Delivered by H.E. Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN
Thank you, Madam. President,
I would like to begin by joining others in commending the United States and Secretary Blinken for focusing the Council’s attention on food insecurity at this critical time. The global food insecurity crisis is untenable and we need to join forces to address growing supply and distribution challenges. I want to thank the Secretary-General and the briefers for their insights. I was particularly struck by the data presented by Ms. Sara Menker which really sounded the alarm to the Council very clearly how close to the brink we collectively are. As she also stated we all need each other to work through this crisis and no nation can do this alone. Our agricultural system is indeed global.
As a country that imports 90% of its food, food security is a top priority for the UAE and our region more broadly. We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise of global food insecurity, driven or exacerbated by conflicts, climate change, and COVID-19. As yesterday’s Call to Action reaffirms, we need to act with urgency, at scale, and in concert with other international stakeholders, no one country is immune. We listened to African leaders yesterday, describe how, from Cairo to Cape Town, Africa is facing an acute shortage of food which will undermine stability, security and sustainable development. And we all heard Secretary-General Guterres sound the alarm today: price increases for foodstuffs of up to 30 percent threaten communities across Africa and the Middle East.
Data from the World Food Programme show that before the conflict in Ukraine, some 276 million people were already in the grip of acute hunger globally, and WFP now projects that figure could rise to 323 million people in 2022. We cannot ignore the devastating impact on children in particular. According to UNICEF, at least 13.6 million children under five suffer from severe acute malnutrition, resulting in 1 in 5 deaths among this age group. The situation is simply untenable and unfathomable. Juxtaposed against 430 trillion dollars of wealth on the planet today.
The UN’s food price index also reached an all-time high this year, impacting governments, farmers, and tens of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people. Fertilizer price increases are already undermining future planting seasons, laying the ground for a protracted food security crisis. Risks of large-scale domestic and international migration, criminality, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, domestic unrest and even conflict will continue to grow until this is addressed urgently at the global level.
The Council has a critical role to play in addressing the intersection of food insecurity and conflict, and we would like to highlight three potential Council actions that build on resolution 2417, unanimously adopted four years ago.
First, we know that food insecurity is both a root cause and an accelerator of conflict, and it has a disproportionate impact on those already living in fragile and conflict-afflicted situations. In this context, we must continue to actively call for the full respect for international humanitarian law, including the rapid and unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian relief to all those in need, as well as the protection of civilian objects which are critical to ensuring sufficient access for food for civilians. Additionally, we must continue to ensure that sanctions and other restrictive measures include the necessary exemptions on food and agricultural inputs critical to communities and do not impact the free flow of essential commodities in any way or impede passage of impartial humanitarian relief to all those in need.
Second, the Council should follow up on its many calls for risk mitigation strategies in the context of climate change and other threat multipliers. Last year, the UAE was proud to launch the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate with the United States and other countries. Many of these strategies ultimately rely on international public finance for food, water, and social protection systems in fragile countries. Despite the proven cost-effectiveness of these investments, the UN Development Programme reports that just $2 per person of climate finance flows to highly fragile countries. A correction here would be a major contribution to food security and conflict prevention, and the Council’s normative endorsement of investment targeting fragile settings would be an important signal for future resource allocation.
In the same way that the G7 is working on energy transition packages for coal-consuming countries, it would be timely for a multilateral workstream, perhaps facilitated by the Secretary-General, to apply the same concept to climate adaptation for fragile and vulnerable countries. It is critical to identify – and to finance – country-specific projects and policies that can prevent food insecurity.
Third, the Council should continue to bring attention to and be briefed on the specific gender and age dimensions of food insecurity. This can improve the effectiveness of our actions and support to those most disproportionately affected. Furthermore, there needs to be a proper public-private partnership to ensure women’s full, equal, and meaningful inclusion and participation to improve food security. Women have a role that is critical for the well-being and resilience of all members of society, particularly during stabilization efforts and to ensure a sustainable post-conflict recovery.
The level of food insecurity globally today – and the likelihood of growing needs in the foreseeable future – is a flashing alarm signal for peace and security. The time is now for us to come together and commit to taking concrete steps towards securing food for everyone around the world. The Security Council must ensure that our response is commensurate to the magnitude of the threat globally.