U.N. plans task force to tackle global food crisis

by Jeff Gelski
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NEW YORK — The United Nations will coordinate the Task Force on the Global Food Crisis to address problems arising from the surge in food prices, the U.N. said April 29. The U.N.’s chief executive board also called on the international community to provide $755 million in emergency funds that are needed to allow the United Nations to feed millions of people worldwide.

The task force will bring together the heads of U.N. agencies, funds and programs and the Bretton Woods Institutions, as well as U.N. experts and authorities from the international community. John Holmes, under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, and David Nabarro, senior U.N. system influenza coordinator, will serve as coordinators for the task force.

The United Nations plans to have a comprehensive plan to tackle the global food crisis in place in June, when a meeting of U.N. agencies will take place in Rome.

"We see mounting hunger and increasing evidence of malnutrition that has severely strained the capacities of humanitarian agencies to meet humanitarian needs, especially as promised funding has not yet materialized," said Ban Ki-moon, U.N. secretary-general.

Escalating prices, lack of investment in agriculture, increasing demand, trade distortion subsidies and recurrent bad weather are among the reasons for the surge in prices, Mr. Ban said.

About the role of biofuel production, Mr. Holmes said, "It is something that needs a new look in present circumstances without wanting to fall in any sense into knee-jerk reactions of saying all biofuels are bad or good.

"We need to look at it in a careful, sophisticated and different way, between different regions of the world and between different products."

Mr. Holmes added the crisis affects people of different countries in different ways.

"For many countries and population groups, it is inconvenient, a problem for their daily budget and their purses, but it is not a matter of life and death," he said. "In some places and for some groups, particularly those living on less than a dollar a day, that quickly could become a matter of life and death, or certainly of increased suffering and malnutrition."

U.N. agencies already are taking action to address the food crisis. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for $1.7 billion in funding and proposing an emergency initiative to provide low-income countries with the seeds and input to boost production.

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