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China’s recipe for food security and essential services

On May 23rd Zhang Jun, China’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), addressed the UN Security Council Open Debate On Ensuring the Security and Dignity of Civilians in Conflict: Addressing Food Insecurity and Protecting Essential Services.

He reiterated China’s stand on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. He appealed to all parties in conflict situations to abide by international law, including international humanitarian law, and to implement their obligation for the protection of civilians. Food security is one of the core responsibilities.

Civilians are the largest victims of armed conflict. Food crisis worsens the humanitarian situation, further compounding the plight of civilians. According to the latest UN report on global food crisis, about 250 million people are currently food insecure. Among those in acute food insecure situations, about two-thirds live in conflict-affected areas. Food Security is a very basic human right, and, therefore, Zhang urged the UNSC and the international community to accord it first priority. 

First, Zhang called for the political settlement of hotspot issues. So long as conflicts persist, there is no basis to speak of civilian safety and security, which makes hunger more entrenched and harder to tackle. He appealed to conflicting parties to abide by Council Resolutions 2417 and 2573, effectively implement their obligation under international law, including humanitarian law, to protect civilians, give priority attention to vulnerable groups, including women and children, and to ensure safe and unimpeded humanitarian assistance.

All countries should abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, advocate cooperation, and reject confrontation, so as to create a good environment for peace. It is imperative to persevere in resolving disputes through peaceful means, including dialogue, negotiation, and mediation, and help conflict countries attain peace and stability without delay so as to create favourable conditions for the protection of civilians and to ensure food security.

Second is increasing emergency assistance. Food crisis is a result of complex factors. The priority is to take effective measures to ease the needs faced by some countries. Zhang called upon traditional donors to increase their assistance and to provide more emergency humanitarian assistance in terms of food and financing to countries in need. However, assistance should not be regarded as a lever for political gain.

There should be no additional conditions attached, and there should be no selectivity when it comes to assistance. The humanitarian requirements of all receiving countries should be treated equally. For instance, the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan requires full attention. The United States has long seized the overseas assets of Afghanistan, which has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Third is maintaining overall stability of supply chain and international food prices. The Black Sea Grain Initiative was recently renewed. This will be conducive in ensuring the international food supply.

It should be pointed out that food, as a major international commodity, has been highly financialised and monetised. The main driver of this round of massive hike in food prices is the recent adoption of extraordinary monetary policies featuring quantitative easing by individual countries. China urges these countries, to give serious attention to the spillover effect of their policies in designing their monetary policies, and show more care to the interests of developing countries to avoid distortion and abnormal fluctuation of food prices.

Fourth is creating favourable conditions for developing countries to resolve their food problem. Many developing countries are endowed with rich agricultural resources, and thus have all the potential to feed themselves. However, as long-standing victims of colonialism, these countries are plagued by single structure economies.

The agriculture subsidies practiced by developed countries have severely distorted the international market for agricultural products and de-incentivised the farming populations in developing countries. Major international food companies should also honour their social responsibility by reducing their monopolistic power on agricultural resources, including seeds and the pricing of agricultural products.

Fifth is increasing international coordination to form synergy. The UN food and agricultural institutions, UN development agencies, and international financial institutions should leverage their advantage and mobilise broad international resources, and deepen cooperation, so as to provide more support to post-conflict countries and developing countries in terms of financing, technology, training, and management to help them develop agriculture. 

Climate change is a major factor in the reduction of food production. The UN should play its role as the main convener to promote and deepen international action on climate governance. Developed countries should honor their historical responsibility and financial commitments to respond to climate change and help developing countries increase resilience in terms of climate change and food security.

China is a long-standing promoter and contributor to international food security. In recent years, China has been providing emergency food aid to more than 50 countries, easing the need of millions of people.

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