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Kofi Annan warns financial crisis no excuse for inaction

Former UN Secretary General urges governments to maintain their resolve to ending hunger at Dublin conference.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned that the global financial crisis cannot be used as “an excuse for inaction” in the worsening battle against “wrenching hunger” across the developing world.

Speaking in Dublin at a major international conference hosted by Concern Worldwide, Mr Annan urged political leaders to end a situation where nearly one billion of the world’s population do not have enough food to eat on a day-to-day basis.

More than 200 Irish and international policy-makers and influential figures drawn from government, business, academia and major NGOs are attending the conference at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin.

Calling governments to task

Mr Annan is calling governments to task over their slow response to the problem of global hunger in comparison to the swift reaction to the current turmoil in the financial system.

“The food crisis of recent months is now compounded by a global financial crisis. While national governments and international lenders scramble to inject hundreds of billions of dollars into failing banks – the developing world goes hungry…this is simply unacceptable. We must do something to stop it.”

 

Saying the world was at a critical juncture, Mr Annan continued, “The world food crisis awakened the global community to the need for agricultural development to end hunger and spur growth in Africa. Yet today commitments to that goal are on shaky ground. The world financial crisis threatens to undermine further the political will needed to keep promises.

“The financial crisis cannot be an excuse for inaction. We must maintain our resolve. We can end hunger and poverty. Doing so is critical to Africa and to a healthy and resilient global food system.”

Investment in African agriculture

Mr Annan said that the potential of Africa’s agricultural sector is languishing as a result of “decades of neglect”. He called for a comprehensive programme of support to Africa’s smallholder farmers.

“Agricultural development is an engine of economic growth for low income countries where most people live in rural communities and farm. The global food crisis has prompted governments from Beijing to Berlin to re-invest in agriculture, and find ways to support their farmers. Africa must do the same.”

“It will require a coherent and coordinated response by governments, donors and multilateral organisations. It will require coordination across different sectors of the economy, and partnerships between the public and private sectors.”

“On both national and international levels, we must reverse the policies of abandonment. We must help Africa’s smallholder farmers to attain what has eluded them for so long: fully productive and profitable farms. Africa can feed itself and rejoin the league of agriculture-exporting nations.