UN trade conference vows to bolster food security
Monday, 28 April 2008

Participants at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) yesterday pledged to take immediate steps to bolster global food security and to redouble efforts to wrap up the Doha round of trade talks, a statement said, reports AFP.

“UNCTAD XII has been instrumental in addressing some of the most pressing challenges of globalisation such as the global food crisis,” UNCTAD Secretary General Supachai Panitchpakdi said in a closing address.

As a short-term solution to soaring food prices, participating countries agreed to take measures - they did not specify which ones - to meet developing countries’ urgent humanitarian needs. In the medium to longer term they committed to helping individual nations, particularly African countries, less developed countries and net food-importing developing countries, increase food production.

Soaring food prices, which in recent weeks have led to riots in Haiti and protests in southern Asia and across Africa, have dominated much of the twelfth session of UNCTAD which opened on Sunday in the Ghanaian capital. Earlier this week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced he would set up a special task force on the subject.

The conference participants also recognised that rising food prices present an opportunity to promote economic growth and sustainable development as they act as an incentive for developing countries to make their commodity sectors more productive.

The conference “has also highlighted the development potential of the current commodities boom and the need for measures to harness it better for poverty reduction,” Supachai said.

Participants recogised that “many developing countries continue to remain on the margins of the globalization process and are lagging behind in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs).

The MDGs agreed by all UN member states in 2000, notably call for extreme poverty—defined as living on less than one dollar a day—to be halved by 2015.

Other targets include universal primary education and halting the spread of HIV-AIDS. The conference participants pledged that helping developing countries remains a key priority of the international community, the statement said.

The statement promised renewed efforts, including “broadening market access and effectively dealing with trade- distorting non tariff measures” to speed development and promote integration of such countries into the world economy.

On the Doha round trade talks the parties said they resolved “to redouble efforts towards an expeditious conclusion of the negotiations”. The Doha round began in 2001.

The talks subsequently ran out of steam but the past two months or so have seen a renewed commitment to getting them completed. The participants also agreed the next session of UNCTAD, set for 2012, will be held in Qatar.

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