Ukraine War: A Silent Assault on the Developing World
April 14, 2022
DHAKA – For the Ukrainian people, the Russian invasion is a waking nightmare, a humanitarian catastrophe of terrifying magnitude. But war is also rapidly becoming a matter of life and death for vulnerable people around the world.
We have all seen the tragedy unfold in Ukraine: cities destroyed; people suffering and dying in their homes and on the streets; the fastest displacement crisis in Europe since the Second World War. But beyond Ukraine’s borders, far beyond the media spotlight, the war has launched a silent assault on the developing world. This crisis could plunge up to 1.7 billion people, more than a fifth of humanity, into poverty, destitution and hunger on a scale not seen in decades.
Ukraine and the Russian Federation supply 30 percent of the world’s wheat and barley, a fifth of its maize and more than half of its sunflower oil. Together, their grains feed the poorest and most vulnerable people, providing more than a third of the wheat imported by 45 African and least developed countries.
At the same time, Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil.
But the war is preventing farmers from tending to their crops, while closing ports, ending grain exports, disrupting supply chains and sending prices skyrocketing.
Many developing countries are still struggling to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, associated with a historic debt burden and runaway inflation. Since the start of 2022, wheat and corn prices have increased by 30%. Brent oil prices have risen more than 60% over the past year, while natural gas and fertilizer prices have more than doubled.
The United Nations’ own rescue operations are under strain. The World Food Program (WFP) has warned it faces the impossible choice of taking from the hungry to feed the hungry. It urgently needs $8 billion to support its operations in Yemen, Chad and Niger.
Some countries are already moving from vulnerability to crisis and severe social unrest. And we know that the roots of many conflicts lie in poverty, inequality, underdevelopment and despair.
But while much of the world has stepped up in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, there are no signs of the same support for the 1.7 billion other potential victims of this war. We have a clear moral duty to support them everywhere.
The Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance that I launched last month aims to develop coordinated solutions to these interrelated crises, with governments, international financial institutions and other partners. keys. I thank the world leaders of all sectors who support this initiative.
On food, we urge all countries to keep markets open, resist hoarding and unjustified and unnecessary export restrictions, and make reserves available to countries most at risk. of hunger and starvation. Now is not the time for protectionism. There is enough food for every country to get through this crisis if we act together.
Humanitarian appeals must be fully funded, including for WFP. We simply cannot let people starve in the 21st century.
In the area of energy, the use of strategic stocks and additional reserves could help alleviate this energy crisis in the short term. But the only medium and long-term solutions are to accelerate the deployment of renewable energies, which are not affected by market fluctuations. This will allow for the phasing out of coal and all other fossil fuels.
And on finance, the G20 and the international financial institutions must go into emergency mode. They must find ways to increase liquidity and fiscal space, so that governments in developing countries can invest in the poorest and most vulnerable, and in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This should be a first step towards deep reforms of our unjust global financial system, which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Social protection, including cash transfers, will be essential to support desperate families during this crisis. But many heavily indebted developing countries lack the liquidity to provide these safety nets. We cannot sit idly by as they are forced to choose between investing in their people and paying off their debt.
The only lasting solution to the war in Ukraine and its attacks on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people is peace. As the UN works to support the innocent victims of this war, both inside and outside Ukraine, we call on the global community to speak with one voice and support our appeal. to peace.
This war must end now.