EMERGENCY AND LONG-TERM STEPS NEEDED TO ADDRESS ESCALATING WORLD FOOD CRISIS, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPECIAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL MEETING

14 April 2008
SG/SM/11511-ECOSOC/6329

EMERGENCY AND LONG-TERM STEPS NEEDED TO ADDRESS ESCALATING WORLD FOOD CRISIS, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPECIAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL MEETING

14 April 2008
Secretary-General
SG/SM/11511 ECOSOC/6329
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

EMERGENCY AND LONG-TERM STEPS NEEDED TO ADDRESS ESCALATING WORLD FOOD CRISIS,

SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPECIAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL MEETING

Following is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the special high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in New York, 14 April:

It gives me great pleasure to join the President of the Economic and Social Council in welcoming you all once again to the United Nations.

Over the past several years, this annual gathering has contributed significantly towards improved coordination between the Economic and Social Council and our partners from the international trade and financial institutions.  Our discussions have emerged as a particularly important part of the follow-up to the landmark Monterrey Consensus.

Today’s meeting builds on this tradition, but its timing also adds greatly to its significance.  In less than eight months from now, world leaders and decision makers will gather in Doha, Qatar, to take stock of the Monterrey Consensus.  They will assess progress made, consider obstacles encountered and chart the way forward on each of the six themes underlying the Consensus.

Preparations for this crucial conference are well under way.  Four of the six preparatory review sessions have already been held.  A fifth session, on aid and development cooperation, will take place over the coming two days.

This gathering is well-placed to bolster this preparatory process, and to build momentum for a successful event.  Our focus on the challenges and emerging issues in the realm of financing for development is also a major agenda item for Doha.  What we decide here will help guide and inform world leaders when they meet in November.

The rapidly escalating crisis of food availability around the world has reached emergency proportions.  The World Bank has indicated that the doubling of food crisis over the last three years could push 100 million people in low-income countries deeper into poverty.  We need not only short-term emergency measures to meet urgent critical needs and avert starvation in many regions across the world, but also a significant increase in long-term productivity in food grain production.  The recent steep rise in prices has already raised the cost of WFP’s [World Food Programme] needs to maintain its current operations from $500 million to $750 million.  As Robert Zoellick said last week the crisis could mean “seven lost years” in the fight against worldwide poverty.

The international community will also need to take urgent and concerted action in order to avert the larger political and security implications of this growing crisis.  The United Nations needs to examine ways to lead a process for the immediate and longer term responses to this global problem.

The President of ECOSOC, in consultation with Council members, has identified five key themes for discussion.  Let me briefly share my thoughts on each one.

First, as you all know better than anyone, the post-Monterrey period has resulted in a number of new proposals on development financing which command varying degrees of consensus.  If implemented, many of these measures could lead to more stable and predictable long-term resource flows to developing countries.  Technical discussions are currently ongoing on a wide range of these initiatives.  We must seek out the most promising projects, build consensus around them and implement them successfully. 

I have appointed M. Philippe Douste-Blazy, former Foreign Minister of France and Chairman of UNITAID’s Executive Board, as my Special Adviser on Innovative Financing for Development.  He will lead the UN Secretariat’s efforts to support this important process.

Second, the international community has come to appreciate the special development case of middle-income countries, especially in the area of trade.  Middle-income countries need better market access to foster their comparative advantages.  They also require technical assistance and knowledge sharing to help address critical gaps in their development processes.  These shortcomings range from the need to improve infrastructure, integrate into world financial markets, and tackle persistent pockets of poverty and growing inequality.

Third, the international financial, trading and monetary system has given rise to new challenges and opportunities for least developed countries.  We know that trade can be an engine of growth for the poorest economies, especially when it is linked with improvements in domestic productive capacity.  To enjoy the full benefits of trade, least developed countries need to diversify their exports.  The case for diversification has become especially compelling in light of the high volatility of prices for primary products.  However, both diversification and economic capacity-building require increased investment and technology transfer from donors.  We must therefore look into ways to bolster “aid for trade” support to these countries.

Fourth, financial markets in both developed and developing countries have experienced enormous growth in years.  Regrettably, regulatory checks and balances have failed to keep pace.  The current turmoil in world markets demonstrates that this gap is unsustainable.  We need innovative and robust regulation to protect financial systems and sustain continued growth and expansion.  This requires a concerted effort by all players, working through universal forums like the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions.

Finally, long-term global economic growth and sustainable development is imperilled by climate change.  Developing countries need external assistance -– especially better technology and increased financing -– to rise to this challenge.

In less than two years, the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place in Copenhagen.  We must utilize the run-up to this critical meeting to implement new ways to finance adaptation and mitigation measures in the developing world.  But let us also not reinvent the wheel; we should build on existing foundations by exploring how existing mechanisms can be enhanced, understanding where they are insufficient, and then deciding what additional financing means may be necessary.

The need for sustainable, equitable development, in rich and poor countries alike, is indisputable.  Your views, proposals and new initiatives on today’s discussion themes can help point us in that direction, and provide critical inputs for the Doha Review Conference.

For my part, I am also determined to do everything possible to advance the international development agenda.  Together with the President of the General Assembly, I have called a special High-Level Event in New York this September to discuss ways to step up implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  I believe this meeting will help heighten focus on the world’s development needs.  And it will send a powerful signal that the Doha Review Conference must deliver on the promise of the global partnership for development.

I am also designating two Special Envoys for the Doha Review Conference.  Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Minister of Development Cooperation of Germany, and Trevor Manuel, Minister of Finance of South Africa, will help mobilize political support for, and high-level participation in, the Conference.

You can count on my full support, and that of my Special Envoys, during this preparatory period for Doha.  Together, let us make 2008 a truly great year in the field of development.

Thank you very much.  I wish you all a most productive meeting.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.