Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Washington, D.C., 8 August 2023

FROM THE DESK OF

Secretary Antony J. Blinken

U.S. DEPARTMENT of STATE

Last week, as the United States took over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the month of August, I traveled to New York City to lead the Open Debate on Famine and Conflict-Induced Global Food Insecurity. The Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security, and we cannot do that without strengthening food security. Each of us has a responsibility to act so no one goes hungry. Here’s what I said after the meeting:

We’re here today and using our presidency of the Security Council this month to focus in on the rising challenge of global food insecurity. We’ve seen an almost perfect storm emerge in recent years – a combination of climate change, of COVID, and now particularly of conflict – that is driving this food insecurity. There are now about 260 million people around the world who are acutely food insecure. And in turn, this food insecurity itself drives conflict. It drives forced migration. It stunts growth, both physical growth and economic growth. It holds countries back. It holds people back.

The flip side of the coin is we’re also increasingly seeing food being used as a weapon of war – for leverage and for political purposes, in conflict after conflict. So, we wanted to put the focus on both of these challenges: rising food insecurity and the use of food as a weapon of war. We’ve just had 91 countries commit in a joint communique to ending the use of food as a tool of war. That, in and of itself, is a powerful statement, and we urge others to join.

Of course, the place where we’re seeing this most immediately and most acutely is in Ukraine, where, as part of Russia’s aggression, it initially blockaded Ukraine’s ports – in effect blocking the export of grains to the world that Ukraine had been a key country for providing. Then, thanks to the good work of the United Nations Secretary-General and Türkiye, an agreement was put in place that allowed grain to flow through the Black Sea: the Black Sea Grain Initiative. While that agreement was in force, more than 30 million tons of grain were able to get out of Ukraine and to markets around the world – well over half of that to developing countries and, in fact, two-thirds of the wheat to developing countries. It was the equivalent of 18 billion loaves of bread.

A few weeks ago, Russia tore up that agreement. The result has been rising prices for countries around the world. The result has been a diminution in the access to these food products, particularly for developing countries. Russia has also intentionally targeted food silos in Ukraine – literally destroying food as well as the means to produce it – while holding ports and sea lanes at risk to prevent countries from shipping these products out of Ukraine and to the people who need it. We’ve heard from around the world a chorus of condemnation for this action and the strong desire on the part of many, many countries that the Black Sea Grain Initiative be put back in place. It’s very simple. It’s on Russia to decide whether to do so. Of course, it could end the war that it started tomorrow, and that would solve the problem definitively. But short of that, at the very least, the world is insisting that it restore the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The urgent assistance that we’re providing to countries around the world – not just in the context of Ukraine, but of other serious risks of famine – has been significant. Over the last year and a half, the United States has provided an additional $14.5 billion in food assistance to countries around the world. We are the largest contributor by far to the World Food Programme – 50 percent of its budget every single year. And today, I was able to announce another $360 million in assistance to combat food insecurity in Haiti and 11 African countries.

But for all the emergency assistance that we’re providing, and others are providing, it’s not enough. The United Nations and the World Food Programme has determined that, right now, to address the food insecurity for well over 100 million people around the world, we need $25 billion. To date, only $4.5 billion of that has been pledged by various countries. We have to do better. We have to do more. We have to do it now.

Finally, as important as these urgent appeals and the work that we’re doing to address immediate needs are, we also have to take a long-term perspective. By 2050, it is estimated that the population of this planet could be as many as 10 billion people. Demand for food is likely to increase by 50 percent over what it is today. And yet yields – what’s actually being produced – are going down, not up. We have to – and we are – addressing this challenge.

I spoke today at the Security Council about one of the initiatives the United States is advancing, which is the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils. We know that we have the ability to produce seeds for planting that are resilient – certainly more resilient to climate change – and are much more nutritious than some of the things being planted today. We also know that the quality of soil makes all the difference in the world. We now have the ability to map pretty much any terrain anywhere in the world to determine the quality of its soil – where it’s good, where it’s bad, where we can improve it, and how we can improve it.

You put those two things together – seeds and soil – and you can powerfully address the challenge of producing sustainable agricultural production capacity with better yields and more nutritious crops.

We are putting $100 million to that effort. Other countries are joining in, and we expect to see significantly more come forward in the weeks and months ahead. This is a powerful new way to really make a difference over the long term in making sure that we have strong agricultural capacity and production around the world, and notably in Africa.

I appreciate those who have taken the time to write to me in the past several months. To share your thoughts, please write to me and my team at EmailTeam@State.gov.

Sincerely,

Secretary Antony J. Blinken

Source – US Department of State – Email

 

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