Maldivian FM: World facing worst cost-of living crisis in a generation

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid speaks during the UN Security Council meeting on "the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security" on January 25, 2019. (Photo/Twitter/Abdulla Shahid)

The culminative impacts of crises including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate induced shocks and conflicts – including the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war have jeopardized global food security and created the worst cost-of living crisis in a generation, states Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.

He made the comment in his remarks at the 50th Plenary Session of the Committee on World Food Security on Monday.

Shahid said the international community must work in a coordinated manner to enhance country-led responses to the crisis, both in terms of immediate responses and long-term solutions.

He said the solutions must draw inspiration from and aspire to meet the targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“In the short-term it is vital that we stabilize prices and accelerate supply chains. In the long-term we must work together to transform our agricultural practices and food systems, so that they are more resilient, fair, sustainable, and inclusive,” he said.

Shahid said that it was in recognition of the need for a coordinated short term and long-term response, that as the President of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, he convened with the Committee on World Food Security, a high-level special event entitled “Time to Act Together: Coordinating Policy Responses to the Global Food Crisis” on July 18.

The event brought together member states, civil society, the private sector, and other relevant stakeholders, to foster coordinated global policy responses to the current food crisis.

“What became clear from the event was that there is convergence around the core elements of what would comprise an integrated response to address the cost-of living crisis we face and enhance food security,” he said.

Shahid said it included:

  • Addressing the humanitarian context, by ensuring that even the most vulnerable have affordable access to food.
  • Stabilizing markets and commodity prices and avoiding unnecessary trade restrictions.
  • Encouraging local production, by supporting and protecting smallholder and family farmers, cooperatives, and SMEs, while reducing food loss and waste.
  • Restoring the availability and affordability of inputs including fertilizers; and advancing agricultural efficiency through innovative approaches.
  • Reinforcing social protection systems.
  • Equipping countries with the necessary financial resources, including making financing available as well as affordable, and alleviating debt burdens.

Shahid noted that the Maldives, like other SIDS that are import-dependent have been severely affected by the cost-of-living crisis, even as the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Maldivian economy continues.

“While we have social protection schemes to protect our most vulnerable, we cannot sustain them without more revenue,” he said.

Shahid also noted that Maldives does not have sufficient land for mass agriculture, and are dependent on global supply chains.

“We are also grappling with the climate crisis. We are determined to do our part, for instance by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy – yet we can only succeed with the requisite financing, and the collective global will to contain and reverse climate change,” he said.

According to Shahid, it is estimated that in just over two years, the number of people experiencing severe food-insecurity doubled from a pre-pandemic figure of 135 million to 276 million.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is expected to drive this number to 323 million in 2022, he said.

“The challenges we face are borderless in their dimensions and profound in their scale. We must work together because isolated solutions cannot meet the demands of this moment,” he said.