Agenda Item 3: General Debate
Dear President, Secretary General, Excellencies, distinguished Delegates,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
First, allow me to thank Ambassador Tarishi, who led us though the challenging Conference last year. We very much appreciated your leadership, transparency and inclusiveness in your chairing of the Bureau.
Similarly, we would like to welcome the newly elected Bureau led by its President, Ambassador Hasans. We will continue to be active and constructive in our partnership in advancing the work of UNCTAD within its mandate.
This 69th regular session of the Trade and Development Board is taking place at a most significant moment for multilateralism. It is the first regular Board session since the UNCTAD XV and since the Doha Programme of Action for LDCs was adopted. As well as only days after the conclusion of the WTO’s Ministerial Conference 12. It is, therefore, an excellent opportunity to consider initial assessments of the work of UNCTAD since the Conference and have an informed exchange on pressing trade and development issues.
The Board meeting is also taking place amidst a very difficult global situation. For the third year now, the world is struggling to get out of the global health emergency. While COVID remains a serious concern in many parts of the world, social and economic consequences of the prolonged pandemic continue to challenge significantly the recovery phase. Stressed supply chains, increasing commodity prices and stretched budgets, all add to the substantial challenges of reaching the goals of the 2030 Agenda.
Significantly exacerbating the situation is the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is creating further stress for the global stability, and for international food and energy prices. As outlined in the second brief of the Global Crisis Response Group on the war’s global impact, billions of people face the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation, as the Secretary General pointed out. The ripple effects of the war are expected to add 95 million people to the extreme poor and push additional 50 million people into severe food insecurity this year alone. This situation requires swift and comprehensive action. We need to prevent the crisis of affordability turning into a crisis of availability.
We strongly support the work of the Global Crisis Support Group and of the Secretary General Grynspan who is coordinating its work and we follow with great interest the analytical work of the group and are committed to act on its recommendations. In this sense, Team Europe is putting in place concrete actions to deliver on the two simultaneous approaches that are called for in the briefing of the Crisis Group.
We are doing this through four avenues of action, which are today being discussed by the EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
First, solidarity. In a matter of weeks, we identified over EUR 5 billion in humanitarian and development assistance for global food security. Indeed, our recent actions and financial pledges confirm that we remain highly engaged in assisting vulnerable populations with emergency relief across the globe. We are also focusing on macro-economic stability and debt relief, as 60% of low-income countries are already in, or at high risk of debt distress.
Secondly, production and resilience. We committed support to more than 60 partner countries to boost their output and the resilience of their food systems, thus increasing food security in the medium term. We are actively supporting partner countries to build their own strategic autonomy, resilience and food systems. EU has already earmarked EUR 3 billion to invest in agriculture and nutrition to support our partner countries
The third point is about trade. We need to get Ukrainian grain, as well as other countries’ grain and fertilizers back to the global market. To alleviate the situation, in the EU we are opening new pathways through Poland and Romania. Adding to the challenge, is of course that a number of countries are, as elaborated in the latest Crisis Group brief, restricting its exports of fertilizers and of certain foods.
Let me clear here: EU sanctions do not include food or fertilizer exports from Russia. Transport sanctions do not go beyond the EU borders they are not extraterritorial, and there is even a full exemption on agricultural goods on our port embargo. Russian flagged vessels are not prevented from carrying grain, food or fertilizers to developing and other countries. Indeed, data shows that Russia has been exporting their produce yet limiting them and directing them to only selected countries. It is important to recognize the facts and not buy into any disinformation campaigns.
The fourth point is multilateralism. We are committed to anchor the global food security response in the multilateral system. We work closely with the UN, the G7 and other multilateral formats to provide solutions to the food crisis. In this sense, we strongly support the work of the UN Global Crisis Response Group, with the central role played by the Secretary General of UNCTAD. We have stepped-up our engagement with the Rome-based agencies, as well as with the International Financial Institutions and the WTO. We are strengthening our engagement with the UN resident coordinators to ensure that the responses are well coordinated at local level and tailored to the context of specific needs.
To conclude, we should remain true to the UN Charter, with respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law, as part of our aim of effective multilateralism and a strong agile role for UNCTAD within the UN.