[Dateline: New York | Author: UN Regional Commissions]
In their annual interactive regional economic Dialogue with the Second Committee of the General Assembly held on Friday, 17 October, the Executive Secretaries of the five UN Regional Commissions provided regional perspectives on current challenges and opportunities regarding food security in their respective regions.
The Dialogue was initiated by presentations made by the Executive Secretaries of Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
They agreed that one of the main causes of the current food crisis was the decline in food production and supply, against steadily growing demand as a result of population growth.
The Executive Secretaries emphasized the need to refocus attention to agriculture in many developing countries by putting in place measures and incentives for food production, including an increase in the amount of aid allocated to food programmes; an increase in research and technical assistance, at least back to the levels of the 1970s; and a reform of global agricultural markets by completing the Doha Round on trade and placing limits on export/import restraints.
Participants stressed that the impact of the food crisis is compounded by other factors such as the current financial crisis and the negative effects of climate change. As a result, countries in the regions are confronted with a multitude of challenges including the global fragility of multilateral trade, volatility of growth, and liquidity and credit shortages, along with vulnerability to natural disasters.
While acknowledging that Africa is the major victim of the food crisis, the Dialogue re-emphasized the need to achieve the African Green Revolution through the structural transformation of agriculture. In the Asia-Pacific region, where 583 million people remain undernourished, South Asia continues to represent a particularly challenging region, with 46 per cent of children underweight. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, which depend heavily on exports to the United States and Europe, could not escape the impact of the crisis and the slowing global economy.
With estimates indicating that the food and fuel crises could push 100 million more people into poverty, the Executive Secretaries called for a multidimensional approach to the problem and emphasized the need for reducing vulnerabilities of the most likely to be affected – the poor.
The Dialogue also emphasized the potential of South-South cooperation as a means to encourage food production in the world and discussed measures to increase productivity in developing countries and to avoid the recurrence of a similar situation. The Persian Gulf countries, for example, which import between 60 and 90 per cent of their food, are already investing in food production in other developing countries in Africa and Asia. The participants strongly voiced their recognition of the value and effectiveness of regional responses to mitigate the impacts of the combined crises.