Photo: The Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN
Statement by Chargé d'Affaires of the Russian Federation Dmitry Polyanskiy at UN Security Council open debate on famine and conflict-induced global food insecurity. Key points:
- Undoubtedly, the agenda of today's meeting – the fight against famine – is extremely important. Russia (and previously the Soviet Union) has been paying priority attention to this topic. Historically, we have been doing this not just in relation to specific conflicts, but in a broader context of advocating for social and economic rights. Many regions of the world do recall with gratitude the efforts of the Soviet Union in this area.
- It is positive that our Western colleagues have started to think about this aspect as well. But as we take it from the statements made today, their interest is merely opportunistic, which is regrettable. They have become pensive of a looming threat of global hunger but recently, and only inasmuch as they believe they can use it to demonize Russia.
- What’s more, it is obvious to us that many (and by the way the most acute) food crises have been provoked, either directly or indirectly, by acts of the United States and its allies or have followed from their longstanding policies.
- For example, Afghanistan that our British colleague talked about today has been struggling to get out from the vortex of hunger and poverty for the past 20 years. All this because of the experiments of the US-led coalition that attempted to democratize this country, which strongly upholds a traditional lifestyle, in a Western manner. Although Western members of the Security Council have not had the courage to name frankly the root causes of food and other crises in countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria, we are all well aware that they are caused by illegal Western interventions. Look at Syria, which used to be the granary that provided bread to many neighbors. The US is still occupying large parts of that state, stealing oil, grain and other natural resources from it.
- Anyway, I suggest we first sort out the underlying causes of threats to food security, of which our Western colleagues modestly keep silent. By UN estimates, technically there is no acute shortage of food in the world. It is not that we produce insufficient amount of food. We produce enough. The problem is that it is distributed unevenly. There is excess in the West and shortages in developing states. The second reason is what economy analysts call pricing environment. In layman’s terms, this means that major agricultural manufacturers benefit from maintaining the prices for their products at a high level.
- I mean the four agricultural giants, three of which are American (Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, and Cargill) and one Dutch (Louis Dreyfus), who account for 75% to 90% of global agricultural turnover. In fiscal year 2022, Cargill alone boosted its sales volume by 23% (to $165 billion) with a record-high net profit of $5 billion.
- One year ago responding to the calls of the United Nations, we agreed to the “grain deal” despite the reservations that we had. But again, Western states managed to twist everything in their favor: one of the two parts of the deal, the Black Sea Initiative, quickly turned from a humanitarian into a commercial one. In the end, only 3% of the exported grain went to the countries in need, whereas the lion's share went to the Western countries. Is this what we agreed on?
- The duplicity of our former Western partners was even more clearly manifested in their arrogant unwillingness to implement the second part of the "grain deal" – the Russia-UN Memorandum of Understanding on the supply of Russian food and fertilizers to world markets. And this is despite the fact that Russia's share in the world wheat market is 20%, while Ukraine's share is less than 5%. This means that Russia makes a significant contribution to global food security and is a solid, responsible international supplier of agricultural products. Not to mention the exceptional role of Russian fertilizers for global food security.
- It would seem that, given these obvious facts, Western countries should concentrate on getting the Russian grain and fertilizers to reach the countries in need without impediments. However, this is not the plan of our Western colleagues. So how can we talk about your country's willingness to improve international food security? All you are driven by is a desire to punish Russia and elusive dreams of defeating Russia strategically. You do not care about the interests of the Global South. But we do. Therefore, I reiterate once again that if all the problems with the implementation of the Russia-UN MoU that we have identified publicly, including in this chamber, are eliminated, we will be ready to return to the Black Sea Initiative.
- Are the Western countries helping very much or too little? Of course, it is no good counting someone else’s money, but one cannot fail to notice that the scale of US and its allies’ assistance to the Global South cannot compare to what has been allocated in the past almost two years to buy arms for a “proxy war” against Russia to be fought until the last Ukrainian. According to the most conservative estimates, this stands at €80 billion, while the total amount of funds allocated to Ukraine is €165 billion. For comparison – the total that UN OCHA requested from donors for all humanitarian operations in 2023 was $55.2 billion, and so far only 24.8% of this amount has been collected.
- Despite all the good slogans, donor assistance of Western states does not come for free. It always comes along with some political preconditions. Here is a telling example – the situation with Syria’s cross border humanitarian mechanism (CBM). In fact, Western states are blackmailing the Syrian people in an attempt to effect a regime change. Another case is the threats by J.Borrell, as well as the leaders of Great Britain, France, and the United States that they would suspend assistance for Niger. Did people there stop starving overnight after the coup? Clearly, the West uses humanitarian assistance as a tool enabling “hand steering” of states that have to turn to this aid.
- The habits and methods of former colonizers have not changed. They simply come in a new wrapping, and that’s that. For every dollar they ostensibly have spent on aid, they will demand to pay off with your sovereignty and political independence. Many African states have already experienced this and do not want to accept this approach.
- Russia has never viewed Africa, Asia or Latin America as a space to draw profit from. Despite all the obstacles imposed by the United States and its allies, we have helped, are helping, and will continue to help those in need around the world. We have and will continue to build factories, schools, hospitals, and universities so that you can use your natural resources to manufacture finished goods with added value instead of exporting raw materials, so that your young people would rather stay at home than leave en masse.
- We realize the importance of having an uninterrupted supply of food to African countries, which is essential for socio-economic development and maintaining political stability. Therefore, we pay special attention to supplying our African friends with wheat, barley, corn and other grains, including via WFP channels.
- Last year, African-Russian trade in agricultural products grew by 10% to $6.7 billion. From January to June this year, it has already increased by a record-setting 60%. Russia exported 11.5 million tonnes of grain crops to Africa in 2022, and almost 10 million tonnes in the first six months of this year. I would like to emphasize that this happened despite the illegal unilateral sanctions against our exports, which seriously hinder the supply of Russian food, complicate transportation, logistics, insurance and payments.
- Besides, as announced at the recent Russia-Africa Summit, we will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea with 25-50 thousand tonnes of grain free of charge in the coming months, and we will ensure free delivery of these products to the consumers.
- I also remind that we are ready to provide free fertilizers to the poorest countries in need. Of the 262,000 tonnes of such fertilizers that are blocked in European ports, we have been able to send only two shipments: 20,000 tonnes to Malawi and 34,000 tonnes to Kenya. The rest is still in the hands of the Europeans. I underscore that this is a purely humanitarian action, which should not be subject to any sanctions at all.
- We are convinced that proper agricultural technologies and adequate management of agricultural production in the long term will make Africa able not only to feed itself and be food secure, but also to export foods. For its part, Russia is ready to share agricultural expertise with African states and all other interested developing countries, and to provide assistance in introducing advanced technologies. Unlike Western neo-colonialists, we are interested in the formation of a more equitable system of distribution of resources, so that developing countries are not forever "hooked on” the politically conditioned humanitarian aid from the West, which is basically primitive blackmail.
- We want the developing countries to overcome the challenges of transition; develop strong, sustainable, and self-sufficient economies, which will help ensure social stability and welfare of the population. That is, we want them to have a free hand in realizing their sovereignty, making all domestic and foreign policy decisions. Russia is ready to assist with this in every possible way.
- No matter how hard you try to make Russia look guilty, the facts point otherwise. You need to decide what is more important for the US and its allies: either geopolitical considerations or the willingness to help the developing world. If the former, then stop misleading anyone, which is what you do i.a. when initiating debates like the one today and drafting appealing joint documents. We need deeds, not words.
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