Rome, June 4, 2008– The following is a statement by World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick at a news conference in Rome at the High-Level Conference on World Food Security.
"There has been considerable consensus at this meeting on what is causing today’s food crisis and on what we need to do. The challenge now for the international community is to do it. We need action, resources and results in real time.
Here in Rome, and at the TICAD conference last week, leader after African leader has said that high food and energy prices are putting their reforms, their growth strategies, and most importantly, their people, at grave risk. They are asking the same question: what can be done now? Not next month. Not in a year. But now.
Riots in over 30 countries, 30 million Africans who will likely fall into poverty, 100 million people worldwide who are at risk, 850 million people who are malnourished; 2 billion people who are struggling every day to put food on the table. If we cannot act now. when?
This is not a natural catastrophe. It is man-made and can be fixed by us. It does not take complex research. We know what has to be done.
Our task is two-fold: to handle today’s danger for the millions of people for whom securing food has become a daily struggle, and then to turn higher food prices into an opportunity for developing world agriculture, and for farmers in developing countries. I believe we can do both.
The Task Force led, by the Secretary General, has drawn up a Comprehensive Framework for Action. This is important and can help guide up with short and long-term responses.
For the first challenge, I have proposed that this meeting commit to helping the twenty most vulnerable countries in the coming weeks. Working with the WFP, FAO, IFAD, and the development banks, and with financial support from bilateral donors we need to undertake this work by the time of the Group of Eight meeting in July. Then go on to do more.
The agencies and governments at the meeting should also commit to getting seeds and fertilizer out to smallholder farmers in the coming planting months. This can make the difference between food or hunger at the next harvest time.
And we must agree on an international call to scrap food export bans and restrictions that globally are driving prices up and hurting the poor.
If we take just these three actions now, those of us gathered here in Rome can make the difference between millions having food on the table, or going without. The choice is clear.
We must also think ahead beyond today’s crisis. At the G8 meeting, we must see progress onaddressing the longer-term challenge of doubling global food production over the next 30 years.
As I outlined in an article last week, this requires boosting developing country agricultural products and productivity so developing countries can benefit from the growing demand for food.
As part of this longer-term strategy, investment in small farmers, in agribusiness, and in agricultural research could triple yields. New risk management tools can be deployed to protect poor farmers.
Easing corn and oil seed-based bio-fuel subsidies, mandates and tariffs, and closing the Doha trade round must also be part of these longer-term measures.
This is the agenda for the 2 G8 meetings, and we must continue to drive this agenda forward. But today is Rome, and in Rome we can and must take action now."