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Concerted global efforts urged to address food crisis
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09:26, October 24, 2008

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World leaders on Thursday called for concerted global efforts to address the food crisis now buffeting some parts of the planet.

"Food prices in parts of Haiti and Ethiopia are up to 500 percent higher than normal," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a high-level discussion observing the World Food Day. "This means that a family that once was able to buy five bowls of rice is trying to survive with just one."

The UN chief called for a comprehensive approach to security.

"Delivering emergency food aid and providing seeds and fertilizer remain essential," Ban said. "We must also improve market access for millions of small-scale farmers. We must strengthen rural infrastructure, and create the conditions that will attract private investment."

Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, president of the UN General Assembly, said the food and other crises require "courageous, simultaneous and mutually reinforcing solutions."

"In marking World Food Day, we are dealing with the global crises of food security, climate change, energy and the global economic meltdown," d'Escoto said. "We see them as inter-related problems that all require complex, long-term solutions."

He stressed that the problems need "sustained global governance."

"Long gone are the days when we could deal with one problem at a time," he said. "Each of these might fade from the headlines for a short period, but they all will be with us for the foreseeable future."

D'Escoto noted the renewed awareness that the United Nations, "for all its shortcomings, remains our only truly representative forum that has the capacity, the expertise and the universality to address our problems with everyone's interests in mind and at heart."

He reiterated his appeal that donor countries, rather than reducing assistance to developing countries, triple the funds available to avoid prolonged human catastrophes.

"We are reminded today that donors have raised only 2.2 billion dollars of the 22 billion pledged this year to promote global food security alone," d'Escoto said. "Let us not wait until the poor and the excluded take to the streets before we meet our responsibilities."

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who delivered a keynote address at the event, stressed that food is not a commodity like others, just like health care is not just a service like others.

"We need the World Bank, we need the International Monetary Fund, we need all the big foundations, we need all the governments to admit that for 30 years we all blew it, including me, when I was president," Clinton said.

"We blew it. We were wrong to believe that food is like some other product in international trade. And we all have to go back to a more environmentally responsible, sustainable form of agriculture," he said.

"We need a better emergency program, Over the long run we need a plan that uses less oil, less water and maximizes the capacity of every country to feed its own people," Clinton said.


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