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Malaysia: Promises Not Enough To Fix Food Crisis

Food And Fuel Crises Require Results, Not Just Promises, Malaysia Tells UN Debate

New York, Sep 27 2008 10:10PM

The global food and fuel crisis will be not resolved unless countries start turning their statements and promises of assistance and reform on the issue into reality, Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim told the General Assembly tonight, calling for a multi-track approach to tackling the problems.

Affluent countries have a particular responsibility to fulfil their commitments on providing aid and official development assistance (ODA) to needy nations, Mr. Yatim told the fifth day of the Assembly’s annual high-level debate.

If they live up to those pledges, they would “set a standard for entire world, rather than on trying to pass the burden of action on to the developing world.”

Governments can and should also play a greater role than the private sector, particularly in developing infrastructure and transferring technology, than the private sector.

“The developing world is still infrastructure-deficient. Pure market solutions to technology transfer cannot be regarded as effective solutions for achieving sustainable development. Government intervention is required if these technologies are to be made available at concessionary rates.”

Long-standing conflicts and tensions around the world, especially those in volatile regions that are also home to leading producers and distribution channels of oil, must be resolved.

“The United Nations must play a more forward thrust in the need for peace and security. Energy and food are truly needs of humanity. As such, the UN must create a synergy of human rights into the matter so that oil and food become basic rights for humanity.”

Speaking to the Assembly debate earlier today, Peruvian Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaúnde said the food and fuel crises were having a disproportionate burden on the poor.

Mr. García Belaúnde welcomed the Assembly’s recognition of poverty as an issue that required a comprehensive global response, adding that new and ambitious strategies and programmes are going to be necessary to help the poorest.

He warned that the threats posed by the crises were overwhelming existing initiatives to fight poverty and making it harder for struggling countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of eight targets for slashing social and economic ills, by 2015.

Franck Biancheri, Government Counsellor for External Relations and International Economic and Financial Affairs of Monaco, said the current situation in many parts of the world was so dire as a result of the food and fuel crises and climate change that drastically stepped-up efforts are needed to achieve the MDGs.

Monaco plans to increase its ODA by 25 per cent every year and to focus its support on the States classified as the least developed countries (LDCs), he said, as part of a plan to reach a target of spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on assistance by 2015.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said yesterday in his address that the focus of international assistance should be on sub-Saharan Africa, which is lagging the most in the race to reach the MDGs.

But he said there had been some noteworthy progress in Africa, too, with the lifting of 400 million people out of extreme poverty, improvements in gender equality and education, and a 27 per cent drop in the infant mortality rate.

For his part, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht said today that the impact of the crises meant it was critical to find the political will to re-start the stalled Doha round of global trade liberalization talks.

Mr. de Gucht said wealth-sharing remained deeply unequal, despite some of the positive steps taken as a result of globalization and its gradual impact on free trade.

Some of the new emerging economies such as Brazil, China and South Africa need exchanges that are open and equitable so that they can develop at the pace they deserved, he added.

Slovakian Foreign Minister Ján Kubiš, speaking last night to delegates at the Assembly, backed the work of the Task Force on the Global Food Crisis under the leadership of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which was set up earlier this year.

Developing countries need much more support from richer States to increase their food supply, he said in his address.

“Furthermore, fairer international trade rules must be adopted to stimulate agriculture production, first of all in developing countries, and allow access to foodstuffs,” according to Mr. Kubiš.

Andorra’s Head of Government Albert Pintat, who addressed the debate on Thursday, said that the process of liberalizing of trade must be “reinvented” so that small-scale farmers and producers are not unduly hurt, with different rules set for different circumstances in each country.

“Liberalization would also have to involve an expansion of productivity, the development of human resources, basic infrastructures, access to technology and knowledge and respect for the environment,” he said.

ENDS

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