Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Conflict and Food Security

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19 May 2022

Mr. President,

I thank Secretary-General Guterres, Director-General Qu Dongyu, and Executive Director Beasley for their briefings. I have also listened carefully to the remarks by Ms. Menker. You presented the current state of food security in your briefings, which is very disturbing. The recommendations you provided should be taken seriously.

Food security is first and foremost a top priority, as it relates to people’s well being and livelihood. It is also a long standing challenge facing the international community. The COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events, economic recession, and geopolitical conflicts are factors in play that have contributed to the sharp rise in food prices, further accentuating the imbalance between supply and demand. As a result, developing countries are hit the hardest. We need to stay calm and objective, take practical measures to holistically look at the food security issue, and address the bottlenecks and breakpoint of the supply chain in order to tackle the global food security challenge facing us all.

Firstly, we need to strengthen coordination and stabilize the global food market. The current food crisis is caused by reduced supply, logistical disruption, and in particular rising prices.

To fill the supply gap, the international community needs to work together to seek diversified food supplies, and maintain the smooth operation of agricultural trade internationally. It is important to bring back to the international market agricultural products and fertilizers from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. We welcome the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to this end.

In the globalized era, any slight disruption in the supply chain is quickly transmitted, generating a ripple effect. Weaponizing economic interdependence will only create man-made difficulties, and amplify local risks. We call for speedy removal of the restrictions on food production and exports imposed by unilateral sanctions, so as to allow for a steady flow of food production and supply.

According to World Bank estimates, for every one percentage point increase in food prices, ten million people worldwide will fall into extreme poverty. Major food exporting countries and countries with major food enterprises have a shared responsibility to combat hoarding for profiteering purposes, limit financial speculation, instill stability and confidence in the market, and bring under control the steady rising food prices.

Secondly, we need to scale up emergency assistance to help vulnerable countries weather the storm. In the past year, some 193 million people in 53 countries and regions faced food insecurity. And the situation this year will only get worse. When people do not have enough to eat, social problems and even security problems will arise. Now, a number of countries are already experiencing food-related social unrest. This is a troubling development. Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, countries in the Horn of Africa and Sahel region are highly dependent on food imports. The international community, the developed countries in particular, should increase the provision of emergency food supplies and assistance, and provide timely and targeted help to vulnerable groups such as women and children. It is important that international relief agencies are guaranteed of humanitarian access.

Many countries are under pressure on balance of payments due to rising food prices. International financial institutions and developed economies should strengthen policy and financing support to developing countries facing special difficulties. A certain country should adopt responsible monetary policies, taking into full account of the spillover effects of its own interest rate adjustments, in order to avoid adding to the debt service burden of developing countries concerned, thus weakening their food purchasing power.

Thirdly, we need to promote deep transformation and enhance the resilience of the global food system. Like many food crises we faced since the 20th century, the current crisis once again brings to light the structural problems of the global food system. The world food supply and demand pattern is characterized by food production highly concentrated in a few countries, while consumer countries are geographically well dispersed. This makes the balance of food supply and demand highly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions pandemics, armed conflicts, and other emergency and unforeseen factors.

To strengthen the resilience of global food system to withstand risks, it is important to help developing countries enhance their self-sustaining capacity, increase agriculture and rural inputs, accelerate progress in agricultural science and technology, improve agriculture infrastructure, and expand food availability. The three UN agricultural agencies and international financial institutions should leverage their respective strengths, and play an active role in situational analysis, policy advice, and aid coordination, and provide more support to developing countries.

Developed countries should reduce trade and technical barriers, give more help to developing countries in terms of funding, technology, market access, and capacity building, thus playing their due role in building an efficient, open, and fair global food supply system. The long-standing practice of developed countries in providing large agricultural subsidies have exacerbated the uneven development of the international food market, which de-incentivizes developing countries in terms of grain production. This is an issue that needs our attention and solution. In addition, for energy transition, developed countries are engaged in corn- and soybean-based biofuel development on a large scale. Objectively, this also competes with global food demand. On this issue, we need to have an integrated and balanced strategy.

Mr. President,

China has always made food provision to its population as a top priority in its national governance. With 9% of the world’s arable land, we feed nearly 1/5 of the total global population. We have eliminated absolute poverty that has plagued the country for thousands of years. We’ve also helped other developing countries improve their agricultural production capacities through our foreign aid programs and South-South cooperation. China has put forward the Global Development Initiative, making food security a priority area of cooperation. This will facilitate our contribution to responding to the challenge of global food security.

In the end, I wish to emphasize that the world today is facing multiple crises. There is no greater crisis than the prevalence of hegemony and power politics, which poses serious challenges to international equity and justice. As Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out, the destiny and future of all countries are shared. We should choose dialogue over confrontation, tear down walls rather than erect walls, pursue integration instead of decoupling, opt for inclusiveness over exclusion, and guide reform of the global governance system with the principle of fairness and justice. In the time full of risks and crises, initiating a new Cold War, provoking bloc confrontation, and seeking decoupling in the economic and technological domain will not solve any problems. On the contrary, this would only bring more trouble to the world. What the world needs the most is true multilateralism, consistent, exemplary, and responsible actions of major countries, and global cooperation that is equal and inclusive, where we work together, and we share together.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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