Here is the text of the video message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to the Ministerial Conference titled “Responding to the Multiple Challenges of Global Food Security”, in Berlin today:
I thank Germany for convening this meeting, and Chancellor [Olaf] Scholz as the Global Crisis Response Group’s champion on food, energy and finance.
We are facing an unprecedented global hunger crisis. The war in Ukraine has compounded issues that have been brewing for years: climate change; the COVID-19 pandemic; the deeply uneven recovery. This was already evident when I visited the Sahel region of Africa last month. Leaders warned me that if we don’t act now, a dangerous situation could turn into a disaster. The Horn of Africa is also suffering from its worst drought in decades.
According to the World Food Program (WFP), in the past two years the number of severely food insecure people worldwide has more than doubled to 276 million. There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022.
And 2023 could be even worse. The main costs for farmers are fertilizers and energy. Fertilizer prices have risen by more than half over the past year and energy prices by more than two-thirds. All crops will be affected, including rice and maize, affecting billions of people in Asia, Africa and the Americas. This year’s food access problems could become next year’s global food shortage. No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a disaster.
Humanitarian aid is essential, but it is not enough. Because it’s not just a food crisis. It goes beyond food and requires a coordinated multilateral approach, with multidimensional solutions.
First, there can be no effective solution to the global food crisis without reintegrating Ukrainian food production, as well as Russian-produced food and fertilizers, into world markets – despite the war. I have been in intense contact with Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Turkey, the United States, the European Union and others on this issue.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Rebeca Grynspan, and my humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, continue talks with the aim of reaching a comprehensive agreement that will allow Ukraine to export food, not only by land, but by the Black Sea, and will bring unrestricted Russian food and fertilizers to world markets. I will not go into details because public statements could hamper the success of the ongoing talks.
Second, solving the food crisis requires solving the financial crisis in the developing world. Hundreds of millions of people living on the poverty line have been crushed by this crisis — informal workers who are mostly women; smallholder farmers; micro and small business owners; People with Disabilities.
Developed countries and international financial institutions must make resources available to help governments support and invest in their people, leaving no one behind.
Developing countries facing default must have access to effective debt relief to keep their economies afloat and their people prospering. Financial institutions need to find the flexibility and understanding to get resources where they are needed most. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) proposal for a food import financing mechanism could help countries most at risk meet their immediate needs.
Today’s discussions are an opportunity to take concrete steps to stabilize global food markets and tackle commodity price volatility. We need strong political and private sector leadership for a coordinated multilateral response. We cannot accept mass hunger and starvation in the 21st century. Thanks.
For news media. Not an official record.**