Ban Ki-moon urges immediate and long-term steps to fight escalating food crisis

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called for both immediate and long-term measures to tackle the growing global food crisis, warning that it could not only push millions of people deeper into poverty but also have larger political and security implications.

"The rapidly escalating crisis of food availability around the world has reached emergency proportions," he told a joint meeting in New York of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

"We need not only short-term emergency measures to meet urgent critical needs and avert starvation in many regions across the world, but also a significant increase in long-term productivity in food grain production, he said, citing the recent steep rise in prices and World Bank warnings that the crisis could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against global poverty.

"The international community will also need to take urgent and concerted action in order to avert the larger political and security implications of this growing crisis. The UN needs to examine ways to lead a process for the immediate and longer-term responses to this global problem," he added.

Turning to the meeting's five key themes, Mr. Ban called for building consensus around measures on development financing that would lead to more stable and predictable long-term resource flows to developing countries.

He noted that middle-income countries need better market access to foster their comparative advantages as well as technical assistance and knowledge sharing to help address critical gaps in their development processes, such as improving infrastructure, integrating into world financial markets and tackling persistent pockets of poverty and growing inequality.

Thirdly, citing trade as an engine of growth for the poorest economies, he appealed for increased investment and technology transfer from donors to help the least developed countries to broaden their exports through diversification and economic capacity-building, thus bolstering "aid for trade" support.

He also called for "innovative and robust regulation to protect financial systems and sustain continued growth and expansion," warning that regulatory checks and balances have failed to keep pace with the "enormous growth" of recent years. "The current turmoil in world markets demonstrates that this gap is unsustainable," he declared.

Finally he noted that long-term global economic growth and sustainable development is imperilled by climate change.

"Developing countries need external assistance - especially better technology and increased financing - to rise to this challenge," he said, calling on the world community to use the run-up to a major climate change conference in less than two year time to implement new ways to finance adaptation and mitigation measures in developing nations.

Mr. Ban's Special Adviser on Innovative Financing for Development, former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, told a news conference he supported calls by World Bank President Robert Zoellick for a Marshall Plan to fight poverty and hunger.

"Indeed, what we are experiencing in different countries of the world on hunger, for example, shows that we really need to hurry," he said, citing the urgent need to find new sources of financing for development. Steps considered have included voluntary measures or levies on such resources as stock exchange transactions and airline tickets.

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