Warning that the high cost of food and fuel is causing millions of people to go hungry, Ban Ki-moon opened a meeting of business leaders today by urging that “we have to boost our private-public alliance.”
Mr. Ban was speaking to the inaugural UN Private Sector Forum on Food Sustainability, which brings together chief executives, government leaders and senior UN officials in a partnership aimed at fighting hunger and advancing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
On the day before world leaders gather at the UN to chart a course of action aimed at galvanizing world leaders into action on achieving the eight MDGs, Mr. Ban said: “Markets can flourish only in societies that are healthy. And societies need healthy markets to flourish.”
Currently, over 900 million people are estimated to be suffering from hunger. An additional 75 million people were pushed into hunger and poverty last year, largely as a result of high food prices. If an additional estimated 1.6 billion people by 2030 are to be fed, world agricultural production will have to increase by 50 per cent. Private investment is crucial to boost agricultural production and rural development.
“We are facing a development emergency,” according to the UN chief. “Insecurity and even violence could easily follow.”
He called for more investment in agriculture and expressed confidence that private sector expertise will help tackle such issues as water access and management, agricultural inputs, technological innovations, and energy and biofuels.
Engaging the business community towards achieving greater food sustainability is one approach to addressing the long-term response to the global food crisis. The forum will attempt to mobilize corporations to identify and scale up best practices.
A guide called Food Sustainability and the Role of the Private Sector, compiled by the UN Global Compact Office, highlights how companies from different sectors can have an impact on food sustainability through their activities will also be made available.
The forum will launch a Global Partnership for the Business Call to Action, which will track commitments companies make toward meeting the MDGs.
“The Business Call to Action is the next natural step in our effort to catalyze, inspire and support increased private sector investments that can help achieve the MDGs,” said Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
“Meeting our challenges in our fight against poverty takes creativity,” he added, emphasizing the need for business initiatives to harness the resources and talents of global business.
According to Amir Dossal, head of the UN Office for Partnerships, there are inherent difficulties in forging private-public partnerships but collaboration with private sector foundations and philanthropic organizations is essential to improve food security. “In short, the UN is open for business.”
The forum was organized by the UN Global Compact Office, UNDP, the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Office for Partnerships and the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – which functions as coordinator of the High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis.