Thank you, Secretary Blinken, for organising this debate. I would also like to thank Secretary General Guterres, Executive Director Beasly and Director General Qu for your sobering briefings.
Imagine that 70 percent of the population in your country needs food assistance. That is the reality in South Sudan. On my recent visit, I saw first-hand the devastating effect of conflicts on food security. This is just one of several examples of the catastrophic effects of conflicts on millions of men, women, and children. At the same time, the climate crisis is becoming more and more pronounced, affecting livelihoods, and multiplying the risk of further conflict.
In adopting Resolution 2417, this Council acknowledged that we must break the vicious cycle between armed conflict and hunger. And we, the international community, are committed to ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
Yet, the Russian Federation, a permanent member of the Security Council, has launched an illegal war against another independent country. This unprovoked aggression is a blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter.
It is also an attack on the 2030 agenda. The invasion has exacerbated an already strained global food security situation. It is the Russian war against Ukraine – not targeted sanctions against the aggressor state – that has caused the steep rise in global food prices and food insecurity.
The way the war is being conducted is in violation of international humanitarian law. The obligations not to attack civilians or civilian objects necessary for food production are not optional. Nor is the obligation to facilitate full, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian access to those in need. We are appalled by reports of starvation as a method of warfare. The perpetrators of these crimes must be held accountable.
Disruptions in the food markets and rising prices have the potential to spark unrest and conflicts. The Security Council has a clear preventive role to play, in line with Resolution 2417. To end hunger, we must pursue all possible avenues to prevent and resolve armed conflicts – in line with this Council’s mandate to maintain international peace and security.
Last week, the FAO and WFP jointly presented recommendations on food crisis countries with conflict situations. The update paints a gloomy picture. The acute global food insecurity situation is expected to deteriorate further.
However, we also see examples of how agricultural production can greatly relieve the need for humanitarian aid, even during a conflict. This gives me hope.
In addition to our humanitarian efforts, we must scale up our investments in food production and resilience, both in and outside conflict zones.
I see small-scale food producers as the backbone of our food systems, in all countries. I believe in their ability to work the land and resources in a sustainable way, providing food for local and regional markets. I grew up on such a farm myself. Small-scale farmers are truly indispensable partners for our collective survival.
We need targeted interventions to provide the seed and fertilizers small scale farmers need. As well as providing the tools to enable them to cope with the threats they may encounter: conflicts, climate change or other crises.
Women and girls have a special role to play in this context. We are food producers, traders, consumers, decision-makers and negotiators. Protecting women and girls from violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, is crucial to eliminating hunger. In many households, food insecurity and poverty prevail when women are hurt.
The sheer number of people on the verge of starvation leaves us no choice but to mobilise now. Norway will invest in resilient food systems, and I am sure many other donors will do so as well.
We must listen to the African voices and solutions. I learned a great deal from the briefing given by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union on food security and conflict in Africa.
I am pleased to note that the private sector has begun to recognise the value of investing in agriculture. Also, the agriculture sector needs predictability from governments, efficient UN agencies working together as a unified UN, and the constructive involvement of civil society.
The war in Ukraine has also exposed Africa’s chronic dependence on food imports. This raises the spectre of mass starvation on a continent that depends on food imports to feed itself. If ever there was a time to drastically raise food production in Africa, it is now.