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Without Urgent Action, Millions Will Slide into Extreme Poverty, Hunger, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Seminar on Tackling Food Insecurity

Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s message to the Group of 20 (G20) High-Level Seminar on Strengthening Global Collaboration for Tackling Food Insecurity, in Bali, Indonesia, today:

I commend the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors for focusing on the global food insecurity crisis.  Our world faces a host of challenges — climate change, COVID-19 and rising inflation.  These are now being amplified by the war in Ukraine.  This is why the United Nations Secretary-General established the Global Crisis Response Group on food, energy and finance:  to tackle the impact of this triple crisis on vulnerable people, identifying and pushing for solutions at scale.

In the past year, global food prices have risen by nearly one third, fertilizer by more than half, and oil prices by almost two thirds.  We face an unprecedented global hunger crisis that has been building for years.  Without urgent action, millions of households will slide into extreme poverty and hunger.

The social and economic impact of this unprecedented global wave of destitution will leave no country, rich or poor, untouched.  Developing countries that lack the fiscal space to cushion the blow of higher prices are already feeling the impact.  It is also becoming a major challenge for some middle-income countries.  And we should not forget that the majority of the world’s poorest people live in middle‑income countries.

However, ending hunger is within our reach.  There is enough food in our world now for everyone, if we act together.  We need a unified, coordinated international response.  I see a need for immediate action in three areas.

First, we must urgently reduce the pressure on markets by increasing supplies of food and fertilizers.  There should be no restrictions on exports, and surpluses must be made available to those most in need.  We have seen some encouraging developments this week, with efforts to reintegrate Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia, into world markets.

Second, social protection systems need to cover everyone in need, with the right combinations of food, cash and support for water, sanitation, nutrition, and livelihoods.  All of these play a part in food security.

Third, finance is essential.  There is no answer to the food crisis without an answer to the global finance crisis that is squeezing developing countries dry.  All countries must have access to the liquidity they need, to support their people and invest in the recovery.

No government should have to choose between servicing its debt and serving its people.  International financial institutions need to step up with generous investments to prevent a global debt crisis.  One viable solution could be a new issuance of special drawing rights by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  There is no better option, at the scale and speed needed, that will not increase debt.

Now is also the time to turn this crisis into an opportunity for the future — to accelerate the transformation of food systems and the shift to renewable energy.  We count on the G20 to get us back on the right track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Our burning planet, and the millions who are going hungry, remind us there is no time to lose.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.