Economic and Social Council Briefed by Top UN Officials on Work of Global Food Crisis Task Force, Outcome of November World Summit on Food Security

15 December 2009
ECOSOC/6401

Economic and Social Council Briefed by Top UN Officials on Work of Global Food Crisis Task Force, Outcome of November World Summit on Food Security

15 December 2009
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6401
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2009 Substantive Session

47th Meeting (AM)

Economic and Social Council Briefed by Top UN Officials on Work of Global Food

Crisis Task Force, Outcome of November World Summit on Food Security

 

Council Also Fills Vacancies in Committees, Programmes;

President Briefs on Follow Up to World Financial Crisis Conference

Wrapping up its resumed 2009 substantive session, the Economic and Social Council today filled outstanding vacancies on a number of its subsidiary bodies, and heard briefings by key United Nations officials dealing with food security issues, as well as detailed review by its President on coordinated follow-up in response to the world economic and financial crisis.

David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition, briefed on the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, saying that panel had been created in April 2008 amid widespread concern at the impacts of fast-rising food prices on poverty.  The 22-entity Task Force was seen as a way for the Secretary-General to signal that he and the Presidents of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others, were coming together to support a global response to a very difficult situation.

Discussing the broad political context over the last 18 months, he told the Council that the Task Force had produced a document that pulled together all the activities to be undertaken to address the immediate and long-term impacts of the food crisis. It spelled out the need for a two-track approach: one dealing with the acute suffering of those who had no food; and another, dealing with the long-term challenges in the food system, including trade.  Using that Comprehensive Framework for Action, the Task Force worked in a synergized manner as a unified collective.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an extraordinary coming together of the United Nations system”, Mr. Nabarro said.  The situation had seen the biggest ever mobilization of emergency food aid in 2008, with billions of dollars of assistance brought to the hungry.  For its part, the Task Force had worked hard to make certain that the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers -- many of whom were women -- were at the centre of any food security action.  Similarly, he was pleased that the Council had chosen women and development as the theme of its 2010 session.

Going forward, he said the work of the task Force would increasingly be set in the context of climate change.  Without climate security, there could be no food or water security.  At the country level, the Task Force was working to ensure that the United Nations “acted as one” in support of national authorities.  It also was trying to make certain that a range of private sector and civil society organizations were lined up to work with Governments.

In her briefing, Lila H. Ratsifandrihamanana, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office in New York, updated the Council on the outcome of the World Summit on Food Security, held in Rome from 16 to 18 November.  She said some 4,700 delegates had attended that conference, among them 60 Heads of State and Government, 178 ministers from 184 countries and representatives of organizations, financial institutions and the private sector.

The Summit had adopted by acclamation a Declaration containing commitments and actions, as well as various strategic objectives to ensure urgent national, regional and global action to fully realize Millennium Development Goal 1 on the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, she said.  Among other provisions, Member States had committed to work within a Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition; reverse the decline in funding for agriculture, food security and rural development in developing countries; and face the challenges of climate change to food security.

During the Summit, various concerns had been raised, notably over the fact that, in 2009, one billion people had gone hungry -– over 105 million people more than a year earlier -- and that $44 billion would be needed annually to eliminate the scourge, she said.  Delegations had recommended that hunger eradication be considered a norm of international law, and stressed that agriculture be part of a comprehensive policy package.  African countries should be encouraged to dedicate 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture, as laid out in the 2003 African Union Maputo Declaration, while developed nations should provide financial and technical assistance to address food security.

Continuing, she said trade was also the subject of significant debate, with developing countries stressing that their potential as food exporters was being hampered by a trade system that did not allow products to move freely.  Transparent and non-discriminatory regulations were needed, as were efforts to combat speculation on food pricing, to increase developing country market access, create “food safety nets” and eliminate subsidies.

Ahead of those briefings, the Council filled outstanding vacancies on its subsidiary bodies for which candidates had been either forwarded or endorsed by their respective regional groups.  Those bodies included the Committee for the United Nations Population Award; the Programme Coordinating Board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).

The Council also filled vacancies on the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission.

It also appointed a member of the Committee for Development Policy.

By the terms of a unanimously adopted decision, the Council appointed an additional member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti (document E/2009/L.45).  The Council also adopted a decision on the organization of the twenty-sixth session of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names.  Both those texts were introduced by representatives from Canada.

Council members unanimously adopted another decision taking note of the report of the special session of the ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (document E/2009/118-E/CN.18/SS/2009/2).

The Council wrapped up its work with a detailed briefing from its President, Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, on the 54-member body’s work in follow-up to the June 2009 United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development.  The Council had earlier requested the Secretariat to prepare a series of reports based on the Outcome of that three-day meeting.

She recalled that the Conference had tasked the Council, in its role as the principal organ, to coordinate the world body’s economic, social, and related work, with taking action in the following areas: the promotion and enhancement of a coordinated response of the United Nations development system and specialized agencies in following up the Conference; enhancing collaboration and cooperation between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions; and on the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel on the world economic and financial crisis and its impact on development.

Ms. Lucas said the reports were presented to the Council on 31 September 2009 and, thereafter, she had convened, in October and November, open-ended informal consultations on each of the mandates covered in the reports.  She went on to provide a detailed review of progress made in the consideration of those mandates, highlighting key issues where she believed that certain consensus had emerged, or could emerge in the coming weeks and months.  She also provided some ideas and suggestions on the way forward.

Regarding the informal consultation on a coordinated response to the Conference’s outcome, held on 19 October, she said there had been general agreement on the Council’s role in coordinating the work of the United Nations development system in response to the crisis.  At the same time, the need for-up-to date information, especially from the country level, and for proper monitoring structures was underlined, if the Council was to fully carry out that role.

She went on to highlight the third informal consultation she had convened on 10 November, on recommendations to the General Assembly on the possible creation of an ad hoc panel of experts on the crisis and its impact on development.  She said that, though it would be premature to speak about an emerging consensus on the issue, she believed the discussion had helped define certain parameters and criteria the Council could consider when making its recommendations on the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene and a time and date to be announced.

Background

The Economic and Social Council met this morning to take up a number of outstanding matters before wrapping up its 2009 substantive session, including elections postponed from previous sessions; coordination, programme and other questions; and economic and environmental questions.

The Council was also expected to hear respective briefings by the Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition, on the work of the Secretary-General’s High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, and the Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office in New York, on the outcome of the World Summit on Food Security.

Council President Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg) was also expected to brief on follow-up to Economic and Social Council decision 2009/258 pertaining to paragraph 56 of the outcome of the June 2009 United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development.

Elections to Subsidiary Bodies

Taking up the first item on its agenda, the Council filled outstanding vacancies on its subsidiary bodies for which candidates had been either forwarded or endorsed by their respective regional groups.

The Council elected by acclamation Bangladesh and Czech Republic to fill the vacant seats in their respective regional groups in the Committee for the United Nations Population Fund Award, for three-year terms, beginning on 1 January 2010. Regarding the remaining vacancies on that body, the Council decided to postpone the election of 2 members from the African Group, 1 member from the Asian Group, and member from the Western European and other States Group.

Next, the Council elected by acclamation China to the Programme Coordinating Board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), for a three-year term beginning 1 January. It postponed the election of 1 member for the African States Group.

Turning to the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the Council elected by acclamation Afghanistan to serve on that panel for a term beginning today and expiring 31 December 2012. It decided to postpone election of four members from the Western European and other States Group; two whole terms of office were set to expire on expire 31 December 2011, and two whole would expire on 2012.

To fill a vacancy on the Geneva-based Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Council elected by acclamation Aslan Khuseinovich Abashidze -- nominated by the Russian Federation -- to a term of office beginning today and ending 31 December 2010.  Mr. Adashidze would replace Yuri Koslov, also of the Russian Federation, who resigned earlier.

The Council next turned to three upcoming vacancies on the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Council President SYLVIE LUCAS informed delegations that the term of office for three Commission members elected by the Council would expire on 31 December 2009.

Under that scenario, the seats currently occupied by Algeria, El Salvador and Luxembourg would become vacant on 1 January 2010.  Ms. LUCAS said the respective regional groups had endorsed Egypt, Brazil and Australia to fill those upcoming vacancies.  The Council elected those States to the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission for a term from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010. 

The Council then went on to approve Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s nomination of Patrick Plane of France for a three-year term of office on the Committee for Development Policy, beginning 1 January 2010.

On matters regarding coordination, programme and other questions, the Council turned to its long-term programme of support for Haiti.  CHRIS PLUNKETT ( Canada) introduced a draft decision on the appointment of an additional member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti (E/2009/L.45), by which, the Council would decide to appoint the Permanent Representative of El Salvador as an additional member of that Group.

Before the adoption of the text, CARMEN MARIA GALLARDO HERNANDEZ (El Salvador) said her delegation hoped to make a real contribution to the Group and would consider its appointment as “completing a circle” that had begun in 2004 when El Salvador had started participating in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Approval of the decision would also allow El Salvador to share its experience in peacebuilding and consolidation of democracy since the signing of a peace treaty had ended the long civil war there, as well as to actively participate in the long-term development of Haiti.

Following that statement, NICOLE ROMULUS ( Haiti) thanked Canada and El Salvador for taking an interest in her country.  She hoped that Haiti would be able to draw important lessons from El Salvador’s experience.

The Council adopted the decision without a vote.

Turning to the report of the special session of the ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (E/2009/118-E/CN.18/SS/209/2), the Council adopted a decision contained therein taking note of the report and the work of the Forum. Providing some background, Ms. LUCAS informed the Council that in late October, the Forum’s special session had been able to complete its consideration of an outstanding item from its eighth session, on the means of implementation for sustainable forest management.  The Forum had adopted a relevant resolution and it was contained in the report.

The Council adopted a decision, also introduced by JEREMY AMOS ADLER ( Canada), on the organization of the twenty-sixth session of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (document E/2009/L.46).  By that text, the Council endorsed the recommendation that the Expert’s twenty-sixth session be held at either the United Nations Office in Geneva or the United Nations Office at Vienna, in the second quarter of 2011.

Food Security Briefings

LILA H. RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization Liaison Office with the United Nations, briefed the Council on the outcome of the World Summit on Food Security, held in Rome from 16 to 18 November.  It was attended by 4,780 delegates, among them 60 Heads of State and Government, 178 ministers from 184 countries and representatives of organizations, financial institutions and the private sector.

A declaration, adopted by acclamation, contained commitments and actions, as well as various strategic objectives to ensure urgent national, regional and global action to fully realize Millennium Development Goal 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), she said.  Among other provisions, Member States had committed to work within a Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition; reverse the decline in funding for agriculture, food security and rural development in developing countries; and face the challenges of climate change to food security.  The Declaration also outlined the five Rome Principles for Sustainable Global Food Security, which included the need to invest in country-owned plans and strive for a comprehensive, twin-track approach to food security.

During the Summit, various concerns had been raised, notably over the fact that, in 2009, one billion people had gone hungry -– over 105 million people more than a year earlier -- and that $44 billion would be needed annually to eliminate the scourge, she said.  Delegations recommended that hunger eradication be considered a norm of international law, and stressed that agriculture be part of a comprehensive policy package.  African countries should be encouraged to dedicate 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture, as laid out in the 2003 African Union Maputo Declaration, while developed nations should provide financial and technical assistance to address food security.

Trade was also the subject of significant debate, she continued, with developing countries stressing that their potential as food exporters was being hampered by a trade system that did not allow food to move freely. Transparent and non-discriminatory regulations were needed, as were efforts to combat speculation around food pricing, increase developing country market access, create “food safety nets” and eliminate subsidies.  The links between food security, sustainable development and climate change were also highlighted, as was the need to improve food security governance.  While the Group of Eight/Group of Twenty decision to mobilize $20 billion for food security over three years was strongly commended, it was noted that those funds alone would be insufficient to tackle the problem.

Speaking next, DAVID NABARRO, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Food Security and Nutrition, briefed the Council on the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, saying that the Task Force was a “time-limited body”, created under the Chief Executives Board in April 2008 amid widespread concern at the impacts of fast-rising food prices on poverty.  The 22-entity Task Force was seen as a way for the Secretary-General to signal that he and the Presidents of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, among others, would come together to support a global response to a very difficult situation.

Discussing the broad political context over the last 18 months, he said the first challenge in addressing any problem was to identify solutions.  The Task Force had produced a document that pulled together all the activities to be undertaken to address the immediate and long-term impacts of the food crisis.  It spelled out the need for a two-track approach to the situation:  one dealing with the acute suffering of those who had no food, and another, dealing with the long-term challenges in the food system, including trade.  Using that Comprehensive Framework for Action, the Task Force worked in a synergized manner as a unified collective.

In his 35 years of work, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an extraordinary coming together of the United Nations system”, he said.  The situation had seen the biggest ever mobilization of emergency food assistance in 2008, with billions of dollars of assistance brought to the hungry. Second, the Task Force had worked hard to make certain that the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers –- many of whom were women -- were at the centre of any food security action.  Similarly, he was pleased that the theme of women and development had been chosen as the Council’s theme in 2010.

Under the Secretary-General’s leadership, many different political entities had given priority to food security, he said, noting that the European Commission had committed to a €1 billion assistance package in the second half of 2008.  The African Union also had participated in successive summits, expressing the desire for more investment in food security, while in January 2009, Spain’s Prime Minister brought together world leaders to form a partnership to act on food security.

Highlighting three areas of work, he said the Committee on World Food Security had become the intergovernmental body on food security.  It was an example of how United Nations had created new forms of governance that reflected a plurality of actors dealing with a complex issue.  Second, he said Japan and Italy had led the Group of Eight in taking food security seriously, with Italy bringing together 26 nations in July 2009 at L’Aquila to provide new food security pledges, to be applied in line with the five Rome Principles.  Follow-up meetings had been held to ensure that pledged funds would be tracked and assistance coordinated.  A new funding pathway would be established by the World Bank, which would handle 10 per cent of the L’Aquila pledges.

Third, he said there was a truly African-led approach through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), a system through which countries, supported by subregional bodes and the African Union, developed compacts with donors to invest in agriculture.  Some 16 countries were developing compacts, and just last week, the Rwandan President had led the first post-compact investment meeting to develop -- and finance -- a food security investment plan. Others would follow in 2010.  The food security initiative held at L’Aquila was now coalescing as a movement and he anticipated similar efforts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), among other regions.

Going forward, the Task Force would focus on supporting that movement, he said, noting that its work would increasingly be set in the context of climate change.  Without climate security, there could be no food or water security. At the country level, the Task Force was working to ensure that the United Nations “acted as one” in support of national authorities.  It also was trying to make certain that a range of private sector and civil society organizations were lined up to work with Governments.  Finally, it would produce progress reports showing how the different agencies were working together, particularly in the context of South-South and triangular cooperation.

In the question and answer period that followed, delegates underscored the seriousness of the food crisis for many developing countries. Comments focused on the importance of trade, rather than aid, as essential to tackling the problem, and on cooperation, particularly South-South initiatives, which the United Nations could better support.  Moreover, further study was needed in the area of biofuels, before a determination about the impacts of their development on food security was made, a point underscored by the delegates of Brazil and Nicaragua.

Responding, Mr. NABARRO explained that food security was “not simply an issue of producing more food -- it’s ensuring that people can access and use it”. Doing so would reduce hunger, as Brazil had achieved through its “Hunger Zero” initiative, which had greatly reduced malnutrition.  It was important to recognize that one nation had developed policies that, in turn, had led to an “extraordinary” transformation.  He also recognized the work of another Brazilian project that had fostered the application of technology in food science.  Other examples had to be identified to adapt the right kind of research.

For its part, he said the Task Force, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General, was accountable to the General Assembly and other parts of the United Nations system.  Its comprehensive framework for action was to be revised and then brought before the Committee on Food Security.  Its membership would be supporting and responsive to that Committee.

As for biofuels, he said they were of great concern to many Task Force members and they were an extremely complex area.  The Comprehensive Framework for Action had begun to address the issue and would take its work forward under the guidance of Member States.  Also, while the Rapporteur on the Right to Food was not a Task Force member, he was in regular contact with that body and his points on both trade and biofuels, highlighted by Nicaragua, would continue to be taken into account by the Task Force.  He acknowledged the many Governments that had contributed to the Committee on Food Security, highlighting, in that context, discussions between the United States Secretary of State and the Secretary-General, among others, aimed at making progress on that issue.

Next, Ms. RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA focused on the cooperation of Rome-based agencies, saying that the Summit was a culmination of a two-year effort between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).  That approach brought together expertise on various issues, such as financing for development, resource management and smallholder farmers.  Also, the second Non-Aligned Movement summit, chaired by the Egyptian First Lady, was held prior to the World Food Summit.  It called on governments to prioritize food security, and on the United Nations to help provide the framework for capacity-building.

Follow-up to the World Conference on the Economic and Financial Crisis

Regarding the final item on the Council’s agenda today, Ms.LUCAS delivered a statement on follow-up to the outcome of the United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development, held in New York in late June.  She recalled that the Council had requested the Secretariat to prepare three reports in follow-up to the mandates given to the Council in the Conference’s outcome document.

Those reports dealt with the promotion and enhancement of a coordinated response of the United Nations development system and specialized agencies in following up the Conference; enhancing collaboration and cooperation between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions; and on the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel on the world economic and financial crisis and its impact on development.  Ms. LUCAS said the reports had been presented to the Council on 31 September 2009, and thereafter, she had convened, in October and November, open-ended informal consultations on each of the mandates covered in the reports.

She went on to provide a detailed review of progress made in the consideration of those mandates, highlighting key issues where she believed that certain consensus had emerged, or could emerge in the coming weeks and months. She also provided some ideas and suggestions on the way forward.  On the informal consultation on a coordinated response to the Conference’s outcome, she said that there had been general agreement on the Council’s role in coordinating the work of the United Nations development system in response to the crisis. At the same time, the need for-up-to date information, especially from the country level, and for proper monitoring structures, was underlined, if the Council was to fully carry out that role.

As for the consultation on enhanced collaboration with the Bretton Woods institutions, she said that, while several Member States agreed that existing agreements with those institutions provided enough space for enhanced collaboration, others cited a deficit of coordination at the policy and operational levels between the United Nations and the global financial bodies, especially in light of the current world economic and financial crisis.  In that connection, some speakers believed the relationship agreements between the United Nations and those bodies should be revised.

She went on to highlight the third informal consultation she had convened –- this one as discussion on recommendations to the General Assembly on the possible creation of an ad hoc panel of experts on the crisis and its impact on development.  She said that the presentations during that discussion, including by Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Adnan Admin, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), had been followed by a “lively exchange of views.”  While it would be premature to speak about an emerging consensus on the issue, she believed the discussion had helped define certain parameters and criteria the Council could consider when making its recommendations on the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts.

Turning to other mandates given to the Council, she noted that, just last week, the General Assembly had endorsed the Council’s recommendations on the strengthened and more effective intergovernmental process to carry out the development financing follow-up.  The challenge now was to ensure the commitments to that end were fully implemented and that the issue received the attention it deserved.

As for the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development, she said that the Council had hoped to hear some input from the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.  However, she had been informed that that body had not taken up the strengthening of institutional arrangements in tax matters during its most recent session, and, due to the heavy agenda of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and other ongoing negotiations, no further progress on the matter had been made. 

After the briefing, delegations welcomed the detailed information provided by Ms. Lucas.  They also appreciated the high-level participation in the meetings and consultations convened by the Council President, and pledged to continue working in the coming months on the very important mandates given to the Economic and Social Council in follow up to the June Conference on the financial crisis and the 2008 Doha Conference on development financing.

Several speakers urged the Council, in line with its role as the main coordinating body of the United Nations, to take up those matters urgently so that momentum would not be lost.  Several speakers also expressed support for Ms. Lucas and applauded her efforts as President during the past year.  For her part, Ms. Lucas thanked the Bureau for its support throughout the year and thanked delegations for their cooperation.

Speaking were the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Sudan (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, United States, Guatemala, and the Netherlands.

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