British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is urging rich countries to end agricultural subsidies to help the world’s poorest farmers escape poverty.
Brown also said he would press for a global trade deal by the end of next month to give poor farmers better access to the markets of rich countries.
The British leader, in a video address on Tuesday to a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council on the global food crisis, called for governments and donors to provide much greater support for agricultural development.
He said this was crucial since three out of four of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas.
At the UN meeting, world leaders and experts argued that the food crisis sparked by rising prices risked derailing global efforts to reduce poverty and that international action was needed urgently.
“Today 25,000 people will die because they did not get enough to eat,” Brown said in his video message.
Brown pledged to champion the cause of fighting poverty and hunger on an international level, including among the G8 industrialized nations that are the main donor countries.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said that even before the crisis, 830 million people faced acute food shortages and rising food prices would push another 100 million people or more into deep poverty.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month he was creating a high-level task force to address the food crisis.
Tuesday’s meeting was part of that effort to coordinate policies and propose ideas ahead of a food summit in Rome next month.
Migiro said the task force would aim to find ways to meet emergency needs, including a UN World Food Programme call for an extra US$755 million to fund the rising costs of its current operations.
Speakers at the meeting said that overcoming the long-term causes of the crisis would require assistance for developing countries to boost food production by helping small-scale farmers.
Economist and development campaigner Jeffrey Sachs said rich countries held the key to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals, a set of pledges adopted by UN member states to sharply reduce poverty and hunger by 2015.
“All hangs in the balance,” Sachs said. “The limiting factor is the response of the rich countries, because things can be done, but the finance has not been there. The promises have not been kept.”
Also see: The brighter side of high prices