Blinken to hold ministerial meeting on global food security threatened by Ukraine war

United Nations, May 4 (IANS) US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken will be holding a ministerial-level meeting in the United Nations on action for global food security in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is pushing several developing countries into “desperate hunger situations,” according to US Permanent Representative, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

The meeting will take place on May 18 on the eve of a Security Council debate on “Conflict and Food Security” as the US ramps up its campaign to forestall the war’s fallout in creating a food crisis, she told reporters on Tuesday after taking over as President of the Security Council.

A former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, who has also served on that continent, Thomas-Greenfield said, “I’ve seen starvation up close with my own eyes.”

“We cannot look away from the millions who are worried about where they’ll find their next meal or how they’ll feed their families,” she added.

“The meeting will include Foreign Ministers from many regionally diverse countries to review urgent humanitarian needs and take steps to build future resilience,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

While the looming crisis is being addressed at other fora, “our intent is to expand the circle, including both donors and countries, most affected by the spike in food insecurity,” she added.

She said Ukraine was the “breadbasket for the developing world” but because Russia has “blocked crucial ports and destroyed civilian infrastructure and grain silos, desperate hunger situations in Africa and the Middle East are getting even more dire”.

Cooperation between the US and India on averting a food crisis figured in talks between the leaders of the two countries in April.

India is sitting on a wheat stockpile estimated at nearly 100 million tonne, far in excess of a safety net.

“Our countries are working together to try to bring more food to world markets, as well as to the World Food Programme,” Blinken said after the ministerial meeting between him, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Jaishankar said it also came up at the virtual summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden.

World Trade Organisation’s restrictions on exporting food procured by governments at support prices is one of the barriers to India, which is the world’s second-largest producer of wheat after China, from exporting more of its surplus.

Thomas-Greenfield said the impact of digital technology on international peace and security would be another signature event of the US leadership of the Council.

The event “will contribute to the Council’s understanding of the evolving landscape, and it will offer a chance to share national perspectives as well as best practices, highlight the importance of capacity-building, and help us all identify ways the UN can continue to adapt its efforts,” she added.

The US took over the rotating Council presidency from Britain and it can keep up the pressure on Russia.

While it was the President, Britain delayed a request from Russia for an emergency meeting.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected])