Dhaka calls for 'Global Food Bank'
Sunday, 28 September 2008

Chief adviser Fakhruddin AhmedAgencies

Chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed has urged the world to consider the possibility of creating a "Global Food Bank", stressing the ties between food security, democracy and development for Least Developed Countries.

Such a mechanism, he told the 63rd UN General Assembly in New York Friday, would allow countries facing a short-term deficit to borrow food grains on preferential terms.
 
After overcoming the shortfall, those countries could return the quantum to the bank.
 
With Bangladesh chairing the UN's LDC Group this year, Fakhruddin pointed out that food security, democracy and development were "inextricably linked to one another, and are of fundamental importance to the welfare of the citizens of Bangladesh as well as of other LDCs."
 
"We have witnessed during the course of this year an extra-ordinary rise in food and energy prices, which has undermined the food security of many least developed economies.
 
This experience should strengthen our resolve to look for long-term solutions for a world free of hunger."
 
Fakhruddin said food security in today's world was a "moral imperative", and not just a "development imperative".
 
Food insecurity could disrupt the core of a democratic policy and derail development priorities, he said.
 
The recent rise in global food prices had severely impacted Bangladesh, as domestic rice prices had spiked by nearly 60 percent during the year through February 2007, he pointed out.
 
This had occurred against the backdrop of two devastating floods and a tropical cyclone that had devastated one of the country's key harvests.
 
"The recent global rise in food prices has been acutely felt in Bangladesh, even though imports account for a small percentage of our cereal consumption."
 
He warned that situation would return, perhaps with greater intensity and frequency, unless the international community put short- and long-term measures in place to prevent the recurrence.
 
Food insecurity was measured by increased instability, as well as deprivation, and making food available for all at affordable prices was a cardinal responsibility for all governments, Fakhruddin said.
 
"While free market remains an incomparably powerful tool for efficient allocation of resources, markets are often imperfect, and no government can stand idle and hope that the private sector will resolve a food crisis."
Profound Change
 
On democracy, Fakhruddin said: "Bangladesh is in the midst of a profound change that we believe is highly relevant to people all around the world, especially to those fighting poverty, corruption and under-development."
 
"As with any process of change, it is not without setbacks," he said.
 
"Our goal is to strengthen democracy in Bangladesh, and my government has done everything in its power over the course of the past 20 months to work towards this end," said the head of the caretaker admninistration.
 
The fight against corruption was the first step in a long and difficult process, and the government would continue the fight under the auspices of the independent Anticorruption Commission.
 
He said his administration had announced a roadmap for staging a truly democratic election, soon after assuming office in January 2007. This was no easy task, as decades of corruption had seriously undermined the country's democracy and economy.
 
The government had electronically registered more than 80 million voters with photographs and fingerprints in 11 months, and the Election Commission trained more than 500,000 election workers, the chief adviser said.
 
It had strengthened electoral laws. "However, an election was only one pillar of democratic governance," he said.
 
The interim government had also moved to make the judiciary fully independent, created the National Human Rights Commission, and enacted a Right to Information law that provided transparency.
 
The Election Commission had successfully held local mayoral elections last month, Fakhruddin pointed out, and was fully committed to free and fair parliamentary elections on December 18.
Climate Adaptation
 
Fakhruddin cited a second "moral imperative" for the global community: countries which have contributed little to climate change, such as Bangladesh, "not be left alone and unsupported to suffer most from its consequences".
 
By some estimates, a one meter sea-level rise would submerge about one-third of the total area of Bangladesh. Given our population and its vulnerabilities, this would result in the greatest humanitarian crisis in history."
 
Inaction is simply no longer an option, said the chief adviser.
 
International efforts to minimise emission levels should not, however, disproportionately tax poorer nations, he said.
 
Among efforts to combat climate change, Fakhruddin suggested that the post-Kyoto agreement should set up a Technology Transfer Board, in order to ensure that least developed economies have access to affordable, eco-friendly technologies.
LDC Goals
 
Fakhruddin believed it was unlikely that least developed countries would achieve the overarching goals of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs unless the international commitments for the countries, in the areas of aid and trade, were fully delivered.
 
Though economic progress had been made since the adoption of the Brussels Programme, least developed countries still faced serious structural hurdles in their development efforts, and were acutely susceptible to external economic shocks, natural and man-made disasters, he said.
 
He urged member states to fully support the holding of the fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, scheduled to be held before the Brussels Programme concludes in 2010.

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