Press Conference by UN System Coordinator for Global Food Security Crisis

25 September 2009

Press Conference by UN System Coordinator for Global Food Security Crisis

25 September 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by UN System Coordinator for Global Food Security Crisis

Under the auspices of the United Nations, States were taking a revolutionary and aggressive approach to the global food crisis, David Nabarro, United Nations System Coordinator for the Global Food Security Crisis, said at Headquarters today.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of a high-level meeting tomorrow, he said the new strategy had been developed at a critical time as hundreds of millions of people suffered from food and nutrition insecurity.  Following last year’s dramatic rise in food prices, the United Nations system had worked together “mobilizing billions of dollars and saving millions of lives”, he said.  Although food prices had since fallen, food security had not improved, and more than a billion people were chronically hungry.

He said the new approach had been developed after the July Group of Eight meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, and involved $20 billion worth of pledges.  Tomorrow’s event would involve participants from 100 countries, including Heads of State, in discussing urgent food security matters.  It was expected to broaden the scope of participation, reinforce commitments to fulfil existing pledges and develop an action plan for 2010.

Working together in a high-level task force over the past 15 months, countries had created a framework for action that would ensure immediate assistance while building new structures for future development, he said.  The new approach to food security revolved around five key principles: ensuring the backing of country-led strategies; ensuring a comprehensive approach; strategically coordinated assistance; a strong role for multilateral institutions; sustaining sufficient commitment of financial resources; and the main goal of supporting the 500 million smallholder farmers around the world, many of whom were women.

He recalled that in 2008, the European Commission had pledged €1 billion in support of short- and medium-term actions in more than 60 countries, an issue on which the United States had taken a leadership role.  “It’s very, very interesting to see the way in which the United States Government has joined with European nations, the African Union and with other regional and global bodies to support this effort,” he said.  “And we can see that this might the beginning of a period in which we can make a long-term shift towards trying to deal with the chronic problem of food security.”

Responding to a question about which foods were in short supply, Mr. Nabarro said there was currently no absolute food shortage as such.  “The fundamental issue is not producing enough, but who produces it and who can access it.”

Asked about the beneficiaries of the $20 billion pledged so far, he said the “view-finder is trained on the smallest, poorest farmers”.  The strategy was not industrialization, but supporting and developing smallholder agriculture.  “We’ve been seeking to find a combined approach to food security that on the one hand responds to the acute needs of people who are hungry and who are very short of food, while at the same time, trying to build up more functional, long-term agricultural development that focuses on the interests of these smallholder farmers.”

He went on to outline how the situation had deteriorated in several countries.  In Somalia, there were now 3.5 million people supported by the World Food Programme (WFP), which, at the same time, was $200 million short in that country.  In Ethiopia, WFP now aided 11 million people, but had a shortfall of $434 million.  In Djibouti, WFP had a $2.7 million deficit, and in Kenya it now supported 4.5 million people and was short $280 million.  In Uganda, there was a shortfall of $66 million.  All told, WFP was short about $1 billion, a “huge challenge”, Mr. Nabarro said.  With acute malnutrition on the rise, “it is fair to say that the situation is extremely worrying”.

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