Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the launch of the second brief by the Global Crisis Response Group, in New York today:
Let me begin by also thanking Rebeca Grynspan and the Global Crisis Response Group for this latest brief on how the war in Ukraine, in all its dimensions, is affecting people around the world.
Today’s report makes clear that the war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe and speeding up. It is amplifying the consequences of the many other crises the world faces: climate, COVID-19 and the severe global inequalities in the resources available for the recovery from the pandemic.
Three months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we face a new reality. For those on the ground, every day brings new bloodshed and suffering. And for people around the world, the war, together with the other crises, is threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake. Vulnerable people and vulnerable countries are already being hit hard; but make no mistake: no country or community will be left untouched by this cost-of-living crisis.
Food prices are at near-record highs. Fertilizer prices have more than doubled, sounding an alarm everywhere. Without fertilizers, shortages will spread from corn and wheat to all staple crops, including rice, with a devastating impact on billions of people in Asia and South America, too. This year’s food crisis is about lack of access. Next year’s could be about lack of food.
Record‑high energy prices are also triggering blackouts and fuel shortages in all parts of the world, especially in Africa. And the financial squeeze continues on many developing countries — on top of the risk of debt default and economic collapse because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the inequality of the recovery, and the climate crisis. Worldwide, 3 out of 5 workers are earning less than before the pandemic.
Now, both countries and individuals have no hope of balancing their budgets. Instead, families everywhere are being forced into impossible decisions: whether to shut down their businesses, sell their livestock or take their children out of school.
Women and girls are often the last to eat, and the first to miss meals as food shortages spread. The number of severely food-insecure people has doubled in the past two years. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates the ripple effects of the war could increase the number of people facing severe food insecurity by 47 million in 2022.
In reality, there is only one way to stop this gathering storm in its tracks: the Russian invasion of Ukraine must end. The death and destruction must stop. A political solution must be found in line with international law and the United Nations Charter. But, until that happens, we need immediate action on two fronts.
First, we need to bring stability to global food and energy markets to break the vicious cycle of rising prices and bring relief to developing countries. Ukraine’s food production, and the food and fertilizer produced by the Russian Federation, must be brought back into world markets — despite the war.
I have asked Rebeca Grynspan and my humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, to coordinate two task forces to help find a package deal that allows for the safe and secure export of Ukrainian-produced food through the Black Sea, and unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilizers. This deal is essential for hundreds of millions of people in developing countries, including in sub‑Saharan Africa.
Rebeca and Martin have been working closely with all parties to move this forward. In the past 10 days, they have held direct contacts with Moscow, Kyiv, Ankara, Brussels and Washington, D.C. At this point, saying anything more in public would jeopardize the chances of success, and I ask for your understanding. This is one of those moments when silent diplomacy is necessary — and the welfare of millions of people around the world could depend on it.
Second, we need to make resources available immediately to help the poorest countries and communities. Governments must be able to borrow the money they need to keep their economies afloat and their people thriving. There is no solution to this global crisis without a solution to the economic crisis in the developing world.
The global financial system must rise above its shortcomings and use all the instruments at its disposal, with flexibility and understanding, to provide support to vulnerable countries and people. The message of today’s report is clear and insistent: we must act now to save lives and livelihoods over the next months and years. It will take global action to fix this global crisis. We need to start today.