Warning that the world cannot afford to fail in addressing the current food crisis, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he was pleased by the strong commitment expressed by countries gathered in Rome to help alleviate the plight of the hundreds of millions of hungry people around the globe.
“I believe the Rome Conference has been the success that it needed to be – for us, for the Governments gathered here, and most importantly for the hundreds of millions of hungry people in the world,” Mr. Ban told a press conference on the second day of the High-level Conference on World Food Security.
“There is a clear sense of resolve, shared responsibility, and political commitment among Member States to making the right policy choices, and to investing in agricultural productivity for years to come, especially for smallholder farmers,” he added. “There is an acceptance of the need to provide special support for the most affected countries, and the most vulnerable populations.”
The three-day forum, hosted by the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has brought together leaders from around the globe, international organizations and financial institutions to tackle the current crisis arising from the recent dramatic escalation of food prices worldwide.
Mr. Ban noted that, just before the press conference, he had received a petition signed by well over 300,000 individuals all over the world, asking leaders for rapid action and fundamental reform to end the food crisis.
He urged world leaders to move ahead, collectively, with a sense of urgency and purpose to fight hunger and promote world food security, and to create a global partnership around a clear plan of action. “We simply cannot afford to fail,” the Secretary-General said.
He added that substantial new resources will be needed – perhaps as much as $15 to $20 billion a year to deal with the impact of the crisis. “We are duty bound to act, to act now, and to act as one,” he emphasized.
As for the causes of the crisis, the Secretary-General said that “one of the reasons may be some mismanagement of the national governments,” but also cited changes in consumption patterns, increasing demand for food, fuel price hikes and climate change-related issues.
He added that there has been much discussion on the impact of bio-fuel production on the rise in food prices, but said more research and analysis was needed on the issue. “I think we do not have any clear evidence, any definitive trade off between agricultural productivity and these bio-fuels.”
Last night Mr. Ban and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi co-hosted a high-level working dinner to discuss some of the most pressing policy issues related to the crisis – agricultural productivity, bio-fuels and trade restrictions.
A communiqué issued following the meeting noted that all the participants had agreed on the most important issues, namely “the need to focus on the poorest and the insufficiency of food production.”