Thank you Mr. Moderator,
His Excellency President of the General Assembly,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me first of all to express my appreciation to the President of the General Assembly for initiating this important and timely dialogue. It is indeed a pleasure to be part of an event such as this that seeks to inject a sense of urgency into one of the most pressing issues of our time.
Although many of you are already aware of the figures, it is important that we remind ourselves just where we stand when we speak of the current global food crisis. Already before the crisis started, 862 million of the world’s poor were estimated to be undernourished. Last year FAO projected that an additional 100 million are at risk as a result of ongoing food insecurity. One of the most alarming statistics to emerge from research into the impact of the crisis is that hunger and malnutrition are the underlying causes of death of over 3.5 million children every year. In other words, 10,000 children, mainly in the developing world die each day because they simply do not have adequate food.
This, of course, is totally unacceptable, especially because the international community has the necessary means to remedy the problem.
This forum seeks to place the global food crisis and its effects front and centre of the international agenda and rightfully so. In recent months we have witnessed a troubling development, which in my opinion, if left unchecked, may serve to undermine the current global goodwill to tackle the problem of food insecurity.
The global financial crisis, which has rocked Wall Street and the capitals of developed countries, is of course a grave concern for all of us. Citizens of wealthy countries across the globe are today feeling the pinch of high prices and there is great uncertainty about the economic future.
However, as governments approve billion dollar economic bailouts, we should not allow the falling stock markets to monopolize the world's attention. The financial crisis is undoubtedly a serious one that deserves urgent attention and focus, but so is the question of hunger and poverty.
The reality is that these challenges are in fact interconnected. The World Food Programme has already highlighted that the global financial crisis is another shock that is likely to have severe implications for hunger across the world. The economic downturn presents a different set of challenges to the poor and the hungry. In slums and shacks around the world, hunger is biting again as job opportunities shrink but food prices do not. So, we see once again that the poorest and most vulnerable in the developing world are likely to experience the greatest hardships.
As we proceed with today’s meeting, we should also take note of the work already done to ensure that effective polices are in place to tackle the problem of food insecurity. The High-Level Task Force (HLTF) established under the chairmanship of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, released in July 2008 the Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA) which presents two sets of actions to promote a comprehensive response to the global food crisis. Both require urgent attention.
The first set focuses on meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable populations. The second set builds resilience and contributes to global food and nutrition security. In order to support these two sets of actions, the CFA also suggests strengthening coordination, assessments, monitoring, and surveillance systems. These actions are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. They are intended to guide assessments and strategies developed at the country level and support international coordination efforts.
Of equal importance was the outcome of the Madrid High Level Meeting in January this year to review progress achieved since the Rome High level Conference in June 2008. Participants in Spain expressed their strong support for the High Level Task Force in promoting a coordinated and adequately funded response to the current food insecurity situation. There was also consensus for the need to undertake short-, medium-and long-term actions in line with the CFA and to mobilize adequate, predictable and flexible funding that already been committed. Above all, it was agreed that all aspects of food security must be addressed, not only increasing production, but also developing protection systems.
The Group of Least Developed Countries has called on the Task Force to take account of global stocks of food grains in key countries in order to identify the supply side constraints and recommend policy options and actions to remove them and increase food supply in the short term. It is also recommended that the Task Force identify possible funding mechanisms so that LDC balance of payments and exchange rate risks are minimized. Additionally, the group of vulnerable countries has called for the possible development of a global food bank to avert such food crises in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At this point I would like to echo the Secretary-General who noted that this crisis also presents us with an opportunity to revisit past policies. We have an historic opportunity to revitalize agriculture - especially in countries where productivity gains have been low in recent years. Governments have already begun to respond. Some countries are helping farmers pay for basic agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers. We urgently need to find ways to support these initiatives, politically and financially.
But in our deliberations today, we must also take special consideration of the UN Special Rapporteur’s work to advance a rights-based approach to the food crisis, one grounded in the human right to adequate food as a basis for analysis, action and accountability.
Efforts to place agricultural development at the centre of the agenda of the international community and to improve coordination among UN agencies and international organizations at country level are indeed welcome, but I would like to add my voice by saying that we need to strengthen the global response by relying on tools specifically based on the recognition of the right to food as a human right, recognized by international law.
Grounding our efforts on the right to food means our efforts must be guided by the need to support the most vulnerable, the poorest and most marginalized, who are often left out of support schemes, and who today may be unable to capture the benefits from this renewed interest in agriculture. Human rights-based approaches to development lead to better prioritization and targeting of activities; they increase state accountability; and ultimately, they contribute to reducing poverty.
In conclusion it is my hope that at this meeting we can build on the outcomes of the various fora in order to make a meaningful and concrete contribution to eradicating hunger and food insecurity once and for all.
I thank you.