UN Assembly head seeks concerted action on food and energy crises

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United Nations, Jul 19 (UNI) Urgent changes in global agricultural policies are needed to meet the threats of soaring food and energy prices, the United Nations General Assembly President H E Srgjan Kerim has said.

Reducing subsidies, lifting tariffs and other trade barriers would stimulate food production and offer a route to development for 180 million small farmers in Africa, Mr Kerim told member States yesterday as the Assembly met to discuss the two global crises.

Mr Kerim added that an urgent and mandatory step at the global level was to ensure a successful outcome to the Doha Round of international trade talks.

''The food crisis therefore offers a win-win opportunity for the international community to collectively agree to policies that promote trade efficiency while also boosting agricultural production and reducing the vulnerability of the poorest around the world,'' he stressed.

The rise in food and oil prices could severely weaken the economies of up to 75 developing countries, he said, quoting research by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He added that the World Bank estimated that rising costs could reduce the gross domestic product (GDP) of up to 50 countries by three to ten per cent, pushing at least 100 million people into poverty.

Mr Kerim called on the 192-member Assembly to adopt a resolution on the current economic threats, saying they require ''an immediate, coherent and coordinated response with the UN system playing a central role.'' Also addressing the Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that ''the double jeopardy of high food and fuel prices threatened to undermine much of the progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

To meet the MDGs, a set of anti-poverty targets to be achieved worldwide by 2015, Mr Ban called for a Global Partnership for Food, bringing together governments, donors, UN agencies, international financial institutions, business, academic communities and civil society.

The Secretary-General also said that between 25 billion and 40 billion dollars would be needed annually to boost agricultural production and to assist farmers around the world.

He welcomed a proposal by the European Commission for a special funding facility to provide more than 1.5 billion dollars for a rapid response to the global food crisis.

''If we do not seek lasting solutions now, more children will die each day, more families will go to bed hungry. The threats left to the next generation will be even greater,'' he said.


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