LONDON, ENGLAND — Leaders from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) on April 13 issued a joint statement urging coordinated action on food security. As part of their pleas, the heads of the organizations proposed several actions, including providing emergency food supplies and deploying financial support to households and countries, facilitating unhindered trade, and investing in sustainable food production and nutrition security.
“The world is shaken by compounding crises,” wrote David Malpass, president of the World Bank; Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF; David Beasley, executive director of the WFP; and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the WTO. “The fallout of the war in Ukraine is adding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that now enters its third year, while climate change and increased fragility and conflict pose persistent harm to people around the globe. Sharply higher prices for staples and supply shortages are increasing pressure on households worldwide and pushing millions more into poverty. The threat is highest for the poorest countries with a large share of consumption from food imports, but vulnerability is increasing rapidly in middle-income countries, which host the majority of the world’s poor. World Bank estimates warn that for each one percentage point increase in food prices, 10 million people are thrown into extreme poverty worldwide.”
The leaders warned that escalating food prices are being led even higher by an increase in the cost of natural gas. With higher food prices and supply shocks comes the possibility of social tensions, the leaders cautioned, especially in countries that may already be fragile or dealing with conflict.
As a result, they called on the international community to support vulnerable countries through coordinated actions ranging from provision of emergency food supplies, financial support, increased agricultural production, and open trade.
“We are committed to combining our expertise and financing to quickly step up our policy and financial support to help vulnerable countries and households as well as to increase domestic agricultural production in, and supply to, impacted countries,” the leaders wrote. “We can mitigate balance of payments pressures and work with all countries to keep trade flows open. In addition, we will further reinforce our monitoring of food vulnerabilities and are quickly expanding our multi-faceted policy advice to affected countries guided by the comparative advantages of our respective institutions.
“We also urge the international community to help support urgent financing needs, including through grants. This should include financing of immediate food supplies, safety nets to address the needs of the poor, and for small farmers facing higher input prices. We also urge all countries to keep trade open and avoid restrictive measures such as export bans on food or fertilizer that further exacerbate the suffering of the most vulnerable people. It is especially important not to impose export restrictions on humanitarian food purchases by the UN’s World Food Program.”
The leaders said it is critical that support is provided “in a coordinated manner.”
“We stand ready to work together with our multilateral and bilateral partners to help countries address this urgent crisis,” the leaders wrote.