Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a high-level gathering tonight on the combined impact of the global food crisis and climate change with a call to world leaders to hold each other accountable for making real progress to helping the hundreds of millions of people in need.
“The poor and hungry of this world are looking at us for leadership and solutions. We must not fail them,” Mr. Ban said at the event, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
“The cost of inaction – even in what may constitute tough economic times – will be devastating, and the effects will be felt all over the world in the form of sharp increases in migration, social and political instability, losses of investment opportunities and stunted economic growth.”
Tonight’s meeting consists of a series of discussions that will examine issues including: how to bolster agricultural productivity; developing alternative approaches to managing food security risks; and building consensus on the political objectives for the next round of climate change talks, which are scheduled for Poznan, Poland, at the end of this year.
The heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank are participating, as are representatives of at least 32 countries and some regional organizations.
Mr. Ban told the meeting that his High-Level Task Force on the food crisis has devised concrete policy proposals aimed at both improving food security and advancing on efforts to mitigate and combat the effects of global warming.
He called for a reverse of “the negative trend of chronic under-investment into the agricultural sector” and the liberalization of trade rules to allow the estimated 400 million small-holder farmers around the world to compete fairly on the international market.
The price of many basic foods, such as rice, has soared over the past two years, and the Secretary-General noted that the most recent UN data indicates that at least 75 million additional people slid into hunger and poverty, joining over 800 million others.
“The nutritional status of many poor, among them millions of children, is further declining. A moral outrage in my view.”
Earlier today, in remarks to the presentation of the Irish Hunger Task Force Report, he stressed the need for a coordinated response to the food crisis.
“We need to… [bring] together governments, the UN and Bretton Woods institutions, donors, civil society and the private sector. We need to provide the political commitment to make policy changes.”
Mr. Ban said as much as $40 billion a year in funding will be required for the next three to five years to alleviate the food crisis and ensuring long-term improvement in agricultural production.
In a separate address today to a New York gathering hosted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Mr. Ban said the Poznan summit in December will be the first real test of international commitment to the issue after last year’s breakthrough in Bali.
He called for the world’s countries to make sure they emerge from Poznan with “a strong political signal on strengthening financial and technology transfer mechanisms to help developing countries with adaptation and mitigation.”
The Secretary-General added that a concrete work plan is also needed for next year so that countries can engage in substantive negotiations immediately, given that a long-range global deal on greenhouse gas emissions is supposed to be concluded by December 2009.