“We cannot accept mass hunger and starvation in the twenty-first century,” UN Chief said, addressing the G7 Ministerial Conference on Global Food Security.
In a video message at the Ministerial Conference “Response to the multiple challenges to global food security,” taking place in Berlin, Secretary-General António Guterres said that we face an unprecedented global hunger crisis.
He noted that the war in Ukraine has compounded problems that have been brewing for years: climate disruption; the COVID-19 pandemic; the deeply unequal recovery.
“This was already apparent when I visited the Sahel region of Africa last month. Leaders warned me that unless we act now, a dangerous situation could turn into a catastrophe. The Horn of Africa is suffering its worst drought in decades,” Guterres said.
According to the World Food Programme, in the past two years, the number of severely food insecure people around the world has more than doubled to 276 million.
Guterres said that there is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022.
“And 2023 could be even worse,” he added.
The main costs to farmers are fertilizers and energy.
Fertilizer prices have risen by more than half in the past year, and energy prices by more than two-thirds.
All harvests will be hit, including rice and corn – affecting billions of people across Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
Guterres said, “This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage. No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”
He noted that humanitarian support is “essential – but it is not enough. Because this is not just a food crisis. It goes beyond food and requires a coordinated multilateral approach, with multi-dimensional solutions.”
He explained that first, there can be no effective solution to the global food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia, into world markets – despite the war.
He said, “I have been in intense contact with the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States, the European Union, and others on this issue. The Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Rebeca Grynspan, and my humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths are continuing the talks, aiming to achieve a package deal that will enable Ukraine to export food, not only by land but through the Black Sea, and will bring Russian food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.”
He also said that solving the food crisis requires solving the financial crisis in the developing world.
Hundreds of millions of people on the poverty line have been crushed by this crisis – informal workers who are mainly women; smallholder farmers; micro and small business owners; people with disabilities.
According to the Secretary-General, developed countries and international financial institutions need to make resources available to help governments support and invest in their people, leaving no one behind.
He said that developing countries that face debt default must have access to effective debt relief to keep their economies afloat and their people thriving.
He also said that financial institutions must find the flexibility and understanding to get resources where they are needed most.
“The Food and Agriculture Organization’s proposal for a Food Import Financing Facility could help the most exposed countries meet their immediate needs” Guterres noted.
He concluded, “Today’s discussions are an opportunity for concrete steps to stabilize global food markets and tackle the volatility of commodity prices. We need strong political and private sector leadership for a coordinated multilateral response.”