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Ban Ki-moon leads battle to feed world's poor

Latest update : 2008-04-28

The UN will meet in Bern on Monday to discuss plans to combat rising food prices worldwide, as the Food and Agriculture Organisation warns that 37 poor countries are facing an emergency.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was set Monday to lead a concerted effort by 27 key UN agencies to tackle the growing crisis caused by a worldwide sharp rise in basic foodstuff prices.
  
The UN was scheduled at a two-day conference in the Swiss capital Bern to reveal a battle plan of emergency measures, while exploring other longer-term measures to solve the world's food crisis.
  
This will involve adjudicating between advocates of protectionism and those who favour opening up markets, as well as between supporters of biofuels and opponents thereof.
  
Rising populations, strong demand from developing countries, increased cultivation of crops for biofuels and increasing floods and droughts have sent food prices soaring across the globe.
  
"The world food crisis and the solutions that the United Nations can provide will be at the centre of discussions," said the UN. The talks hosted by Ban will take place behind closed doors at the Universal Postal Union headquarters in Bern, lasting all day Monday and Tuesday morning.
  
Results of the deliberations are expected Tuesday when Ban Ki-moon gives a press conference flanked by Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN's World Food Programme, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Jacques Diouf, head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and Lennart Bage, President of the International Fund for Agriculture Development.
  
The FAO has warned that sharp rises in cereal prices have left 37 poor countries in an emergency situation sparking food riots.
  
Ban Ki-moon called in Vienna on Friday for immediate concerted action to resolve the global food crisis.
  
"In the short term, we must address all the humanitarian crises which have been impacting poorest of poor pople in the world," he said.
  
The World Food Programme had made an urgent appeal for additional 755 million dollars (485 million euros) to fill the gap.
  
But in the medium to longer term, "the international community and its leaders in particular should sit down together on an urgent basis and address how we can first of all improve the economic system, the distribution systems, as well as how we can promote new production of agricultural products".
  
"The steeply rising price of food has developed into a real global crisis," Ban told journalists in Vienna.
  
"The United Nations is very much concerned, as all other members of the international community are. We must take immediate action in a concerted way throughout the international community."
  
Ban estimated that around 100 million of the world's poorest who previously did not require help now can not afford to buy food.
  
The World Trade Organisation, whose Director-General Pascal Lamy will also attend the Bern talks, says the food crisis reinforces the need to open up world markets.
  
"Agricultural subsidies by rich countries have destroyed the agriculture of poor countries," a spokesman told AFP. "A more open system will be less subject to distortion."
  
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is also seeking a rapid conclusion to current world negotiations in the framework of the Doha Round.
  
The head of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Juan Somavia, has warned against the danger of seeking only temporary solutions to the latest crisis, saying this would only mean a return to the original problem in a world in which globalisation would not benefit the world at large.
  
Dominique Strauss-Kahn,head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has criticised protectionism and the use of foodstuffs to make biofuels, and called for a reform of world coordination of agricultural policy.

Date created : 2008-04-28

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