'We are going backwards': UN chief warns EU leaders of severe food insecurity

'We are going backwards': UN chief warns EU leaders of severe food insecurity
Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Addressing EU leaders on the first day of the European Council summit in Brussels, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the need for unified EU leadership in response to global challenges, such as climate change and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

“Instead of moving forward, we are going backwards with more famine, more poverty, less education and health care in many parts of the world," Guterres said. "It is clear that our international financial system is not adapted to face such a challenge.”

The UN chief referred to the latest IPCC report on climate change and insisted that "dramatic action" and an "acceleration agenda" are needed as the world nears "the tipping point that will make 1.5 degrees impossible to achieve".

During the summit, Guterres will call for measures to tackle global food insecurity by ensuring that Russian and Belorussian fertilisers reach developing countries, Politico reports.

Belarussian fertilisers are under EU sanctions since 2021 and have been tightened since. Russian fertiliser shipments have been largely blocked by the sanctions that resulted from the invasion of Ukraine. EU diplomats have signalled that an exemption on Belorussian fertilisers is being considered.

But the negotiations will be hard-fought, especially as Lithuania has taken a tough stance on the issue and does not want to cede ground to Lukashenko's dictatorial regime in Belarus. Other Baltic countries and Poland are said to favour a similarly hardline approach.

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“With Guterres coming, we feel the pressure growing. But this has nothing to do with global food security. It’s really just a way to appease the UN,” an EU official told Politico.

As the Russian aggression against Ukraine draws into its second year, major food insecurity has been sparked around the world with 1 billion people across 40 countries being at risk of hunger. More than 30 million children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition, according to the UN.

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