to that number unless the crises were addressed at the level of a global emergency. Domestic measures would not be enough to cure the situation and no country was untouched by the effects of the crises.
Changes were bound to result from the world’s increasing globalization, he said, adding that interconnectedness necessitated facing up to certain facts. As changes in the global society occurred, some would have more and others less than they had had before. Economies would falter and entire democracies could disappear. The world community was at a crisis point and there was no time for trivial behaviours and attitudes such as trying to cast blame. Rather, the level of the crisis called for immediate concerted action.
He said the Comprehensive Framework provided a direction as to what measures were needed to address the crises. However, further funding mechanisms for implementation were required. A global oil solidarity fund should be established and administered by United Nations agencies. Nations with $6,000 or less per capita annual income should form a solidarity coalition and present a declaration to oil producers. Emphasis should also be placed on supporting investments in activities to achieve the diversification of energy resources and the development of renewable energy sources.
MARISOL ARGUETA DE BARILLAS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, said the world was facing three simultaneous crises: a food crisis; a climate crisis; and a development crisis. They were interlinked and each had equal effects on the others. Member States should strive to achieve a global, coordinated response in the various multilateral forums, and the Comprehensive Framework for Action was a positive step towards building that response.
The international response should support national efforts, she continued. For example, the Government of El Salvador had already implemented, in partnership with the private sector and civil society, a number of programmes to tackle the various challenges arising from the global food and energy crises. Such national efforts should be supported by international efforts to achieve sustainable and durable development. The General Assembly had before it an historic opportunity to work together to resolve the current food crisis for the benefit of all.
BYRON BLAKE (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said he was pleased to note the attention given to the current food crisis but concerned about the financial implications of the Comprehensive Framework for Action. The document correctly recognized the considerable financial implications of the crisis, but the High-Level Task Force only urged donor countries to increase official development assistance for food aid, thereby inviting a reallocation of existing assistance. At the same time, the Task Force called on developing countries to allocate additional budgetary resources for social protection systems at a time when their national budgets were under very significant strain.
The Comprehensive Framework for Action should give priority to the interests of the poorest and neediest groups, he said, adding that it should be more local in scale and more sustainable in social, environmental and economic terms. The document should also address the issue of access to technology and technology transfer. It should be a “living framework” that would allow for wider governmental and societal input, acceptance and approval towards urgent action, involvement and transparency.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the need to address the interrelated food and energy crises had been the motivation for the establishment of the Task Force, the International Conference in Rome, the adoption of the Rome Declaration and the international partnership formed recently by the G-8. That partnership comprised a political component to decide on strengthening international coordination between all relevant actors and a financial component to decide on scaling up financing in the fight against food insecurity. The Comprehensive Framework should serve as the basis for an “international strategy for food security”.
Expressing support for the establishment of an international partnership to facilitate dialogue, coordination and mobilization for food security, he called for the reform of sectoral policies in such areas as trade and tax. There was also a need to develop strategy mechanisms and approaches at the national, regional and international levels. The needs and priorities of developing countries should be the focus of the partnership. Furthermore, emergency responses to humanitarian situations must fit into long-term development thinking.
The European Union provided significant humanitarian and food aid to a large number of the world’s worst-hit regions, he pointed out. It had taken measures to support farming in developing countries and make developed-world markets more favourable to their products. The regional bloc intended to reach an ambitious agreement at the Doha Round that would create an international trade environment supportive of small producers in developing countries. It would also promote reform of FAO so that the synergies of the three Rome-based United Nations agencies allowed for greater effectiveness in addressing the food crisis.
NEGASH KEBRET (Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the revised version of the Comprehensive Framework for Action was a concrete testimony to the continued efforts of the United Nations system, and the Bretton Woods organizations to respond to the global food crisis in a coordinated manner.
With each passing day of the food and energy crises, the lives of the poor were increasingly at risk, he said. The food crisis had exacerbated the situation of millions of small farmers. Africa, despite its positive recent economic growth, remained the world’s most impoverished continent. Mounting development challenges hindered its efforts to achieve sustainable development, while global food prices contributed to rising local food prices and caused serious macroeconomic volatility. Furthermore, Africa imported almost all its fertilizer, the price of which had doubled in the last year.
The root of the problem lay in the decades of neglecting agriculture, he continued, noting that the lack of long-term investment in that sector had been a major factor in plunging African countries into “severe economic deprivation”. For that reason, leaders at the recent African Union Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh had adopted a declaration calling for a global partnership to deal with the causes and repercussions of the food crisis.
CRISPIN GREGOIRE (Dominica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that rising food costs had already sparked protests in the Caribbean region, prompting national and regional responses. However, the complex threats were global in nature and lay beyond the control of the small vulnerable economies of the Caribbean. CARICOM, therefore, called on the international community to take urgent and collective action to address the food crisis, including its structural and systemic causes. Such action should increase global food production and investment in agriculture, reduce the negative effects of speculative activity, transform the global trade regime, and ensure greater sustainability in the production of biofuels.
MAHE TUPOUNIA ( Tonga), speaking on behalf of Pacific small-island developing States, said more than 90 per cent of the population in that region was involved in the agriculture or fisheries sectors. It was, therefore, a matter of utmost importance that regional leaders work with global partners to reinforce regional food security, ensure the ongoing availability of food commodities and enhance rural infrastructure. With most Pacific small-island developing States showing worrying rates of dependency on imported food, increasing support for technology research in food production and adaptation measures was a priority for the region. Pacific small islands were the most vulnerable to the food and energy crises, as evidenced by the recent state of emergency declared by the Marshall Islands due to an imminent threat to its energy security. Unless urgent international action was taken, the Marshall Islands would be without energy in early September 2008. Overcoming such obstacles required national, regional and international efforts, including increased investment in a coordinated response.
ROSEMARY BANKS (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Canada and Australia, welcomed international efforts to address the underlying structural causes of the current crises, including efforts to ensure a successful outcome to the Doha Round of trade negotiations. The overall approach of the Comprehensive Framework for Action was positive and, now that it was in its final form, it was time to turn to implementation of its recommendations. Countries should adopt appropriate domestic-policy responses, including the avoidance of food export restrictions and untargeted food subsidies, and the removal of restrictions on the export of food for humanitarian purposes. Efforts should be coordinated effectively on a global level to filter through to the regional and national levels with the appropriate financial support and assistance. That would require strong local and regional partnerships, improved coordination, strengthened local ownership and enhanced mutual accountability for achieving real improvements in development outcomes and results.
ISMAT JAHAN ( Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said the Comprehensive Framework touched on a variety of issues relating to the causes and consequences of the current food crisis, as well as remedial actions. However, there were a number of striking factors about the document. To begin with, a set “menu of actions” to assist those in need had been suggested but there were no concrete recommendations on how to finance implementation of measures by countries that were also constrained in terms of resources. In addition, the least developed countries were the hardest hit by the global crises but their particular concerns had not been addressed.
The importance of official development assistance and foreign direct investment in stimulating and sustaining agricultural and food production in least developed countries had also been inadequately treated, she said. Trade reforms to be addressed at the Doha Round should receive more attention, as should issues of South-South cooperation. Finally, the high volatility in agricultural production and marketing could bring back the food crisis with even greater intensity. The Framework contained no recommendation on a concrete standing mechanism to address a recurrence of the crisis. A global food bank and an international food fund should be established to reduce volatility in food prices in the global market and provide hedging against shortfalls and price shocks in a sustainable manner.
SERGEI RACHKOV (Belarus) said that, without proper action to tackle the food crisis that had already emerged in some regions, it would become universal, thereby striking a fatal blow to sustainable development and leading to social and political insecurity worldwide. Belarus repeated its appeal to both the donor community and the private sector to enhance their support for assistance programmes to developing countries implemented through the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
Desire for excess profits remained the main cause of instability in the energy market, he said, adding that the transfer of energy-efficient technologies would be decisive in addressing the energy crisis. Successful implementation of modern energy technologies was a major prerequisite for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Proposals for the elaboration of mechanisms to use those technologies on a global scale should be discussed during the General Assembly’s special thematic debate to be held later this year.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the international community’s consideration of the current global food crisis should start by admitting that the international early warning system was not working properly and the food and energy crises had caught everyone off-guard in their anticipation and preparation to deal with such an essential and vital issue.
He said there was an urgent need for a global partnership to deal with the causes and repercussions of the current food and energy crises that would achieve the interests of both developing and developed countries. Such a partnership must go beyond the narrow national scope of policies, orientations and interests and deal with the issue of food security within the more comprehensive developmental scope. The reality was that the crises called for an international dialogue based on common interests and mutual interdependence, with a view to establishing an international code of conduct that addressed the current expansion in the production of biofuels as an alternative source of traditional energy; and an international code that would set standards for the responsible use of agricultural crops.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said no country on earth would be spared the effects of the food and energy crises. Because the food crisis had been exacerbated by speculation in commodities markets, a comprehensive solution would require structural changes within the global economy. Contrary to the claims of some Member States, rising energy costs were not the main cause of the rise in food prices. Indeed, the rise in food prices had far exceeded those of oil over the past six years. Instead, the root cause of the food crisis could be found in the drop in production by developing countries as a result of the agricultural policies they had followed in conformity with the “severe doctrine” of comparative advantage.
A coordinated response to the crisis would need to address short-, medium- and long-term challenges, he said. The immediate priority was humanitarian support to ensure that populations in need had the necessary food resources for survival. At the same time, medium- and long-term efforts should focus on increasing agricultural production and investment in the countries most affected by the food crisis. In particular, the international community must provide the support necessary for the poorest countries to have the possibility to feed themselves through their own agricultural production.
HILARIO DAVIDE, JR., (Philippines) said that addressing the complex issues before the Assembly would require the full cooperation of all stakeholders, though direct responsibility for providing aid to each person in need lay with each affected Member State. For the Philippines, providing that aid meant immediate action to address the crisis in rice prices through the country’s Rice Self-Sufficiency Plan to increase output to 19.8 million metric tons by 2010. Such an achievement would require bilateral assistance to provide the necessary funding for research and development, infrastructure, technology and education.
On the international level, the General Assembly should begin to implement the proposals contained in the Comprehensive Framework, he said. Doing so would provide a coherent and coordinated response to the immediate needs of the many millions adversely affected by high food and energy prices. “The food and energy crises we face today can also be solved by the personal transformation or change of heart of everyone on this planet, especially the rich and powerful.”
WANG GUANGYA (China), endorsing the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, noted that food was vital to human survival and was not only at the centre of the well-being of each country’s economy, but it also had a direct impact on the development and security of the whole world’s development and security. Developing countries were the hardest hit by the food crisis, which had caused social unrest in some countries. It had had a direct impact on the world’s economic development and stability, and was not conducive to lasting peace and common prosperity.
He said that, although the current rise in food prices was caused by the interplay of multifaceted factors, the world did not lack the means to solve the food problem. Recently there had been an argument stressing the “responsibility of big developing countries”, which blamed their development for worldwide food-price rises. That did not tally with the facts, nor was it a constructive attitude towards solving the problem; China urged every country to approach the crisis from a strategic perspective by putting it on top of their national development agenda.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said a fully coordinated international response was needed to meet the multifaceted, structural crisis resulting from the rise in global food prices. The Comprehensive Framework for Action was an “important foundation” for coherent action that hopefully would be translated swiftly into implementation plans. As host of both the Fourth Tokyo International Conferences on African Development (TICAD IV) and the G-8 Summit this year, Japan had made every effort to increase the synergies between those international groups and the United Nations system.
The TICAD Yokohama Action Plan emphasized strengthening agricultural capacity in Africa and financing small-scale irrigation and water management schemes to achieve food security and alleviate poverty, he said. The G-8 leaders had renewed their commitment to assist those suffering from food insecurity or hunger. To that end, it was imperative that export restrictions be removed. Improvements in irrigation, transportation and storage infrastructure should also be supported.
For its own part, Japan had approved a food-aid package of roughly $50 million to be implemented by October, on top of the $200 million it had already given, he said. The Government was committed to raising agricultural output by doubling rice production through the development and rehabilitation of irrigation facilities and new crop varieties in Africa. Overall, Japan had committed approximately $1.1 billion to food and agricultural assistance to developing countries this year. With the will of the international community to tackle the food crisis confirmed, it was now time for more concrete actions and follow-up.
NEVEN JURICA (Croatia), emphasizing the seriousness of the food crisis and the imperative to act immediately, said increasing investment in agriculture would be the basis for dealing with food security over the long term. Smallholder farmers, particularly in Africa, urgently needed development support, even as food assistance was provided to the poor and most vulnerable. In that, the collective and concerted efforts of the international community remained of utmost importance.
Underlining the complex, interconnected structural causes for the global food crisis, he said the increased use of renewable energy sources and alternative fuels could be part of the solution to the energy crisis. The most important challenge was maintaining a balance between different sources of energy production that supported sustainable development. The crisis had not appeared overnight and was partly a consequence of inadequate sustainable development and a lack of universal access to international trade and financial institutions. Thus, an early conclusion to the Doha Round would provide significant new market opportunities for developing countries.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said the Comprehensive Framework for Action was thorough in its analysis of the crises and its suggestions for tackling the challenges of food and energy security. The deep-seated distortions plaguing the world farming trade were among the driving factors of the food crisis, as poor farmers in developing countries, already unable to compete on local and world markets because of the developed world’s subsidized exports, were hit by the rising cost of farming inputs. On top of that, drought and other extreme weather problems had stymied efforts to raise farming yields. Human vulnerability was at the heart of the food crisis, and strengthening family agriculture in developing countries could help solve it.
Stressing her country’s conviction that the production of food and renewable sources of clean energy could be harmonized, she went on to say that biofuels derived from non-cereal crops represented a better source of income for farmers and it could be an important tool in fighting climate change. Sustainable land management, increased investments and official development assistance directed to the agricultural sector, capacity-building, technology transfer and market access would be important elements in overcoming the food crisis. In addition, biofuels could provide an opportunity for countries with a comparative advantage in feedstock production. Brazil would hold a conference to explore the possibilities in November.
The representative of ( Thailand) welcomed the Comprehensive Framework and congratulated the Task Force on having painted a clear picture of the various factors that had driven the crisis. Thailand also welcomed the Task Force’s recommendations regarding the urgent actions needed to overcome the obstacles ahead. At the national level, Thailand would increase agricultural production to a level high enough to allow the export of 9 million tons of rice annually. It would also ensure that the production of biofuels would not have a negative affect on the supply of basic food crops or food security. Examining the role that speculative actions in the financial and agricultural markets had played in the current crisis was particularly useful. It was to be hoped that the United Nations would transform itself into a place for concrete action in response to the food crisis.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said the international community’s response to the food crisis must be coherent and comprehensive. Short-term actions should aim at expanding food production, while structural and policy issues must be addressed over the long term. There was a need for greater interaction between the High-Level Task Force and Member States.
He said he did not support the assumption that the rise in energy prices was due to a supply gap, suggesting instead that there was a lack of sufficient refining capacity. There was a “doomsday security scenario” for oil-rich areas, and some control mechanisms and regulations were required. Rich nations must support developing countries in solving their balance-of-payment problems.
The current financial crisis affecting industrialized economies had critically exposed the imbalance in the global financial system, he said. If the current turbulence developed into a full-blown financial crisis, the global ramifications would be serious. It was important to ensure implementation of the commitments made by the developed world to increase official development assistance significantly. Money and technology were the answer to meeting food and energy requirements.
HERALDO MUÑOZ ( Chile) said the food crisis directly harmed the world’s most vulnerable and poorest people and unless it was tackled with determination, it could become a silent tsunami. The creation of the Task Force on Food Security and the convening of the Rome Conference were positive steps. The challenge for energy-dependent countries like Chile, which imported three fourths of its energy, was particularly acute. President Michelle Bachelet had decided to expedite efforts to diversify the country’s energy matrix and improve energy efficiency in order to minimize the negative impact of high energy prices. New ways must be explored to save energy and substantially increase the share of renewable sources in the total energy supply. While Latin America lagged behind other regions in improving energy efficiency, the region was working to coordinate energy-related efforts in the context of the Union of South American Nations.
The food and energy crises could cause serious social and political unrest, as seen in Haiti, he warned, calling for immediate measures to help the world’s poorest countries and the populations most affected by high food prices. According to the World Bank, poor countries would need $6 billion in food aid annually, including $3.5 billion for “short-term safety net” projects, since prices were expected to stabilize at high levels. Chile was concerned about speculative strategies that may be influencing the high level of food prices. A new impetus was needed for agriculture, for the promotion of greater investment in scientific and technological research, to improve infrastructure and ensure access to fertilizers, and to ensure the free flow of scientific and technological know-how to developing countries.
ARTAULI TOBING ( Indonesia) said that, with the food crisis and the slowing global economy, it was virtually impossible for developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Difficult as the situation was, it was manageable. Several international efforts to help address the crisis had all reached a common conclusion -- boost food production. A “green revolution” needed massive investment and an active global partnership. Revitalizing the agricultural sector presented new opportunities, as poverty and sustainable crop production could be addressed in an environmentally friendly manner.
She said developed countries must increase the flow of investment and transfer technology to support developing-world agricultural sectors. On the other hand, developing countries must better mainstream the agricultural sector into the national development agenda. The role of the private sector must be emphasized in helping to reverse the trend of declining investment in agriculture. While the revised Comprehensive Framework was welcome, it remained silent on the cost of implementing its proposed plans or policies. Indonesia, together with Chile and Egypt, proposed “Food security and development” as the theme for the sixty-third session of the General Assembly.
LESLIE K. CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said he appreciated the Secretary-General’s leadership in fashioning an international response to the challenges posed by climate change, the Millennium Development Goals and the unfolding food and energy crises. Ghana shared his sense of urgency regarding the need for prompt action to prevent a roll-back of the modest progress recently recorded among the many developing countries.
He described as “deeply troubling” the prospect of an estimated 100 million more people joining the ranks of the 854 million chronically undernourished worldwide, expressing the hope that that fear would not materialize. Ghana endorsed the immediate call for immediate humanitarian relief for those facing hunger and malnutrition. It had become clearer than ever that food and nutrition security raised strategic questions that must re-define the global partnership necessary to address climate change, the Millennium Development Goals and the food and energy crises.
MARIA FERNANDA ESPINOSA ( Ecuador) said she appreciated the holistic nature of the Framework in emphasizing the interrelationship between achieving the Millennium Development Goals and addressing the food and energy crises. However, the Framework needed greater detail in some areas. For example, agricultural subsidies were a major reason for the food crisis. They were paid by many developed countries and accounted for tremendous inequities regarding the ability to access the global marketplace.
The Latin American and Caribbean region had held a summit on the food crisis and possible approaches towards achieving food security, she said, noting that the Managua Declaration reaffirmed the right of peoples to guaranteed resources to enable their participation in food production and marketing to achieve food security. Food donations were not the answer, but new policies were. They should include legal and economic steps to open global markets and make them competitive for all. In addition, there was a need to reform production and consumption paradigms so as to correct imbalances between the developed and developing worlds.
YURIY SERGEYEV ( Ukraine) recalled that his country had lost millions of people during the Great Famine (Holomodor) of 1932-1933. Ukraine, therefore, understood the necessity of a timely mechanism for aid and food distribution. As a major grain producer, Ukraine had experience in providing food assistance to countries in need. It had recently shipped food aid to Myanmar, Tajikistan and some African States. Providing assistance at the bilateral level offered the advantage of being able to act in a timely manner due to fewer bureaucratic processes.
He said his country was prepared to be a donor in the ambitious mechanisms proposed by the Task Force. The Comprehensive Framework should create the kind of system that would address the current crises urgently while also contributing to the creation of medium- and long-term mechanisms to help countries with supplies in permanent crisis to build their economies in a way that would enable them to cope with food challenges.
GIANCARLO SOLER TORRIJOS ( Panama) said rising food and energy prices were caused by numerous and interlinked factors. For example, an inordinate increase in demand for energy had contributed to rising energy prices that, in turn, had negatively impacted agricultural production in numerous countries. Now there was an urgent need to increase the supply of healthy and economical food for all. Doing so would require swift and serious problem-solving within the United Nations system and among other international organizations. The gravity of the problem meant it could not be shelved. Indeed, the prices of oil and its derivatives already constituted a threat to international peace and security, and the international community had a responsibility to seek a coordinated response to that threat.
KAIRE MBUENDE ( Namibia) said the food crisis could develop into a threat to international peace and stability since “a hungry man is an angry man”. As a net food- and oil-importing country, Namibia had been hit hard by the crisis, with the prices of food and petrol having doubled in the last six months. It was thus alarming that a number of food-producing countries had already put mechanisms in place to restrict exports, while some of their citizens hoarded food in order to artificially influence the market. The General Assembly should call on Governments to scale up investment in agriculture, increase productivity and discourage hoarding. The Assembly should call on international financial institutions to increase their lending to agriculture.
EL MOSTAFA SAHEL ( Morocco) said the Secretary-General’s report showed just how broad-based the food crisis was. The world faced the three-fold challenge of mitigating the escalating food and energy crises, coping with climate change and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The South would be particularly affected by those challenges. More than 850 million people were suffering from hunger and the current crisis was likely to push another 100 million into extreme hunger and poverty. There was an urgent need to act in a coordinated fashion. Short- as well as medium-term measures were needed, as was massive investment in agriculture and water resources. But success in African agricultural policies could only be achieved if developed countries eliminated subsidies. It was also essential to reverse the downward trend in official development assistance flows, particularly to the agricultural sector, which continued to drop. The countries most affected by the food and energy crises were in urgent need of safety nets.
JOSE LUIS CANCELA ( Uruguay) said Latin America could help find solutions to control the food and energy crises, but it was important to look at the structural factors that had created them. The Uruguay round had been an important step forward because, for the first time, it had included agricultural trade in multilateral trade agreements. For many decades, international trade was characterized by relatively low food prices. A speedy increase in the price of food had led to the present severe food crisis in many countries. Apart from urgent measures, a successful conclusion to the Doha Round, especially the agricultural chapter, was necessary. A significant increase in external assistance from developed countries would lead to a fairer, more balanced and efficient world agricultural trade market. There was a need for cooperation in the developed world to promote agricultural and soil-resource development.
MOHAMMED AL-HADHRAMI ( Yemen) said that global climate change, the depletion of food reserves and the unprecedented rise in the price of fuels were among the most urgent issues facing the global community. The challenge was to limit the present crises while also instituting the economic and trade reforms required to prevent them from recurring in the future. Yemen participated in regional and international forums considering joint actions to be undertaken in a cooperative and coordinated manner. Since 2005, the country’s development planning had been linked with its plan of action for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said the Comprehensive Framework represented a consensus view of the United Nations system on how to respond to the crisis, but it contained little input from the Member States who bore the main burden of addressing the crisis and were at the centre of the response. It also labelled the crisis as both a threat and an opportunity. While every crisis could be considered an opportunity to rebuild anew, it would be unfortunate to present the desperation of vulnerable people struggling to feed themselves as an opportunity.
Agricultural subsidies in developed countries and poor advice from the Bretton Woods institutions had contributed to the crisis, he emphasized, noting that the Framework did not pay enough attention to that aspect. The issue of biofuels was hidden in generalities and there was no meaningful reference to technology. Specific recommendations should also be included on such matters as nutrition interventions, school feeding programmes and enhanced safety nets.
On a positive note, India was feeding 17 per cent of the world’s population on less than 5 per cent of the world’s water and 3 per cent of its arable land, he said. Measures had been taken since the start of the country’s “green revolution” in the 1960s to increase agricultural output and food security. A record harvest was expected for 2007-2008. That was encouraging for hopes of meeting the current challenges through genuine cooperation and concerted global action.
MONA JUUL ( Norway) said that, although the rising prices of food and energy were a growing problem, in the long term, high food prices could be a source of income in developing countries and high energy prices could catalyse innovation. The increased risk of hunger, on the other hand, raised the risk of violence, crime and social unrest. The global food-security situation called for a strong commitment by all stakeholders to work together to achieve the objectives of the Rome World Food Summit. Since climate change might be the greatest threat to food security, failing to place the fight against it at the top of the food-security agenda would be seriously neglecting the international community’s responsibility.
She said short- and long-term measures must be balanced so that actions taken now would not have negative consequences in the long term. Increased productivity was clearly required to meet the needs of a growing global population. But increased productivity was of little value to African farmers, for instance, if their goods could not reach a functional market. Part of the answer could be found in the traditional development toolbox of infrastructure, improved governance and conducive economic policies, but such efforts must not be undertaken at the cost of environmental sustainability.
PHILLIP MULLER ( Marshall Islands) said his country was at the forefront of the global food and energy emergency. The Marshall Islands lacked basic energy security and had recently declared a state of emergency due to rising fuel and food costs. Though the Government was taking the correct steps -- such as the implementation of nationwide energy conservation measures -- it would be unable to meet the challenges it faced without the immediate assistance of Member States and multilateral actors. Global energy price shocks had placed basic food staples beyond the reach of the majority of the population and had severely impacted the transportation of basic necessities to the rural outer islands. Only the immediate partnership and assistance of the global community, both within and outside the United Nations system, could help the country and others in a similar position avert a “looming national crisis of unimaginable magnitude”.
PARK IN-KOOK ( Republic of Korea) said it was feared that, in addition to some 854 million people currently suffering from hunger, the food crisis might push another 100 million people into extreme poverty and hunger. An urgent and well-coordinated response was needed. The Republic of Korea supported the Comprehensive Framework and the Rome Declaration as valuable guidelines towards overcoming the food crisis and ensuring sustainable global food security. The revised Comprehensive Framework provided a range of options to address immediate needs, strengthen resilience and contribute to longer-term food security. To better implement it, stakeholders must build a consensus regarding a set of still-contentious issues such as biofuels; export restrictions; reform of the international financial system, including control of speculative investment; genetically modified organisms; and local procurement of food assistance. Further research was needed to ensure that biofuel production did not undermine food security. Export restrictions by food suppliers must be stopped since they could distort world food markets and reduce domestic productivity.
CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), describing the Comprehensive Framework as a positive step towards the short- and medium-term measures required to address the complex and multidimensional food crisis, said it was imperative now to increase international aid capacity to respond to the crisis while reducing the imbalances and distortions of the multilateral trade system. It was equally important to address the situation created by the dynamics of energy demand and supply and, specifically, the use of renewable energy sources and biofuels. Those alternatives had the potential to transform the energy economy and improve energy security at the national and international levels. Though there was much debate about the production of biofuels in the global food situation, the production of biofuels in Colombia had not reduced the agro-alimentary supply. It had, in fact, contributed to the creation of thousands of jobs. Though the Comprehensive Framework addressed certain aspects of the critical increase in oil prices, the inclusion of more ambitious actions with respect to the general scope of the energy crisis would be appreciated.
AURA MAHUAMPI RODRIGUEZ DE ORTIZ ( Venezuela) said there were many root causes of the current crises and, as such, the solution would require a close examination of all of them, including the geopolitical factors affecting agriculture and energy markets and the vulnerability of those markets to speculative actions by public and private actors. Besides geopolitical factors, the current situation of the international monetary and financial markets also played a large role in the current crisis. On a multilateral level, Venezuela had always supported a global economic system that favoured the developing countries and properly addressed their needs. On a regional level, Venezuela and its neighbours had already taken action to respond to the crises, having implemented a number of programmes to ensure that food and energy would be available to those most in need on a sustainable basis.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said that conceptual clarity, evidence and the political will to act were necessary in order effectively to address the global food and energy crises. Sustainable development must continue to be the overarching framework for addressing both. The food and fuel crises had been caused by increasing demand, speculation and supply constraints, including diminishing food stocks, and the reduction in agricultural production and productivity in the case of food, and insufficient production by major exporters in the case of energy.
He said that, according to a recent paper by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the flow of speculative capital into the commodity sector had contributed to price increases, which were likely linked to the global financial turmoil caused by the sub-prime crisis. Speculators, discouraged by that crisis, had looked to the commodities trade for better profits. As of March 2008, $170 billion had been invested in the commodity sector.
It was necessary to create a consensus on the appropriate methods of producing or creating alternative sources of energy, he said. Major oil producers had an important role in addressing supplies and prices by increasing production of crude. Long-term solutions were also necessary to stabilize oil prices. For example, the international community could examine how future markets might be organized to help stabilize prices. Regarding the Comprehensive Framework, it was not a funding instrument, and in order to be truly comprehensive, its operational aspects must be married with funding, beyond a mere statement of requirements.
T. VANCE McMAHAN ( United States) said his country worked closely with the international community and the United Nations system to address rising food prices and food insecurity. It was a leader in food-related assistance. The Rome Conference had been an important step in addressing the crisis, reflecting a clear international consensus on many factors that had contributed to higher food prices, including steep increases in fuel and transportation costs, poor harvests due to adverse weather, export restrictions and an unprecedented rise in demand for food products, especially in developing economies. The increased focus on the development of biofuels had also contributed to higher demand for agricultural products.
To address the complex problem, a multi-tiered approach would have to be adopted to provide both immediate emergency assistance and long-term actions, he said. The strategy of the United States would focus on providing immediate humanitarian assistance to those made vulnerable by the crisis and supporting agricultural productivity and development. It would also focus on countries capable of rapidly increasing the production of staple foods and promote trade liberalization alongside increased access to advanced agricultural technologies. Combined with other food-security assistance programmes already in place, the United States would devote nearly $5 billion to fighting global hunger in 2008-2009.
He went on to say that his country would work in the collaborative agreement just forged between the United Nations system and the G-8, including the goal of a Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme committed to 6.2 per cent annual growth in agricultural productivity and to doubling the production of key food staples. In addition, because of the close connection between rising food prices and increasing energy costs, the United States would accelerate the development and commercialization of sustainable second-generation biofuels from non-food-plant materials and inedible biomass.
AHMED KHALEEL ( Maldives) said that due to scarce arable land, poor soil and lack of freshwater for irrigation, agricultural development in his country had been limited. About 90 per cent of all food items were imported and 98 per cent of energy needs were met by imported fossil fuels. That heavy dependency on imports, combined with limited storage facilities and ad hoc distribution, posed severe food-security risks. The Maldives was pursuing the growth of the agricultural sector in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
He said his country was on track to achieving the Millennium Development Goals despite its numerous vulnerabilities and development constraints, stressing that climate change should always be central to discussions on food security. Short-term measures were important for easing immediate pressures, but a sustainable solution was grounded in a fair and equitable trading regime and a collective commitment to combating climate change and environmental degradation. The Doha Round and post-Bali negotiations should be finalized quickly, and the steady depletion of global water resources should also be addressed.
ABDULLATIF SALLAM ( Saudi Arabia) said his country was working to stabilize world energy markets and limit the global price of oil while attempting to strike a balance between supply and demand. Saudi Arabia had hosted a global energy conference in June 2008 to address those concerns and encourage greater financial assistance for countries severely affected by rising prices. A number of positive initiatives had been announced at that conference, including the announcement that Saudi Arabia would increase its oil production by 200,000 barrels a day and its allocation of $500 million to help the World Food Programme (WFP) tackle the world food crisis. Such efforts were positive steps towards resolving the current crisis and Saudi Arabia reiterated its commitment to ensuring the long-term stability of energy markets.
SLOBODAN TASOVSKI, (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said more emphasis should be placed in the future on joint programming and coordination to ensure sustainable food production and supply. The root causes of the crisis should be more thoroughly addressed, including the lack of investment in increasing productivity in the agricultural sector. At the national level, the Government had implemented a set of long-term measures, supported by the necessary financial resources, to improve agricultural production and meet national electricity demands with renewable energy. However, those visionary goals could only be achieved through coordinated action and with international support. The food-security and energy crises stood in the way of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The United Nations should take the lead in ensuring that those goals were met and a solution to the crisis found.
RODOLFO BENITEZ VERSON ( Cuba) said the food crisis was part of a “grave structural crisis” in the international economy. The paradox of the current crisis was that there was enough food to feed everyone on earth, but the actions of countries of the North -– such as the imposition of agricultural subsidies and trade rules -- had severely affected agriculture producers in those of the South. Although discussions on the production of biofuels as an alternative source of energy were worthwhile, it was necessary to ensure that such production would exclude basic food crops, like grains and cereals, in order to avoid even greater food insecurity.
Overall, the Comprehensive Framework should be considered a “living document” that was continually evolving, he said. To that end, the Government of Cuba wished to suggest a number of other measures that would help create a more equitable and democratic international order for the benefit of global development. Developed countries had the resources to solve the current crisis and, on certain issues, already had agreed-upon financial goals for assistance. Those countries must now demonstrate the political will to take positive action.
HABIB MANSOUR ( Tunisia) said the international community faced the daunting task of solving a food crisis while also developing medium- and long-term strategies for better management of the global food supply for all people. The Comprehensive Framework had many good suggestions for initiatives but a central concern that had not yet been addressed was how to raise the funding and develop the resources to help developing countries implement those initiatives. Strategic choices must be made in considering which measures to adopt in various situations. Urgent use should be made of existing financial mechanisms.
BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam) said he would have further comments on the Comprehensive Framework after more careful study, but already it seemed that it should be expanded to cover the soaring price of oil in greater depth since it was a main and direct cause of the food crisis. As the world’s second largest rice exporter, Viet Nam was aware of the sharp increase, triggered by the energy crisis, in the costs of processing foods and fertilizers, in shipping and storage, not to mention food costs. During April and May, Vietnamese consumers had experienced a doubling in the price of rice and the escalation had been followed by a two-digit rise in the inflation rate. The economy was being challenged and the Government had taken measures to ensure there was sufficient rice in the market by speeding up the elaboration of a longer-term plan on food security for which the Comprehensive Framework would serve as an essential guideline. Also, the United Nations should conduct a comprehensive study of the energy crisis and produce a set of policy recommendations similar to those on the food crisis.
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