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Ban Ki-moon to deploy UN task force against food crisis

Latest update : 2008-04-29

The United Nations Secretary General said he would form a UN task force to coordinate a response to the food crisis and inject cash into the World Food Programme. (Click to view extract of speech)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday ordered a top level task force to take on the global crisis caused by rising food prices.
   
Ban announced the move after a meeting here with the heads of 27 key UN and other international agencies to hammer out a battle plan to counter the crisis which has led to deadly unrest and protests in several countries.
   
An immediate priority would be to "feed the hungry", he said, urging countries to "urgently and fully" fund the World Food Programme.
   
"Without full funding of these emergency requirements, we risk again the spectre of widespread hunger, malnutrition and social unrest on an unprecedented scale," Ban warned.
   
Some 755 million dollars extra is needed by the programme due to the sharp jump in prices.
   
World Food Programme head Josette Sheeran said: "We have pledges of 471 million, but only 18 million is cash in hand. We can't procure food until we have cash in hand. So we're in a really urgent timeframe to getting a commitment as soon as possible."
   
The WFP warned on Tuesday that soaring rice prices have forced it to stop supplying free breakfasts to 450,000 poor Cambodian schoolchildren.
   
The agency said the programme was suspended because it could not afford to pay high prices for rice, which accounts for 76 percent of the school breakfasts.
   
Better quality rice now sells for more than 700 dollars per tonne in Cambodia compared with 300 to 400 dollars last year, according to sellers.
   
Ban also cited as another urgent priority support for farmers so as to "ensure food for tomorrow".
   
He urged countries such as Brazil and Egypt who have imposed export restrictions on certain foods and commodities to drop these measures, saying they have reduced supplies and contributed to price hikes.
   
To deal with increased prices, Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, India and Egypt have all imposed limitations on the export of certain produce in order to ensure food security for their populations.
   
"Domestic policy measures that correct distortions and do not jeopardise the supply response need to be put in place, together with budget support measures and balance of payments support for the most affected countries," Ban said.
   
But in the long-term, the UN chief acknowledged that there is an "urgent necessity to address structural and policy issues that have contributed to this crisis as well as the challenge posed by climate change".
   
"In order to take this forward we have agreed to establish a UN task force on global food crisis that I will chair and will bring together heads of specialised agencies and ...institutions into effective and coordinated mechanisms," he said.
   
Ban said he has asked John Holmes, the UN's under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, to be the coordinator of the new Task Force.
   
"Further research must be undertaken on the impact of diversion of food crops to bio-fuel production and all subsidies to bio-fuels should be reviewed," he added.
   
The UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, the controversial Swiss sociologist Jean Ziegler, has called biofuels a "crime against humanity" and urged their production be immediately abandoned.
   
His call was echoed by international development charity Oxfam which on Monday called for an end to the biofuels mandates in rich countries.

Date created : 2008-04-29

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