Munir Akram

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 (APP):The President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, has called for providing technologies that make sustainable agriculture possible to farmers in developing countries at “concessional” terms” to enable them to deal with the coronavirus crisis that has put food security and access to it at risk.

“The global economic slowdown, caused by the pandemic, is affecting all four pillars of food security — availability, access, utilization, and stability,” he told a meeting held to mark the World Food Day.

To overcome these challenges, Ambassador Akram, as ECOSOC chief, made a five-point proposal:
1. We must ensure that food supply chains are not disrupted during crisis, citing the ‘green lanes’ created by the Chinese government to ease transport, production, and distribution of agricultural inputs and food products.
2. We need to invest in sustainable agriculture-related infrastructure to ensure market access for remote and small-scale farmers in the developing countries.
3. Trade is an important component for availability of food and stability in its prices, and avoiding disruptive policies to keep them consistent with the rules agreed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in the interest of the poor in developing countries.
4. Sustainable agriculture technologies must be made available to the developing countries on concessional and preferential terms.
5. Billions of dollars of agricultural subsidies by the industrialized countries in agricultural sector have led to chronic overproduction, dumping surpluses, and distortions in global markets.

In this regard, the ECOSOC chief underscored the need for agricultural reform to make these trade practices fair and equitable.

Ambassador Akram said he intended to explore how the ECOSOC’s mandate and mechanisms could be used to promote such reforms.

The Food System Summit next year will also be a major opening to ensure that our ambition for zero hunger by 2030 translates into actions, he said.

“Promoting a robust multilateral response guided by global solidarity remains at the core of our response to the current pandemic,” he said.

“On this World Food Day, I encourage you all to work together and scale up collective solutions to advance sustainable development.”

In his remarks, he especially highlighted the loss of income that many have suffered since the COVID-19 pandemic, had mostly impacted the poor, who spend most of their income on food.

“The income decline had impacted food security and put food access at risk,” Ambassador Akram said, adding, “The most impacted are the poor and vulnerable as they spend on average 70% of their total income on food.”

The current trend suggested that the number of people affected by hunger would surpass 840 million by 2030, he said.

The COVID-19 would further add between 83 and 132 million to the total number of undernourished around the world in 2020, Ambassador Akram said, would also translate into more stunted growth in children which currently affects 144 million.

“Only by working together can we build back better, get back on track to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reduce vulnerabilities to future shocks and disasters.”