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Food and fuel crises require results, not just promises, Malaysia tells UN debate

Food and fuel crises require results, not just promises, Malaysia tells UN debate

Rais Yatim, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia
The global food and fuel crisis will be not resolved unless countries start turning their statements and promises of assistance and reform on the issue into reality, Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim told the General Assembly tonight, calling for a multi-track approach to tackling the problems.

Affluent countries have a particular responsibility to fulfil their commitments on providing aid and official development assistance (ODA) to needy nations, Mr. Yatim told the fifth day of the Assembly’s annual high-level debate.

If they live up to those pledges, they would “set a standard for entire world, rather than on trying to pass the burden of action on to the developing world.”

Governments can and should also play a greater role than the private sector, particularly in developing infrastructure and transferring technology, than the private sector.

“The developing world is still infrastructure-deficient. Pure market solutions to technology transfer cannot be regarded as effective solutions for achieving sustainable development. Government intervention is required if these technologies are to be made available at concessionary rates.”

Long-standing conflicts and tensions around the world, especially those in volatile regions that are also home to leading producers and distribution channels of oil, must be resolved.

“The United Nations must play a more forward thrust in the need for peace and security. Energy and food are truly needs of humanity. As such, the UN must create a synergy of human rights into the matter so that oil and food become basic rights for humanity.”

Speaking to the Assembly debate earlier today, Peruvian Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaúnde said the food and fuel crises were having a disproportionate burden on the poor.

Mr. García Belaúnde welcomed the Assembly’s recognition of poverty as an issue that required a comprehensive global response, adding that new and ambitious strategies and programmes are going to be necessary to help the poorest.

He warned that the threats posed by the crises were overwhelming existing initiatives to fight poverty and making it harder for struggling countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of eight targets for slashing social and economic ills, by 2015.

Franck Biancheri, Government Counsellor for External Relations and International Economic and Financial Affairs of Monaco, said the current situation in many parts of the world was so dire as a result of the food and fuel crises and climate change that drastically stepped-up efforts are needed to achieve the MDGs.

Monaco plans to increase its ODA by 25 per cent every year and to focus its support on the States classified as the least developed countries (LDCs), he said, as part of a plan to reach a target of spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on assistance by 2015.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said yesterday in his address that the focus of international assistance should be on sub-Saharan Africa, which is lagging the most in the race to reach the MDGs.

But he said there had been some noteworthy progress in Africa, too, with the lifting of 400 million people out of extreme poverty, improvements in gender equality and education, and a 27 per cent drop in the infant mortality rate.

For his part, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht said today that the impact of the crises meant it was critical to find the political will to re-start the stalled Doha round of global trade liberalization talks.

Mr. de Gucht said wealth-sharing remained deeply unequal, despite some of the positive steps taken as a result of globalization and its gradual impact on free trade.

Some of the new emerging economies such as Brazil, China and South Africa need exchanges that are open and equitable so that they can develop at the pace they deserved, he added.

Mali’s Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane voiced concern over the food crisis, noting that it could lead to generalized social and political instability.

The Government of the West African nation has “granted a place of pride” to tackling poverty, taking action to momentarily suspend import duties and taxes on rice, flour, oil and milk. It is also moving to subsidize gas and hydrocarbons, he told the delegates.

Omar A. Touray, Foreign Minister of Gambia, warned that the international community’s “usual pattern of convening meetings” and “too many false promises and unfulfilled commitments” were insufficient to address poverty, tackle the food and energy crises and achieve the MDGs.

Neglect of agricultural sectors in developing countries, which have collapsed due to farm subsidies in the developing world, are to blame for the current food crisis, he said, emphasizing the need to more concrete measures such as providing inputs including up-to-date machinery and fertilizers.

Although her country has taken steps to mitigate soaring food prices, Niger’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration said the nation is still confronted by serious drought and needs long-term solutions to relieve hunger.

The current global financial turmoil necessitates united efforts, Aïchatou Mindaoudou told the General Debate. A wealthy country fearing an economic recession could spell hunger for a poorer one, she said.

Mohlabi Tsekoa, Lesotho’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Relations, cautioned that the energy crisis is competing for attention with the even more urgent food crisis.

Ensuring food security is essential to developing countries which are facing high levels of poverty, malnutrition and HIV/AIDS rates.

“All of humanity has a right to food,” he said. “Hunger is a violation of human dignity.”

Global commitments to end hunger must be put into practice, Mr. Tsekoa said, citing the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference in Rome in June and the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations’ statement issued in Hokkaido, Japan, which underlined the need to stimulate food production and bolster agricultural investment.

Slovakian Foreign Minister Ján Kubiš, speaking last night to delegates at the Assembly, backed the work of the Task Force on the Global Food Crisis under the leadership of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which was set up earlier this year.

Developing countries need much more support from richer States to increase their food supply, he said in his address.

“Furthermore, fairer international trade rules must be adopted to stimulate agriculture production, first of all in developing countries, and allow access to foodstuffs,” according to Mr. Kubiš.

Andorra’s Head of Government Albert Pintat, who addressed the debate on Thursday, said that the process of liberalizing of trade must be “reinvented” so that small-scale farmers and producers are not unduly hurt, with different rules set for different circumstances in each country.

“Liberalization would also have to involve an expansion of productivity, the development of human resources, basic infrastructures, access to technology and knowledge and respect for the environment,” he said.