8 July 2008The Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Hokkaido, Japan, bringing together the heads of the world’s richest nations, provides an “unprecedented” opportunity for global leadership to tackle the global food crisis that is plunging millions around the world into hunger, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today. “We need the G-8 leaders’ commitment and political will. We need them to join a Partnership for Food, and take the political, financial, and economic steps needed to stop the global food crisis from deepening,” Mr. Ban told students and faculty at Hokkaido University.The Secretary-General’s address comes during the University’s “Sustainability Weeks” – which bring together activities on environmental issues to coincide with the G-8 summit that is currently taking place on the island’s mountain resort of Toyako.Mr. Ban noted that the food crisis is one of the three major, interlinked crises currently facing the world, in addition to climate change and the race to achieve the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015. “We can succeed in confronting these problems only if we act globally, with a common understanding, bringing together all key players: governments, donors, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and academia,” he stated. “And, we can succeed only if we act now,” he added, warning that if urgent steps are not taken to halt and reverse the current trend in rising food prices, the people who can least afford it will suffer the most. To ensure that vulnerable populations are not left without urgent help in the midst of the crisis, he called for scaling up food assistance and other nutrition interventions, increasing predictable financial support for food aid, reducing restrictions on donor contributions, and exempting purchases of humanitarian relief food from export restrictions and added export taxes. “We may also need to establish a global reserve system for humanitarian food,” he added.Also vital was to act immediately to boost agricultural production this year, including by providing urgently needed seeds and fertilizers for the upcoming planting cycles, especially for the world’s small-scale farmers – some 450 million of them. “It is high time to reverse the dramatic and deplorable downward trend in agriculture’s share in official development assistance,” Mr. Ban stated, noting that ODA has dropped from 18 per cent 20 years ago, to just around 3 per cent today. Mr. Ban said he has urged the G8 leaders and international donors to raise the level of ODA for agriculture from 3 per cent to at least 10 per cent. “And they must honour the promise they made at Gleneagles in 2005 to increase overall ODA for Africa,” he added.In addition, it was important to improve fair trade and the free flow of markets, by reducing agricultural subsidies in G-8 countries; significantly increase investment in agriculture and rural development; minimize export restrictions and levies on food commodities to help stabilize food prices; and G8 countries and their partners must reassess subsidies and tariff protection for bio-fuel production. “In all these ways, the Hokkaido summit is a potential turning point – an opportunity to initiate actions and policy shifts on food security, and ensure the focus stays on global food security over the next two G-8 presidencies,” he stated. On climate change, Mr. Ban welcomed the statement today by the G-8 that they aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050, saying he was reasonably encouraged by the news. The key, he said, would be to act on this commitment and to build momentum to reach a global emission reduction pact by 2009. “We must agree by the end of December next year in Copenhagen to adopt a global agreement which is balanced, inclusive and ratifiable. This is a crucial task for us to do,” he stated. The Secretary-General also held meetings today with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Thabo Mbeki, who were also in Hokkaido for the Summit.
Former Deputy Minister Arundika Fernando crossed over to the opposition benches in Parliament today.President Maithripala Sirisena had recently sacked Fernando from his post of Deputy Tourism Minister. Arundika Fernando has in recent times had a very close association with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. (Colombo Gazette)