The United States is making tackling soaring food prices the main focus of its presidency of the United Nations Security Council in May. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the country’s permanent representative to the UN, developed the subject during a press conference to mark the start of the rotating presidency.
“You may recall that in March 2021, just after I arrived in New York, the United States chaired a meeting of the Security Council on the link between armed conflict and food security,” he said. she said on May 3. a spotlight on conflict as a driver of food insecurity.
To address this growing crisis, the United States is hosting a public debate in the Council on May 19 to examine “the link between conflict and food security.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to chair the meeting in person.
The U.S. move to dig deeper into the high cost of food around the world, but which particularly affects the world’s poorest countries, comes as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said that agricultural commodity prices had reached a 32-year high.
Russia’s war against Ukraine, which began on February 24, is responsible for the sudden rise in food prices.
“Ukraine, as you all know, was once a breadbasket for the developing world, but since Russia averted Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II, blocked crucial ports and destroyed civil infrastructure and grain silos, desperate hunger situations in Africa and the Middle East are becoming even more dire,” said Thomas-Greenfield.
the FAO Food Price Index averaged 159.3 points in March 2022, up 12.6% from February, marking a giant leap to a new high since the index’s inception in 1990, the organization said April 6. But new data shows that global food prices fell slightly in April, a consequence of slight declines in vegetable oil and grain prices.
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The United Nations agency tasked with feeding the world’s hungry – the World Food Program – also said its cost of feeding the hungry had risen by an additional $42 million per month, or 30% from 2019.
The agency said four factors are responsible for the spike in food insecurity, but conflict accounts for 60% of the blame. “I saw the famine up close with my own eyes,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “That famine and acute malnutrition are largely caused by war, sometimes intentionally, is truly unacceptable.
International sanctions against Russia, and by extension against Belarus for its support of Moscow, have frozen much of the world’s wheat and fertilizer trade.
Fertilizer supply figures for 2019 indicate that Russia was the world’s largest supplier of nitrogen and urea, nutrients essential for soil fertility. President Putin is said to have temporarily frozen Russian fertilizer exports, even before the European Union reached an agreement to start reducing its own dependence on Russia for oil and gas, in retaliation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s destruction of civilian and other infrastructure and the closure of Ukraine’s crucial ports during the war means the country cannot produce and send food to countries still struggling to recover from Covid-19 problems. 19. Nearly 25 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine and unable to leave the country due to the collapse of major infrastructure and the blocking of Black Sea ports, including Mariupol, according to an official from the United Nations food agency. United Nations.
On May 18, Blinken is also due to chair a “global call to action for food security” at the UN as well. The meeting will bring together foreign ministers from “many countries from various regions to consider urgent humanitarian needs and take steps to build future resilience”, Thomas-Greenfield said.
The other focus of the United States in May at the UN is the use of digital tools to create disinformation that threatens global peace and security. Thomas-Greenfield said the United States would hold a meeting on May 23 on the subject.
“Peace and security has been completely digitally transformed, for better and for worse,” she said. “We know how these tools can be used to spread misinformation, restrict access to information and deny human rights, but we also see opportunities to use digital technologies to do tremendous good.”
One country where digital technology would be used to manipulate public opinion at the moment is the West African nation of Mali.
Last month, France accused the Wagner Group, the paramilitary organization linked to Russia, of having accused it of killing and burying an unknown number of Malians in a mass grave near a military base in Gossi, in northern Mali.
the This accusation follows a series of claims that the Wagner Group is using fake social media accounts to create dissension with Malians against French and European forces in the country. France has announced it will leave Mali by the end of the year, and European troops are slowly deciding whether they intend to stay in the country, where they are helping to train its military. Germany recently declared that it was withdrawing from Mali.
The United States chairs the Security Council as Russia’s war on Ukraine enters its third month with no peace talks in sight. Washington reportedly provided intelligence about Russian troops that enabled the Ukrainians to kill many Russian generals on the battlefield.
Thomas Weiss, d.director emeritus of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an expert in United Nations affairs, said in an interview with PassBlue that diplomacy was no longer useful in bringing peace to Ukraine and thus reducing the world prices of food, energy and other raw materials.
And at the Council, Thomas-Greenfield acknowledged that the tone had become “somewhat muffled”, sparked by Russia’s devastation of a neighboring country, while Russia’s war crimes charges mount every day.
“I think on the social side, everything – there’s a sense of discomfort, and I think, thankfully, over the last few months there haven’t been any major social engagements that we’ve been required to attend and where we have to be diplomatic and smile,” she said. “But I look forward to continuing to try and move the Council forward in my month as President to address peace and security issues across the world and have a positive impact,” she said. .
The ambassador is going to Belgium on May 9 and 10 to lead the American delegation at a donors’ conference on the “future” of Syria. His May 9 visit to Turkey at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to Syria was canceled at the last minute, without explanation. His trip to Brussels comes ahead of efforts in the Council by the United States and other members (led by Ireland and Norway) to renew in July the mandate that allows the only channel for cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria to remain open. At one point, the mandate encompassed four such avenues of aid, but Russia’s veto has reduced it to one now and it could try to close it at this point.
Every month, PassBlue profiles Ambassadors to the UN as their countries assume the presidency of the Council. To hear more details on the United States’ May goals and to hear Weiss’ assessment of the United States and his presidency of the Council, listen to PassBlue’s podcast, Script UNproduced by Kacie Candela and Damilola Banjo, on SoundCloud and Patreon.
United States Ambassador to the UN: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, 69 years old
Ambassador to the United Nations Since: February 2021
Languages: English and French
Education: BA, political science, Louisiana State University; MPA, University of Wisconsin-Madison
His story, briefly: Thomas-Greenfield was born in Baker, a small town outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital. She was educated, for the most part, in the legally separated South. “At the time, Baker was really just a couple of stores along the highway, and in 1950, [it] started getting really big,” Mark Ballard, a reporter for The Advocate in Baton Rouge, told PassBlue. He wrote a long article on Thomas-Greenfield’s profile. “Then it was a suburb of Baton Rouge. After segregation, it became a predominantly African-American suburb. . . .”
Thomas-Greenfield is the eldest of eight children, and many of his siblings have become prominent members of the Baton Rouge community, working in health care, education, and law enforcement. A good student herself, she attended Louisiana State University, also in Baton Rouge, and was among the first cohort of African Americans to attend college after desegregation. She pursued a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She later said in a speech that when she left Louisiana, she put it in her rearview mirror, not wanting to start a family there. Yet she remained close to the community.
Thomas-Greenfield joined the State Department in 1982, where she became Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, serving in that role from 2013 to 2017. Throughout her career, Thomas-Greenfield has represented the United States in countries such as Liberia, Pakistan. , Kenya, Nigeria and Jamaica. She is married to Lafayette Greenfield, a fellow American diplomat, and they have two adult children.
Head of state: President Joseph Biden Jr.
Secretary of State: Antony Blinken
Type of government: Federal, constitutional republic
Year America joined the UN: 1945
Years on the Security Council: one of the five permanent members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States)
Population (2020): 329 million
Membership of regional groups: Group of Seven (G7), Group of Twenty (G20), NATO
The figures for CO2 emissions per capita for 2019 are (in tonnes): 16 (by comparison, the United Arab Emirates has 20; China, 7; India, 2).