UN calls on world leaders to attend food summit in Rome

UN calls on world leaders to attend food summit in Rome

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that he will get the international Task Force on the global food crisis "moving at full speed," since an urgent response is required for the worldwide emergency.

"If not properly handled, this crisis could cascade into multiple crises affecting trade, development and even social and political security around the world," Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York. "The livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people are threatened."

Last week Mr. Ban announced a new international Task Force which will prepare a plan of action to tackle the global rise in food prices. The group, which brings together the heads of key UN agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as experts from the around the globe, will hold its first meeting in New York next Monday.

Mr. Ban, who has just returned from official visits to West Africa and Europe, said the international community has made promising steps in recent days to address emergency needs, but added that the longer-term challenge was "to boost agricultural development, particularly in Africa and other regions most affected."

The Secretary-General said he is about to send out invitations to all heads of State and government to attend a summit meeting in Rome scheduled for early June, "to work out the strategies to address and overcome this crisis."

He called on world leaders to join him Rome. "Please come with fresh ideas. It is time for real commitment and real action," he said.

Responding to criticisms levied on the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Mr. Ban added that, given the gravity of the current crisis, he can understand and sympathize with the frustrations that many people have.

At the same time, he underscored that the agency has been leading global efforts to help promote agricultural production and aid those affected by food shortages. "I have been working very closely, particularly these days, with the Director General of the FAO on how we can address this issue in the short-term, mid-term, and longer-term," he noted.

In a related development, issues underpinning the global food crisis will be the focus of discussions at the UN's Sustainable Development Commission, which began its two-week session today in New York.

The current session launches a two-year session "aimed at tacking issues critical for increasing the global food supply." Representatives from governments, civil society, agriculture, business and science "will look at many of the issues at the heart of the food crisis and will identify barriers and obstacles that prevent sustainable solutions to these problems," according to a news release.

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