Ex-Australian PM Rudd rebukes UN agency over food security 'failures'
Kevin Rudd has slammed the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation for failing at its job, and threatened to pull Australian funding from the organisation, at a conference in Hong Kong on Thursday morning.
“The FAO was established to deal with food security issues comprehensively, and they have failed to do that,” said the lawmaker and former Australian prime minister.
He was speaking as a member of Parliament, not for the Australian government, at a conference titled “Feeding the World: Asia’s Prospect of Plenty”. It was hosted by The Economist at the Harbour Grand Kowloon hotel.
“We support the new director general, but as one of the major funders of the FAO we want to say this: that funding will stop unless FAO turns around and addresses this. The fact that we’re having this kind of a conference is an indictment of the failure of the FAO,” he said.
Although global food security is critical for the world, the issue is low on the world’s political agenda, he said.
“The truth is, food security only emerges on the global political agenda at times of food price crises … [at] other times [it emerges] maybe anecdotally, but not systematically. It should be part and parcel of global sustainability.”
An estimated one billion people around the world do not have enough food, and two-thirds of them are in Asia.
Brett Rierson, director of the UN’s World Food Programme in China, told the conference: “There’s a misconception that hunger is an African problem … hunger’s home is right here [in Asia].”
Rudd said pressure from a possible new US administration – next year after November’s presidential election – would be needed to generate the political will to tackle the issue. Food shortages are expected to worsen as the world’s population grows towards a projected nine billion by 2050.
Various speakers noted that the main challenges lie in increasing food production given that there is no new land to cultivate, and that pollution-causing chemicals should not be used. Also, food waste during transport, sales and consumption must be curbed.
Rudd said food security needed to be thought of in terms of nations’ self-interest, not as philanthropy, and that private resources must be harnessed to meet future demand.