Mr. Hassan Adam,
at the UNSC Open Debate on Conflict and Food Security
19 May 2022
Thank you, Mr. President,
I would like to thank you, Honorable Secretary of State, for convening today’s meeting. I would also like to thank the UN Secretary-General, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, the Director-General of the FAO for their briefings and the invaluable insights they have provided.
Nothing is more fundamental to our human existence than food, water and clean air. Yet multiple crises, from conflict to climate change, threaten the fish, forests and fields we have relied upon to sustain us for generation upon generation. We welcome this opportunity to share our reflections on food security, conflict and the maintenance of international peace and security.
We live in extremely challenging times. The COVID pandemic continues to pose a threat to us. IPCC reports on climate change are alarming. The state of our ocean is dire. Fires rage. Desertification intensifies. Farmers face unprecedented droughts. These conditions had already created a significant increase in food prices, and conflict situations have intensified this already troubling situation.
Navigating the COVID pandemic required the Maldives to make unprecedented state expenditures to secure vaccines and supplies, and to provide support to workers, families and businesses. As we began 2022, we had a sense of optimism that the worst of the pandemic was behind us, and we could begin the work of stabilizing under this new normal. Instead, this year began with the challenges caused by rising energy and food prices due to conflicts in various parts of the world, including the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
This is a particularly acute problem for the Maldives and other small islands that rely on imported staple foods, cooking oils and other agricultural commodities. Our governments that already face funding challenges associated with COVID expenditures must now consider supports to soften and stabilize food price shocks, creating further demands on fiscal space that is already in dire short supply.
Being a 100% importer of our staple foods, there is little that Maldives can do alone to address this situation directly. At best, we can increase our stockpiles of food, but this is no substitute for the free flow of food and goods through our global supply chains that we have come to rely on to feed and provide for our people. Changes to the system at this point would be imprudent, given the significant investments necessary to re-engineer supply chains and to ensure that the required storage and transportation infrastructure is in place.
We must also head the lessons from the COVID pandemic. This means that we should avoid situations in times of scarcity where we retreat inwards when the moment demands greater global solidarity, engagement and support. We must avoid trade and other measures that disrupt the flow of food that is so vital to not just Maldives, but all countries around the world.
Conflict is nothing new. There are many parts of the world in conflict situations, and every effort must be taken to bring them to an end through durable diplomatic solutions. Today’s interconnected supply chains are such that a conflict anywhere in the world can have far-reaching consequences.
However, it is not just conflict that undermines our food security. Conflict exacerbates the situation, but climate change, unsustainable patterns of consumption and environmental degradation are foundational threats to our food security and our very existence. We must ensure that we work to address root causes of food security, conflict and associated challenges, as this is the only way to ensure our enduring international peace and security.
Food cannot be weaponized as a tool of coercive diplomacy. For us to ensure international peace and security, we must work with all actors, including civil society, businesses and others, to address food security, but also to address the wider system risks that undermine our planetary health and food security.
I thank you.