United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called on the international community to take urgent steps to address the global food crisis.
Ban said in a speech at the China Foreign Affairs University that the pledges of world leaders earlier this month of 6 billion dollars in emergency aid to feed the poorest and to develop long-term solutions to the crisis must be reflected in immediate food assistance, as well as seed, fertilizer and irrigation for smallholder farmers in countries worst affected.
He said that at a time of high energy and transportation costs, food production needed to be boosted in areas of hunger.
"We must also support the world's farmers by removing export restrictions and levies on food commodities, in particular those procured for humanitarian purposes, and cut agricultural subsidies in developed countries to free new resources for agricultural investment in low income, food insecure countries," he said.
He added that increased food production required enhanced efforts to combat climate change, as rising temperatures were changing weather patterns, eroding soil and drying up water systems. Global warming was also expanding the habitat of mosquitoes, widening the transmission of tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
"If farmers are confined to sick beds, agricultural yields will continue to stagnate," he said.
He called for the "collective efforts" of all countries to address the three linked challenges facing the world: food and fuel prices; climate change; and the quest to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the deadline of 2015.
Ban said developed countries must lead the way in the negotiations on tackling climate change, and major emitters from the developing world must increase their contribution to reduce carbon emissions.
"They must act together in light of the agreed principle of common but differentiated responsibilities," said Ban.
He said he would use the upcoming G8 summit in Japan's Hokkaido to once again urge donor nations to deliver on their pledges to more than double aid to Africa, the continent farthest from the MDG goals.
China encouraged to play bigger role
Ban said the United Nations provided a multilateral platform for implementing concrete actions to address the challenges, but it needed the support and engagement of member states, particularly leading powers such as China, to deliver on an ambitious agenda.
"We need dedicated, bold, and sustained leadership from governments working together in a common, universal framework," he said.
Ban hailed China's increasing significance in the world, citing the country's economic progress, growing leadership on global issues, and dynamic engagement with the UN.
He said China was leading activities of the UN as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and China's financial and peacekeeping contribution was growing.
Ban, who had visited the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake in China's Sichuan Province, said he saw for himself the Chinese nation rise to face a tragedy of unimaginable magnitude, the Chinese government and people's "remarkable rescue and recovery effort that stands as an example of how united efforts can address extraordinary situations".
He said the entire UN system expected China to help lead on the international agenda. "For my part, I look to China not simply because of its prominent position in the United Nations and within the broader world community, I do so because the responsibility of this nation is growing day by day," Ban said.
Ban came straight to address hundreds of university students after flying into Beijing for a three-day official visit to China.
He is scheduled to meet with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
(Xinhua News Agency July 2, 2008)