Warning that the situation in Somalia risked surpassing the reach of humanitarian agencies, Oxfam head Barbara Stocking said that the international community must muster all its political will to ensure that humanitarian aid can be safely distributed throughout the country.
Stocking made the remarks during her keynote address at a World Food Day commemoration ceremony in New York yesterday marking FAO’s founding 66 years ago.
“Today, it’s very clear that there are very significant numbers of people in Somalia who we cannot reach. The estimates in the UN are three quarters of a million people at the moment. There is a situation here which has gone beyond what humanitarian agencies can do,” she said. “Fundamentally it is only by the international community with its political will that this can be solved now.”
Stocking urged those in attendance, which included leaders from the UN system, Member State representatives, humanitarian and development agencies and the private sector, to use their influence to the extent possible to improve access in Somalia.
She also pushed for lobbying of G20 governments, meeting in Cannes on 3-4 November, to make a political commitment to tackle global food price volatility and thanked France for putting food security high on the G20 agenda.
“For the poorest people, if you are spending 70 percent of your income on food and food prices double, you’ve had it,” she said.
Price swings deepen food insecurity
“Food prices – from crisis to stability” was chosen as the theme of World Food Day this year following five consecutive years of unstable and often rising food prices, which currently stand at close to record levels.
“Volatility in food prices challenges the fundamental human right to adequate food,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. “It also deepens food insecurity.”
“Research and development targeted on small producers’ needs must be stepped up,” he said, adding that more than $80 billion in additional investment is required annually in agriculture to ensure the 70% increase in global production needed to feed the world’s projected population of over 9 billion in 2050.
“To finance such investments, national governments will have to contribute significantly,” he said. “They also need, through good governance and sound policies, to promote an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in a responsible and fair manner.”
‘Radical collaboration’ needed
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that guaranteeing sustainable food and nutrition security for all will require the full engagement of all sectors.
“It means pursuing comprehensive approaches, assisting the most vulnerable, listening to rural women, empowering small producers,” he said. “It means strong political commitment, predictable finance, and a focus on results. We have the resources and the knowledge to end hunger. We know how to protect the poorest from the impact of rising prices.”
This was echoed by WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, who said that “nothing short of radical collaboration will turn the tide against hunger.”
Sheeran thanked FAO Director-General Diouf for “raising the clarion call” throughout his career and said that a coalition of leaders determined to end hunger is gathering momentum.
“We have to stand against cynicism,” Sheeran said. “Your efforts are making a difference. The investment in agriculture makes a difference. The investment in new ways of thinking and technologies deployed on the front line make a difference and lives are being saved every day.”
The event, which raised funds for FAO’s agriculture and livelihood recovery projects in the Horn of Africa, also featured a performance by FAO Goodwill Ambassador Dee Dee Bridgewater.