The UN secretary-general said on Wednesday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must end to stem the growing global food, fuel and financial crises that could plunge tens of millions more into the world into hunger and poverty this year.
“Death and destruction must stop,” Antonio Guterres told reporters. “A political solution must be found in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations.”
But until that happens, he said immediate action was needed to stabilize global food and energy markets to slow rising prices, and that resources needed to be made available. readiness to help the poorest countries and communities to withstand shocks.
The Secretary General has been involved behind the scenes in trying to broker a deal that would allow for the safe and secure export of food produced by Ukraine via the Black Sea, and unhindered access to global markets for food and Russian fertilizers.
“This agreement is essential for hundreds of millions of people in developing countries, including in sub-Saharan Africa,” said António Guterres. He did not say whether his side were close to a deal as he said he did not want to jeopardize the chances of success when the well-being of millions could depend on it.
Global Response Group
Following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, the Secretary-General quickly established a Global Crisis Response Group to deal with the expected impact of wartime disruptions on the Sea Region. Noire, which is one of the largest granaries in the world.
The group’s coordinator, UN trade and development chief Rebeca Grynspan, has warned that the current food crisis could escalate into a global food disaster by next year.
“Higher energy costs and trade restrictions on fertilizer supply from the Black Sea region have caused fertilizer prices to rise even faster than food prices,” Grynspan said.
She said if the war drags on and high grain and fertilizer prices continue until the next planting season, crops such as rice, which feeds billions of people, could then be affected.
“This year’s food crisis is linked to the lack of access,” UN chief Guterres said, referring to the impact of the Russian blockade on Ukraine’s grain exports. “Next year could be a matter of lack of food.”
The Global Crisis Response Group says nearly 100 countries and around 1.6 billion people have found themselves severely exposed to at least one dimension of the food, fuel and financial crisis. About three-quarters of them live in countries that are highly vulnerable on all three fronts.
Coping mechanisms are being strained both nationally and for families. According to the International Labor Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has left 60% of workers with lower real income.
“We are on the brink of the most serious global cost of living crisis in a generation,” Grynspan said.
Many indebted countries are in “over-indebtedness” or at high risk. She said the risk of a major debt crisis is greater now than at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She urged the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to unlock financial support.
“Unless there is a major effort by international financial institutions to increase countries’ financial resources and fiscal space, countries will continue to struggle to pay their food import bills and energy, to service their debt and to increase spending on social protection,” she said.
As for the skyrocketing cost of fuel in many countries, she recommended that governments use some of their reserves and strategic stocks to mitigate the crisis.
“Let me emphasize that this is a global crisis, which no one can escape,” she warned.