Monday, September 28, 2009

U.N., Clinton Want Global Food Management

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 27: UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led on Saturday calls for quick action to ensure global food security as millions suffer from hunger due to the economic crisis and climate change.

Calling chronic hunger and the unrest it can spark “one of the most urgent threats facing our world,” Mrs Clinton said it was imperative to introduce a comprehensive, coordinated approach to the problem focussed at least as much on food production as on emergency aid to prevent famine.

Ms Clinton and Mr Ban were addressing a meeting they co-hosted to discuss ways to boost global food security.

“This is an issue that affects all of us because food security is about economic, environmental and national security for individual homelands and the world,” she said.

“There is more than enough food in the world, yet today more than one billion people are hungry,” Mr Ban said. “This is unacceptable,” he told the event attended by representatives from nearly 100 countries.

Although food shortages that led to rioting in some developing countries in 2008 have subsided, he said they had highlighted serious deficiencies in the current approach to hunger.

“The food crisis is far from over,” Mr Ban said. “Ever more people are denied the food they need because prices are stubbornly high, because their purchasing power has fallen due to the economic crisis or because rains have failed and reserve stocks of grain have been eaten.”

The UN system responded with ‘rapid and robust’ support when the crisis hit, he said, noting for example how the World Food Programme (WFP) built up food and nutrition safety nets and raised record funding to reach the world’s most vulnerable people.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said food security challenges could not be addressed without allowing free and fair trade and giving market incentives to farmers.

“Multi-stakeholder partnerships at national, regional and international level supported by timely, adequate and predictable financing is the key to addressing food security challenges on a sustained basis,” he said.

In Pakistan, Mr Qureshi said, the World Food Programme approximated half of the country’s population to be food-insecure.

“Yet, in the face of extreme hardships, serious resource constraints and new challenges posed by the global financial crisis and an ever worsening global climate, we remain steadfast in our political commitment to making sustained financial allocations at the national level to overcome these challenges. We realise that there are three key aspects of the food crisis – food supply, lags in distribution channels and limited access to food”.

Pakistan, he said, had taken the following steps to accomplish the objectives: It raised the support price for wheat to give incentives to farmers to increase wheat production; liberalised import of essential commodities to use market channels to facilitate flow of food commodities into the country; and set up high-level committees to stabilise fluctuations in food prices, and instituted a Rs34 billion Benazir Income Support Programme to provide cash to 3.4 million poor households.

Ahead of a world summit on food security in November, Mr Ban and Ms Clinton said the new efforts must assist small farmers, many of them women, with expertise to improve crop yields and improve infrastructure to get surplus produce to markets.

In July, the leaders of the G8 leading industrialised democracies pledged $20 billion to promote food security. The US will contribute $3.5 billion to the effort over the next three years and Ms Clinton appealed for other nations to step up.

But participants also heard about some success stories from Rwanda, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame explaining that thanks to irrigation projects and access to micro-credit for farmers “for three years we have realised food surplus.”

Source: Pakistan Dawn

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