UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the Ukraine conflict may trigger social and economic chaos around the world.
The three-month-old conflict brings new bloodshed and suffering for those on the ground. For people around the world, the conflict, together with the other crises, is threatening to unleash “an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake,” he said on Wednesday at the launch of a second report by the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance over the Ukraine conflict.
“Today’s report makes clear that the war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe, and speeding up. It is amplifying the consequences of the many other crises the world faces: climate, Covid-19, and the severe global inequalities in the resources available for the recovery from the pandemic,” Guterres added.
He warned that while vulnerable people and vulnerable countries are being hit hard, no country or community will be left untouched by this cost-of-living crisis, Xinhua news agency reported.
Food prices are at near-record highs. Fertiliser prices have more than doubled, sounding an alarm everywhere. Without fertilisers, shortages will spread from corn and wheat to all staple crops, including rice, with a devastating impact on billions of people in Asia and South America, the UN chief said.
“This year’s food crisis is about lack of access. Next year’s could be about lack of food.”
Record high energy prices are also triggering blackouts and fuel shortages in all parts of the world, especially in Africa. And the financial squeeze continues on many developing countries — on top of the risk of debt default and economic collapse because of Covid-19, the inequality of the recovery, and the climate crisis, he noted.
Worldwide, three out of five workers are earning less than before the pandemic. Now, both countries and individuals have no hope of balancing their budgets. Instead, families everywhere are being forced into impossible decisions: whether to shut down their businesses, sell their livestock, or take their children out of school. Women and girls are often the last to eat, and the first to miss meals as food shortages spread, he said.
Guterres called for a political solution to the Ukraine crisis in line with international law and the UN Charter.
Until that happens, he called for immediate action on two fronts: to bring stability to global food and energy markets, to make resources available immediately to help the poorest countries and communities.
Ukraine’s food production, and the food and fertiliser produced by Russia, must be brought back into world markets despite the conflict, he said.
Governments must be able to borrow the money they need to keep their economies afloat and their people thriving. There is no solution to this global crisis without a solution to the economic crisis in the developing world. The global financial system must rise above its shortcomings and use all the instruments at its disposal, with flexibility and understanding, to provide support to vulnerable countries and people, the UN chief added.
“The message of today’s report is clear and insistent: we must act now to save lives and livelihoods over the next months and years. It will take global action to fix this global crisis. We need to start today,” said Guterres.