Statement by Shri V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs

UNSC Open Debate on ‘Maintenance of International Peace & Security - Conflict and Food Security’

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19 May 2022

Mr. President,

Let me begin by congratulating you and the United States delegation for organizing this important open debate on conflict and food security.

I thank Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Executive Director of World Food Programme David Beasley and Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organization Qu Dongyu for their useful briefings. I also thank Sara Menker, Founder and CEO, Gro Intelligence for sharing her perspectives on this issue.

  1. Ensuring food security especially for the poor and the marginalized is a challenge that preoccupies Governments in developing countries first and foremost. As the world was struggling to find its way to emerge from the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine has had a profound impact, with spiraling energy and commodity prices and disruptions in global logistical supply chains.
  2. The Global South has been adversely impacted both by the conflict itself, as well as by the various measures put in place in response. If the conflict does not give way to a meaningful path of dialogue and diplomacy immediately, there will be severe repercussions in the global economy which will derail the efforts of the Global South to secure food security and eradicate hunger in the run up to 2030.
  3. We are already seeing the collapse of economies and law and order problems in some countries, and it will only get worse. Consequently, time has indeed come to start factoring in its multidimensional impact which it is having on the Global South, especially the vulnerable developing countries.
  4. The solution to these challenges lies in global collective action. No single country can, on its own, handle such complex collateral ramifications. We need to work collectively and we need to work together. In this context, let me submit the following EIGHT points for this Council’s consideration:
  5. First, as I said earlier, solution through dialogue and diplomacy to the conflict in Ukraine needs to be arrived at, without any further delay. We have been consistent in calling for immediate cessation of hostilities and pursuing this path to resolve the issue. In this regard, we reiterate our support to the efforts of good offices of the Secretary General.
  6. Second, the food security challenges emanating from Ukraine conflict require us to respond creatively. The growing shortages can only be addressed by going beyond constraints that bind us presently. In this context, we welcome Secretary General’s call for exempting purchases of food by WFP for humanitarian assistance from food export restrictions with immediate effect. But we need to go beyond that to make a real difference.
  7. Third, energy security is equally a serious concern given that it has been a key collateral fall out of the conflict. This needs to be addressed through greater sensitivity to other countries energy mix and import requirements, as well as by enhancing mutual cooperative efforts.
  8. Fourth, A number of low income societies are today confronted with the twin challenges of rising costs and difficulty in access to food grains. Even those like India, who have adequate stocks, have seen an unjustified increase in food prices. It is clear that hoarding and speculation is at work. We cannot allow this to pass unchallenged. As outlined in my intervention yesterday, my Government has recognized the sudden spike in global prices of wheat which put our food security and those of our neighbours and other vulnerable countries at risk. We are committed to ensuring that such adverse impact on food security is effectively mitigated and the vulnerable cushioned against sudden changes in the global market. In order to manage our own overall food security and support the needs of neighbouring and other vulnerable developing countries, we have announced some measures regarding wheat exports on 13 May 2022. Let me reaffirm that these measures allow for export on the basis of approvals to those countries who are required to meet their food security demands. This will be done on the request from the concerned governments. Such a policy will ensure that we will truly respond to those who are most in need.
  9. Fifth, It is necessary for all of us to adequately appreciate the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility when it comes to food grains. We have already seen to our great cost how these principles were disregarded in the case of Covid-19 vaccines. Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination.
  10. Six, we need to avoid linking humanitarian and developmental assistance with the progress in the political process. Such a position by donors will only exacerbate food insecurity in conflict situations. There is an urgent need for the donor community, to scale up assistance to conflict affected countries and to ensure that humanitarian agencies receive the necessary funding to fully execute their plans without politicization of basic needs of the people.
  11. Seven, food assistance alone surely cannot be a long-term sustainable solution to food insecurity. Peace building and development is paramount and must include livelihood support, social protection programmes, and community-based approaches including investment in agriculture infrastructure and capacity-building in rural development, especially in conflict areas. This calls for a multi-stakeholder approach.
  12. Eight, armed conflict and terrorism combined with extreme weather, crop pests, food price volatility, exclusion, and economic shocks can devastate any fragile State leading to food insecurity and increase the threat of famine. The capacity building support to countries facing these issues, in designing, implementing, and monitoring policies and programmes related to food is therefore extremely critical.

Mr. President,

  1. As you may be aware, India is running the world’s largest food-based safety net programme, which has seen a paradigm shift from welfare to a rights-based approach. To achieve targeted delivery during Covid-19, food assistance to 800 million people and cash transfers to 400 million people were provided by the Government. India’s mid-day meal programme continues to tackle undernourishment in school children by ensuring provision of healthy meals. A nutrition drive has also been launched, especially for vulnerable groups, women, and children. Our Farm-to-Table digital initiatives include Farmer’s Portals, farm-advisory services, online network of agricultural commodities, price prediction and use of blockchain technology for quality certification.
  2. Even in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, India has also provided food aid in the form of thousands of metric tonnes of wheat, rice, pulses, and lentils to several countries, including our neighborhood and Africa, to strengthen food security. In view of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, India has commenced donation of 50,000 Metric tonnes of wheat to the people of Afghanistan. Similarly, India has continued its humanitarian support for Myanmar, including a grant of 10,000 tons of rice and wheat. We are also assisting Sri Lanka including with food assistance, during its difficult times. All these were in keeping with our foreign policy priority of “Neighbourhood” First and our firm belief in the abiding ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the world is one family.
  3. In conclusion, Mr. President, I would like to underscore India remains committed to working with all other Member-States and international organisations, including the United Nations, to collectively strengthen global food security, particularly in countries facing conflict situations.

I thank you.

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