Italy says UN must continue to lead efforts to resolve global food crisis

26 September 2008

The United Nations should be at the forefront of efforts to tackle the global food crisis, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told the General Assembly tonight, saying the world body’s agencies are best placed to both alleviate hunger and guarantee food security.

But Mr. Frattini stressed that a partnership involving governments, the business sector and others is also necessary if the world is to successfully ameliorate the effects of the food crisis or any other of today’s major challenges, such as climate change.

“We must enable the Organization to tackle it effectively,” he said, referring to the food crisis and citing the work so far of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which are all headquartered in Rome.

The UN held a major summit in June in the Italian capital to discuss the crisis and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also set up a global high-level task force to spearhead efforts to find solutions, such as boosting agricultural production.

“We also encourage a direct involvement of the private sector in bringing agriculture back to its rightful place at the centre of economic policies,” Mr. Frattini said. “A global partnership that will increase the flow of investments and know-how, increase productivity, and contribute to the development of national agro-industry.”

The soaring cost of many basic foods, such as rice, over the past two years has driven at least 75 million people into poverty, taking the total number of hungry poor to over 900 million people, according to the most recent UN figures.

The food crisis has undermined efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of eight internationally-backed targets for slashing social and economic ills, all by 2015.

Mr. Frattini urged delegates at the Assembly to make the pursuit of the MDGs “an absolute priority” so as to bring meaningful difference to the lives of nearly a billion people.

 

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