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Security Council: Food Security (Note: A complete summary of today's Security Council meeting will be made available after its conclusion)

SECURITY COUNCIL
SC/14894
9036TH MEETING (AM & PM)
19 MAY 2022

Briefings

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, noting that 60 per cent of the world’s undernourished people live in areas affected by conflict, underscored that “when war is waged, people go hungry”. In April, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners distributed food and cash to more than 3 million Ukrainians. In 2021, most of the 140 million people suffering acute hunger globally lived in just 10 countries: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — with eight of those countries on the Security Council agenda. “When this Council debates conflict, you debate hunger,” he pointed out. “And when you fail to reach consensus, hungry people pay a high price.”

Armed conflict creates hunger, as fighting destroys farms and factories, drives people away from their harvests, causes shortages and drives up prices, he continued. Today, the impact of conflict is amplified by the climate crisis and economic insecurity compounded by the pandemic. Citing the example of Niger, which faces extremist armed groups and cross-border incursions from Nigeria, he noted only 6 per cent of its population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. While Niger is ranked last according to the Human Development Index, it is 1 of the 10 countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Against that backdrop, he announced that $30 million will be released from the Central Emergency Response Fund to meet urgent food security and nutrition needs in Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso — “a drop in the ocean”, he stressed — bringing funding to almost $95 million that has been channelled through the Fund to the Sahel since the start of 2022.

He further expressed concern over the food security situation in the Horn of Africa, suffering its longest drought in four decades, with the WFP warning that millions of people in Somalia face famine within months. Around the world, 44 million people in 38 countries are at emergency levels of hunger — known as Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Level 4 — just one step away from famine, with more than half a million people in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Yemen and Madagascar already in Level 5 — catastrophic or famine conditions. Citing the frightening impact of the war in Ukraine on global hunger, he said the Russian Federation’s invasion of its neighbour has effectively ended Ukraine’s food exports, with price increases of up to 30 per cent for staple foods threatening people in countries across Africa and the Middle East.

United Nations humanitarian agencies and their partners helped bring six counties in South Sudan back from the brink of famine and reached 10 million people with food aid in Yemen per month in 2021, he said. However, in East Africa, the cost of food assistance has increased on average 65 per cent in the past year, and WFP has already been forced to reduce its support to 8 million hungry people in Yemen, he reported, calling for investment in political solutions to end conflicts and prevent new ones. “Most important of all, we need to end the war in Ukraine,” he stressed. International humanitarian law, reflected in Security Council resolution 2417 (2018) specifies that goods and supplies that are essential to civilians’ survival.

“There is enough food for everyone in the world,” he emphasized. The issue is distribution, deeply linked to the war in Ukraine. Citing his establishment of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, he said any meaningful solution to global food insecurity must reintegrate Ukraine’s agricultural production and the food and fertilizer production of the Russian Federation and Belarus into world markets — despite the war. In addition, donors must fund humanitarian appeals in full, he stressed, highlighting that, almost halfway into 2022, global humanitarian response plans are funded at just 8 per cent. “In our world of plenty, I will never accept the death from hunger of a single child, woman or man,” he stressed. “Neither should the members of this Council.”

DAVID BEASLEY, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said that, when the Nobel Peace Prize was given to WFP, it was clearly a message to the world that food security is critical to peace and stability around the globe. “What we are seeing now is an extraordinary destruction of the values we hold so dear of feeding the poor and helping the needy around the world,” he said. Even before the Ukraine crisis struck, the world was already facing an unprecedented, perfect storm because of conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. It was thought that the situation couldn’t get worse than in Ethiopia, then in Afghanistan and now in Ukraine. That’s on top of the areas the Secretary-General alluded to where famine is knocking on the door, such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, he said.

The number of people marching to starvation increased from 80 million to 135 million before COVID-19, he said. Because of the pandemic, the number rose to 276 million, then due to war in Ukraine, it further increased to 323 million. Of that 276 million, 49 million were at risk of famine in 43 countries. Food prices are the number‑one problem in 2022, but there will be a food availability problem in 2023, he warned. When a country like Ukraine, which provides food for 400 million people, is out of the market, it creates market volatility. When prices got out of control in 2007 and 2008, riots and protests were seen in more than 40 countries. Now, protests are taking place, including in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Pakistan and Peru, with destabilizing dynamics in Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad. These are only the signs for more to come.

“When a nation that is the breadbasket of the world becomes a nation with the longest bread line of the world, we know we have a problem,” he said. The United Nations is trying to reach people inside Ukraine, but that does not solve the problem outside that country, he pointed out, stressing the need to get ports running. He said 36 countries import more than 50 per cent of grain from this region. Failure to open the ports in the Odessa region is a declaration of war on global food security. It will result in famines, destabilization and mass migration around the world. He said mothers told him that their children have not been fed in two weeks and they must choose between heating oil and cooking oil. “When mothers must choose between freezing children to death and starving them to death, something is wrong,” he warned, urging the international community to step up its effort and get through the perfect storm, as it was able to do so in the past.

QU DONGYU, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that, worldwide, prosperity is being reversed. There is less food security, less health security, less income and greater inequality. Agriculture is one of the keys to lasting peace and security. The last five years has seen yet another spike in global levels of acute hunger. Citing the Global Report on Food Crises, released in 2021, he said approximately 40 million more people experienced acute food insecurity compared to 2020, bringing the total to 193 million people in 53 countries and territories. Further deterioration is projected through 2022, including places with catastrophic food insecurity. There are famine risks in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Afghanistan. FAO has stepped up its efforts to strengthen agrifood systems, save lives and protect the agricultural livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable.

Pointing out that conflict remains the single greatest driver of hunger, he said that, between 2018 and 2021, the number of people in crisis situations who live in countries where conflict was the main driver of acute food insecurity increased by a staggering 88 per cent, to over 139 million. As the world began to recover from COVID-19, the war in Ukraine broke out, disrupting exports and logistics and seriously affected food availability. Ukraine and the Russian Federation together export 30 per cent of the cereals and 67 per cent of sunflower in the world. The increase in energy and fertilizer prices is putting the next global harvest at risk. According to the latest scenarios, it could increase chronic undernourishment by an additional 18.8 million people by 2023. “We are neighbours on this small planet village,” he said. “What happens to one affects us all.”

Emphasizing the need to prevent the acceleration of acute food insecurity trends in the coming months and years, he urged expansion of food production at the country-level. Agrifood supply chains and value chains must be strengthened with engagement of public and private sector in support of smallholder farmers and households. FAO has been doing just so in Ukraine, Afghanistan and other countries. In 2021, it reached more than 30 million people worldwide with emergency agricultural assistance and resilience-building programmes. It is critical to protect people, agrifood systems and economies against future shocks, he stressed. Moreso, to prevent the impacts of conflict on food insecurity, it is imperative to increase sustainable productivity, strengthen capacities to deliver relevant services and commodities, and provide access to innovative financial tools and digital services.

He appealed to Member States to continue providing the necessary aid for food insecurity globally, allocate new resources to sustain agricultural production in challenging contexts, and continue to recognize and support the role of agriculture in food security and peace and the contributions of international organizations like FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), WFP and others. On 19 May 1943, the first United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture was convened in Hot Spring, Virginia, United States. The founders wrote: “The Food and Agriculture Organization is born out of the need for peace, as well as the need for freedom from want. The two are interdependent. Progress towards freedom from want is essential to lasting peace.” Much has changed since then — but one thing remains a constant. The world needs enough foods, good foods and better foods — for all. Investing in agrifood systems is more relevant than ever. Let’s work together effectively and coherently.

Briefing by Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gro Intelligence to come.

Statements

Statement by the Secretary of State of the United States to come.

SHIRLEY AYORKOR BOTCHWEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana, said that, perhaps, for the first time since the Second World War, the impact on food security resulting from one conflict is being seen in every country. “We experience together the profound anxiety of a global economy in uncharted waters, buffeted by uncertain headwinds,” she added. Against that backdrop, she welcomed the acknowledgement in resolution 2417 (2018) of the link between conflict and hunger. However, there is still much to be done to build resilience in food systems, to enhance global respect for norms relating to populations’ right to food and to integrate peacebuilding objectives into the creation of resilient food systems. While the current global food security crisis predates the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, the war has clearly exposed the interconnected nature and fragility of global food systems.

The food crisis that millions of the world’s citizens confront now — especially in Africa, which is the hardest-hit — “cannot wait until we have a perfect outcome among all States”, she stressed. Purposeful actions that support efforts of developing countries are needed, with a focus on building resilience in economies and food systems. To this end, the scale and effectiveness of efforts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in filling the financing gap in Africa in response to COVID-19 through fast-track facilities, contingency emergency financing and the Fund’s issue of special drawing rights provide a model for addressing short-term shortages and building resilience. Further, she underscored that action is also required by the parties to the conflict to facilitate the movement of food and fertilizer through Black Sea ports and other transportation lanes.

RAYCHELLE OMAMO, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya, said that, in the Horn of Africa, extreme drought could cause up to 20 million people to go hungry in 2022 and make sustaining peace more difficult. Citing similar links between food shortages and instability in Yemen, Afghanistan and the Sahel region, she said the war in Ukraine is now claiming victims around the world as food prices soar. In that connection, she welcomed the formation of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance and called for “more than short-term actions in the hope of a return to the status quo”. Bold solutions are needed to tackle the food crisis, she said, citing the increasingly certain projection that Africa’s population will reach 2.5 billion by 2050. In that context, she called for a shift in the continent’s place in the global trading system — from a source of raw materials to a place of modern agricultural systems with more access to cash and investments — as well as debt restructuring and efforts to build bridges among humanitarian assistance, development and peacebuilding. He also urged the international community to unite in upholding values of market openness with the understanding that food security is a transnational problem.

MICHAEL MOUSSA ADAMO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, recalled that, through resolution 2417 (2018), the Security Council recognized the link between conflict and food insecurity. Countries in conflict are six times more at risk of famine. Conflict not only destroys civilian infrastructure that are necessary to produce and transport food, it uses hunger as a weapon of war. Agricultural facilities are deliberately targeted, and the displaced persons lack access to food. The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the existing challenges, including hunger. Greater involvement of the international community essential to ending hunger. Respect for international humanitarian law and Council resolutions is essential, he stressed, recalling Member States’ obligation to allow unimpeded humanitarian access without politicization. Welcoming the establishment of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, he reiterated his support for the Secretary-General appeal for global ceasefire and condemnation of attacks on civilian infrastructure. He also urged the Council to deepen its thinking on accountability for “crimes of famine”, as they are dehumanizing.

OLTA XHAÇKA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Albania, said that “it is undeniable that conflict is now the main driver of hunger and food insecurity”, noting that the destruction of civilian infrastructure drastically reduces populations’ ability to produce food or earn income. Noting that close to 193 million people are acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance across 53 countries, she pointed out that “millions do not know when their next meal will come”. The Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine is further exacerbating already acute global food insecurity, and the blockade and destruction of critical Black Sea ports and other infrastructure is disrupting the critical supply of food commodities and agricultural inputs. “There is food in Ukraine, but it cannot get out of the country,” she said.

She went on to say that the war in Ukraine could push up to 40 million more people into poverty and hunger — “this is the sad reality” — and she stressed that the Council should play a more active role in considering and addressing conflict‑induced hunger. Humanitarian action and respect for international humanitarian law can only mitigate the effects of conflict on food systems, and therefore, political solutions to end conflicts are urgently needed. She also underscored that tackling global food insecurity requires urgent multilateral action in several key areas, including addressing the causes of food and nutrition crises, reducing the risk of further conflict and investing in sustainable food systems. Further, she supported the creation of a United Nations Special Envoy or focal point for the implementation of resolution 2417 (2018).

NAME TO COME (Mexico) said that, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the most serious food security crisis is in Haiti, where half of the population requires food assistance, and more than 1 million people are living in extreme poverty. As an armed conflict in one place sooner or later will disrupt the entire food system, it is important to design alternatives that do not endanger food security globally, he said, noting that the Security Council has the tools to address those challenges. Recalling that resolution 2417 (2018) was an important step in recognizing the causal links between armed conflict and famine, he called for compliance with the provisions of relevant resolutions that have been adopted. Underscoring the importance of early warning mechanisms available to the United Nations system, he said humanitarian and development agencies must be able to identify and prevent situations that could lead to famine and the impact it could have on peace and international security. As well, exceptions should be made on humanitarian grounds to facilitate the work of those agencies in those circumstances. To end food insecurity in conflict situations, resources and priorities must be redirected to humanitarian action and addressing the underlying causes of conflicts, instead of increasing spending on weapons.

ANNE BEATHE TVINNEREIM (Norway) underscored that the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated an already strained global food security situation, causing the steep rise in global food prices and food insecurity. Meanwhile, those issues have the potential to spark unrest and conflicts, she said, underlining the Security Council’s preventive role to play, in line with resolution 2417 (2018). Recalling the recommendations jointly presented by FAO and WFP on food crises in countries with conflict situations, she noted that the acute global food insecurity situation is expected to deteriorate further. In that regard, she called on States to scale up investments in food production and resilience, both in and outside conflict zones. She also highlighted the role of small-scale food producers as the backbone of food systems and of women and girls as food producers, traders, consumers, decision makers and negotiators. Protecting women and girls from violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, is crucial to eliminating hunger, she said. She further noted that the war in Ukraine has also raised the spectre of mass starvation on Africa, which depends on food imports to feed itself.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), noted her country imports 90 per cent of its food, calling on the Council and the international community to act with urgency and at scale to relieve the food crisis. From Cairo to Cape Town, Africa is facing an acute shortage of food, which will undermine stability and security. She cited a WFP report stating that before the conflict in Ukraine, 276 million people were already in the grip of extreme hunger globally, with that number projected to reach 323 million in 2022. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 13.6 million children worldwide under the age of five suffer from severe malnutrition, resulting in 1 in 5 deaths — a morally unfathomable situation juxtaposed against $430 trillion of global wealth. Food insecurity is a root cause and accelerator of conflict, she stated, calling for full respect of international humanitarian law. Sanctions must include necessary exceptions for food and agricultural products, she stressed, also calling on the Council to follow up on risk mitigation strategies regarding climate change. She noted that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that, on average, highly fragile countries receive a mere $2 per person of climate finance. The level of food insecurity and likelihood of growing needs “is a flashing alarm signal”, she warned, and the response must be commensurate with the magnitude of the global threat.

NAME TO COME (India) said the global South has been adversely impacted both by the conflict in Ukraine and the measures put in place in response. Warning of repercussions if it does not give way to dialogue immediately, he said the collapse of economies and law and order already seen in some countries will only get worse. The challenges emanating from Ukraine require creative solutions, as shortages can only be addressed “by going beyond constraints that bind us presently”. In that context, he welcomed Secretary-General’s call for exempting purchases of food by WFP from food export restrictions, with immediate effect. Energy security is an equally serious concern, and must be addressed through greater sensitivity to other countries’ energy mix and import requirements, as well as by more mutual cooperative efforts. He warned against hoarding and speculation in food grain stocks and noted India’s announcement of new measures on wheat exports, which will allow the country to truly respond to those most in need. In addition, he cautioned against linking humanitarian and development aid with political progress, which will only exacerbate food insecurity in conflict situations.

COLM BROPHY, Minister of State for Overseas Development and the Diaspora of Ireland, said his country speaks to both conflict and food security from its own lived experiences. “It is unconscionable, that in our world of plenty, millions are on the brink of starvation,” he said, emphasizing that conflict is now the biggest driver of hunger, and by failing to act, the Council has a responsibility to bear. Sounding alarm over the situations in Somalia, northern Ethiopia, Mali, Haiti, South Sudan and Afghanistan, he said the illegal, unjustified invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation has caused immeasurable suffering with worldwide impacts on food security. “Our response, too often […] is to address the symptoms, not the disease,” he said. Humanitarian aid is provided to those trapped in conflicts, while the global community lacks the will or commitment to end them. Stressing that war is not inevitable, he said the Council must match its actions to the severity of the situation — which is “deepening on our watch” — and commit to doing things differently. “Just how many red flags and alarm bells are needed?”, he asked, calling for early action to reverse the frightening trends of conflict-induced food insecurity and famine.

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*For information media. Not an official record./