Concerned by Growing Food Insecurity, Speakers in Fifth Committee Support Funding to Help Implement Black Sea Grain, Russian Foodstuff, Fertilizer Trade Deals
Concerned about the rise in global food insecurity and its humanitarian impact, delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to coordinate a comprehensive global response and supported his request for $3.52 million to facilitate implementation of two key initiatives aimed at bringing agricultural commodities from Ukraine and Russian to world markets and countries in need.
Pakistan’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, spotlighted the humanitarian needs and increased risk of famine in developing countries due to the sudden spike in global prices of wheat, other food supplies and essential fertilizers. “The Group expects discussions by the Fifth Committee to take into account the urgent needs of developing countries and to avoid the politicization of this important agenda item,” he said, proposing swift adoption of a short, concise resolution granting the Secretary-General the required resources.
The speaker for the Philippines, citing the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report which states world hunger increased further in 2021 and that nearly 8 per cent of the world population will still be facing hunger in 2030, stressed the importance and urgency of the Secretary-General’s proposal. She supported constructive engagement to consider it subject to the observations laid out by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in its report and the exceptional nature of the submission process.
In April, the Secretary-General established two United Nations task forces to negotiate the parallel implementation of the Trade Facilitation Initiative — for unimpeded access of Russian food products and fertilizers to the world market — and the Initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian Ports, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative — for safely navigating exports of grains, related foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukraine.
On 22 July, the United Nations Secretariat signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian Federation to facilitate the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The same day, in Istanbul, with the Secretary-General as a witness, Türkiye, the Russian Federation and Ukraine set up a maritime humanitarian corridor for the safe transportation of grain, foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The representative of Türkiye said the Istanbul Agreement has resulted in more than 6 million tons of various grain products reaching world markets since 1 August 2022 and has stabilized world food prices. Keeping that agreement working must be a priority, he emphasized, fully supporting the Secretary-General’s request for all resources.
The Russian Federation’s representative acknowledged the impact of the Istanbul Agreement in stabilizing markets and the global economy but called for an objective assessment of its practical yields. In requesting the Secretary-General provide information about the share of developing countries receiving supplies via the Black Sea Initiative, he noted that the unimpeded access to global markets of Russian food products and fertilizers was seriously lagging. The negative effects of sanctions on global food security should have been included in the Secretary-General’s report, he said.
Chandramouli Ramanathan, Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance and Controller of the United Nations, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on revised estimates for the 2022 programme budget as a result of United Nations action to implement the two initiatives. He said the $3.52 million in resource required would comprise $848,600 under Section 12 (trade and development), $2.48 million under Section 27 (humanitarian assistance) and $194,300 under Section 36 (staff assessment).
Abdallah Bachar Bong, ACABQ Chair, who introduced its related report, recommended that the Assembly consider the Secretary-General’s proposal while stressing the “exceptional nature of the submission process, which should not set a precedent.”
Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico and Peru.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 12 October, to discuss the 2023 proposed programme plan and budget and other issues.
United Nations Activities to Mitigate Global Food Insecurity
CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, and Controller of the United Nations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on revised estimates for the 2022 programme budget on United Nations activities to mitigate global food insecurity and its humanitarian impact (document A/77/325). He said that through resolution 76/264, the General Assembly recognized the role of the United Nations in catalysing and coordinating a comprehensive global response to unprecedented levels of food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict in Ukraine and significant increases in fuel and energy prices. A large number of food- and fertilizer-importing countries, many in the least developed country and low-income food-deficit country groups, rely on Ukraine and the Russian Federation as net exporters, he explained.
In April 2022, the Secretary-General established two United Nations task forces to negotiate the parallel implementation of two initiatives which culminated in a 22 July memorandum of understanding between the Russian Federation and United Nations Secretariat to facilitate the unimpeded access of Russian food products and fertilizers to the global markets, which are not subject to sanctions, he said. On the same day, Türkiye, the Russian Federation and Ukraine also signed an initiative, with the Secretary-General as witness, which established a maritime humanitarian corridor for the safe transportation of grain, foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukrainian ports. To enable the urgent mobilization of United Nations support, voluntary contributions have been used as a temporary bridging mechanism, pending an Assembly decision on the resource requirements proposed in the Secretary-General’s report.
United Nations activities for the two initiatives would entail additional resource requirements for 2022 in the amount of $3.52 million, comprising $848,600 under Section 12 (trade and development), $2.48 million under Section 27 (humanitarian assistance) and $194,300 under Section 36 (staff assessment), he said. As such, the General Assembly is requested to authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments not to exceed the total amount and note that the utilization of the commitment authority would be reported in the financial performance report for 2022. The Secretary-General also intends to submit a related revised estimates report to the General Assembly during the main part of the seventy-seventh session which would inquire requirements for 2023, he added.
ABDALLAH BACHAR BONG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related report (document A/77/486). In highlighting the importance and urgency of the proposal while noting its unique circumstances and aspects due to its sensitivity and the fact that future requests in the area are probable and could grow in volume and nature, he noted the “exceptional nature of the submission process, which should not set a precedent.” The Advisory Committee trusts that more detailed information on the implementation on the two initiatives as well as on accessibility and beneficial impact for Member States will be provided to the Assembly at the time of its consideration of the present report and included in the Secretary-General’s next report.
Of the $3.52 million in resources required to cover the period from 22 July to 31 December 2022, $848,600 will be used to support the Trade Facilitation Initiative and provide for three temporary positions, he said. Under the Initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian Ports, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, $2.48 million of the proposed $3.52 million in total resources would provide for 28 general positions. The Advisory Committee trusts that more justifications for resources related to media and communications and official travel will be provided to the Assembly at the time of its consideration of the present report. In-kind voluntary contributions included office facilities from Türkiye for the Joint Coordination Centre, a Senior Ports Liaison Officer on a non-reimbursable basis from the World Food Programme (WFP) and a Special Adviser (D-2) on a non-reimbursable loan from WFP for the Trade Facilitation Initiative. In welcoming the initiatives and thanking Türkiye and WFP for their support, the Advisory Committee recommends the Assembly consider the Secretary-General’s proposal.
JIBRAN KHAN DURRANI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the agenda item under discussion is indispensable at this critical juncture as the world grapples with the negative consequences of food insecurity. He expressed deep concern over the current state of global food insecurity, which is exacerbating humanitarian needs and increasing the risk of famine around the world in developing countries, including African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries. A sudden spike in global prices of wheat, other food supplies and essential fertilizers has placed the food security of many vulnerable countries at risk.
He welcomed the mandates, stated in resolutions 76/124 and 76/264, on the state of global food security and the Secretary-General’s efforts to coordinate a comprehensive global response to mitigate global food insecurity and its humanitarian impact through the parallel implementation of the Trade Facilitation Initiative and the Black Sea Grain Initiative. “The Group expects discussions by the Fifth Committee to take into account the urgent needs of developing countries and to avoid politicization of this important agenda item,” he said, putting forward a proposal to swiftly adopt a short concise resolution granting the Secretary-General the required resources.
NACI YILDIZ (Türkiye) said, thanks to the Istanbul Agreement, more than 6 million tons of various grain products have reached world markets since 1 August 2022, when ships started to set off. Most important, the Istanbul Agreement has stabilized world food prices. Even before the signing of the deal in Istanbul, grain prices dropped in international markets, he said, citing the 11.5 per cent drop in July, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Prices were even lower in August than in July. Some voices are critical of the destination of grain, yet it is about the interpretation of statistics, he said. Most of the least-developed countries lack the necessary facilities to process the grain and it needs to be processed before delivery. However, statistics do not reflect this. “With all this in mind, keeping the Istanbul Agreement working must be our priority,” he said, stressing that the international community’s support is critical. Türkiye has voluntarily contributed to the Initiative by making office facilities available to the Joint Coordination Centre. He fully supported the Secretary-General’s request for all resources, adding that his delegation stands ready to work with fellow Committee members to conclude negotiations on the agenda item and approve the requested resources.
VELAZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) expressed support for the Secretary-General’s request for additional resources. In highlighting the impact of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges in economic recovery, reduced incomes and supply chain issues, he noted the rising levels of food insecurity and increased dependence on food aid. Increases in basic food prices, which were exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, affected low-income countries in particular. Pointing to the initiatives’ impacts on global food markets and access to agricultural products and raw materials, he emphasized their relevance and usefulness while welcoming the Secretary-General’s efforts and commending Türkiye. He then noted the Secretary-General’s intention to submit his budgetary forecast for 2023 during the Assembly’s seventy-seventh session and requested that the Fifth Committee receive this information in a timely manner.
NAPURI PITAN (Peru), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, emphasized his country’s vulnerability as an importer of basic grains and fertilizers. As significant increases in food basket prices have affected small rural producers, consumers, the most vulnerable and the poor, he welcomed the two initiatives and called for necessary resources in line with the Secretary-General’s request. The United Nations must be able to mobilize its support to guarantee the effective implementation of these two initiatives and enhance global food security while reducing humanitarian impacts, he stressed.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) stressed the importance of the Istanbul Agreement in helping stabilize markets and the global economy and acknowledged Türkiye’s positive mediation role and the United Nations assistance in that regard. Yet an objective assessment of the practical yields of the two initiatives is needed. Beginning in March, the FAO Food Price Index had decreased for six consecutive months. The agency’s data has shown the poorest countries cannot buy sufficient food because of the cost-of-living price increase crisis. Inflation in countries of the South have been spurred on by the thoughtless financial policies of Western countries over the last two years, he said. On 7 October, FAO experts determined that the share of grain sent to the poorest countries through the Black Sea Grain Initiative was only 25 to 26 per cent. That meant 148 out of 285 cargo trips, or 52 per cent, went to European Union member States. Noting the Advisory Committee report, he asked the Secretariat to provide information about the share of developing countries, including the least developed countries and low-income food deficit countries, who are receiving supplies via the Black Sea Initiative.
The Istanbul Agreement is a package deal with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) working to implement the second part, which was to provide unimpeded access for Russian food stuffs and fertilizers to world markets, he said. However, implementation is seriously lagging behind. Russian fertilizer is still being unlawfully detained by European Union member States in their ports. This is a glaring example of how an illegal unilateral sanction by the West is undermining global food security, with developing countries the hardest hit. The Secretariat needs to be more resolute in calling things by their proper name, he stressed. The negative effect of sanctions should have been included in the Secretary-General’s report, yet the accusation is that the conflict in Ukraine is creating food insecurity, he said.
MARIVIL VILLA VALLES (Philippines), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, pointed out that the 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report stated that world hunger increased further in 2021 due to exacerbated inequalities across and within countries, and that nearly 670 million people — 8 per cent of the world population — will still be facing hunger in 2030. Stressing the need for concrete urgent action to address global food insecurity, she said the Philippines supported the United Nations Food Systems Summit’s goal to launch bold actions to transform food systems and deliver progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and it joined the Coalitions of Action on Zero Hunger, School Meals, Healthy Diets, Family Farming and Agroecology formed during the pre-Summit and Summit processes. She acknowledged the ACABQ’s comments and recommendation, stating that the Secretary-General’s proposal is related to international cooperation in solving international problems of a humanitarian character — as stipulated in Article 1 (3) of the United Nations Charter. Further, the proposal is related to Assembly resolutions 46/182 and 76/124, in which the Assembly recognized the United Nations system’s common goal in coordinating a comprehensive global response to keep food and agriculture supply chains functioning. Given such importance and urgency of the Secretary-General’s proposal, she supported constructive engagement to consider it, subject to the observations laid out by the Advisory Committee in its report and the exceptional nature of the submission process.