Talking Point at the High Level Event on the Food and Climate Change Crisis, New York, 25 September 2008




Let me begin by thanking you, Mr. Secretary General for taking this initiative. The topics you have chosen for discussion this evening call for urgent attention. Like many other countries, Indonesia deems food security and climate change as issues of great importance. We have therefore consistently advocated for greater global resolve to meet the dual challenges of food insecurity and climate change.
The complexity of the food crisis requires international solutions that are well defined and coordinated. It requires political will, sustained and unwavering commitment to concrete actions in the short-, medium- and long-term.
In many countries, it has had a profound impact on the drive to attain the MDGs in many countries. On MDG 1, eradicating poverty, its effect is obvious. But it impacts on the other MDGs as well because hunger puts the health of children and women at risk. In their desperate efforts to eke a living, they may do harm to the environment. Hunger diminishes the capacity of children to learn, making it difficult for them to get a job when they grow up. Productivity is lowered when workers are distracted by hunger.
It is in this light that I wish to contribute to this evening’s


Virtual Global Grain Reserve

Mr. Secretary General, your proposal for a “virtual grain reserve” is indeed interesting. With the changing nature of today’s food economy, the ability to ease sharp price fluctuations for major staples is important. A virtual grain reserve can be useful to counter balance excessive speculation in the commodity futures market, considering that grains are increasingly used as commodity-based financial instruments in portfolio investments.

Valuable as it is, a global virtual grain reserve can only be a part of a comprehensive solution. The current food crisis indicates a deep structural imbalance in our global food economy. With world population expected to reach eight billion in 2028, with 50 percent of that population living in urban areas, with the shift in agriculture from food to energy production, and with the adverse impact of climate change, food security has become difficult to attain.

We must address these structural imbalances in the global food economy by increasing agricultural production. Hence, the global virtual grain reserve must be established in tandem with a 21st century Green Revolution if we are to attain global food security. Unlike the green revolution of the 1960s, this new revolution must take into account the challenge of climate change and accommodate the use of commodities for bio-fuels.

At the same time, there must also be an early warning system on food scarcity anywhere in the world. We need an effective global monitoring and reporting mechanism for food security. This mechanism must provide accurate, up-to-date data on the status of food supplies, demand, and prices everywhere in the world.

Such a mechanism can build on the FAO/WFP agriculture commodities supply and demand monitoring system. The two should be integrated as one system operated by the UN, which can be reviewed regularly. All members should give that system the political attention it needs.

Investment in Agriculture

We must renew commitments to increasing public and private investments in the agriculture sector of developing countries. With 75 percent of the world’s poor living in rural areas, increased investment in agriculture will bring about the twin benefits of increasing agriculture output and reducing poverty.

Investment should be geared to enhancing rural infrastructures, land and soil as well as water management. Most importantly as you stated in your short paper, investment must empower the small resource poor farmers. We should encourage small farmers to farm as entrepreneurs, rather than to merely farm in the traditional way.

We agree with you that concrete actions should be taken to reduce practical difficulties facing private investors and farmers. We must help farmers gain access to marketing, financial, technical and information services and to help make it profitable for businesses to provide these services. The success of Grameen Bank in micro finance can serve as a model for efforts to help small resource and poor farmers meet their capital requirements. Profit sharing schemes between farmers and private investors will also help.

Lifting Export Restrictions

On the proposal to lift export restrictions on goods meant for humanitarian purposes, Indonesia is fully supportive. But I must emphasize that export management or restriction policies are consistent with WTO rules. Moreover, in some circumstances, short-term export management or restriction policies may be needed by developing countries to ensure domestic food security.

It is in that light that the issue of humanitarian food aid must be considered. The flow of such aid must be governed by sound international guidelines on the purchase and delivery of humanitarian food supplies, whether in a bilateral or multilateral context.

In this regard, one of the cardinal rules should be that the humanitarian food aid must be sourced from the local or closest regional market. This will ensure that humanitarian food aid yields twin benefits: help for the hungry and an incentive for poor local farmers.

Moreover, we must also ensure that humanitarian food aid, whether provided bilaterally or through multilateral agencies, should be in grant form and without conditions. Then it will not be used as a way of gaining undue economic or political influence over recipient countries.

Technology Transfer

Technology transfer is imperative to enhancing agricultural production in developing countries. Access to the right agricultural technologies can increase the productivity of developing countries by up to 40 percent.

I refer to simple machines like hand tractors, plowing machines, or rice dryers. These machines can have a decisive impact on the livelihood of most resource poor farmers in developing countries.

What we need is a global public-private partnership movement to help poor farmers acquire these readily available and relatively inexpensive technologies. Schemes could also be developed to make these machines available to them through inexpensive community rentals.

Poor farmers should also be given access to improved, high-yielding varieties of seeds. This will be possible if intellectual property rights are applied flexibly.

Building Consensus for the Next Round of Climate Change Talks
Since Bali, climate change discussions have moved forward in Bangkok, Bonn, and Accra. We have also seen encouraging signs at the political level outside the UNFCCC framework. G-8 leaders in Hokkaido agreed to consider adopting a 50 percent reduction of global emissions by 2050, although a specific base year is yet to be established. Various private sectors are also getting actively involved in the climate change issue and are taking concrete positive measures.
It is important that we maintain this political momentum. We must ensure that the climate change process remains on track and on time, with progress in Poznan and satisfactory results in Copenhagen.

The role of leaders is critical to building consensus and ensuring that we meet our climate change objectives. Leaders must remain fully engaged with the issue. In this context, Mr. Secretary General, we appreciate the support you are giving Denmark, Poland and Indonesia in the role of Troika for climate change.

The Troika sees the need for a summit of key players early next year. The timing will be particularly appropriate because by then we would have a better picture, post-Poznan, and the US would have completed its presidential elections.

The Troika also agrees with your proposal, Mr. Secretary-General, that we hold a summit on climate change at the 64th General Assembly. This will set the tone for Copenhagen.
And in Copenhagen it is important that we all have support from the highest political level. That will facilitate consensus on the post 2012 framework.