U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen Addresses Global Food Security Crisis

In a powerful speech delivered in New York, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen addressed the pressing issue of global food security, emphasizing the need for collective action to combat this crisis. Secretary Yellen was joined by key leaders including Administrator Power, President Ruto, and President Adesina in an event that sought to shed light on the critical challenges facing the world.

Global Food Insecurity Crisis

Secretary Yellen began by acknowledging the devastating impact that successive shocks, including COVID-19, Russia’s war on Ukraine, and extreme climate events, have had on food security worldwide. She highlighted that approximately one-tenth of the global population currently faces severe food insecurity. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s projections indicate that by 2030, there will be around 120 million more chronically undernourished people due to the pandemic and war.

Moreover, the looming effects of climate change, new sources of conflict, and threats to global health are expected to worsen food security in the coming years. These shocks not only exacerbate food insecurity but also disproportionately affect those who are already struggling to access food.

Impact on Individuals and Economies

Secretary Yellen stressed that the consequences of food insecurity are profound. Hunger and malnutrition negatively impact health, education, and overall well-being. Beyond individual suffering, food insecurity also has far-reaching economic impacts, contributing to lower productivity and hindering economic growth. Thus, she underscored that food security is not only a moral imperative but also vital for the global economy.

U.S. Commitment to Addressing the Crisis

The U.S. has demonstrated its commitment to addressing the global food security crisis by providing nearly $13.5 billion in humanitarian and development assistance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, the U.S. has played a crucial role in leading multilateral efforts to alleviate food insecurity.

Building Resilience

Secretary Yellen emphasized that addressing food insecurity should extend beyond crisis response; it should also focus on building resilience. This approach aims to reduce the need for future humanitarian aid and support sustainable economic growth. In particular, she highlighted the need for increased investments in food and agriculture systems, especially by the private sector.

Role of the Private Sector and International Financial Institutions

To facilitate sustainable growth, Secretary Yellen called for private sector investments in technological innovations and market access across food and agriculture value chains. She stressed the importance of investments in small and medium-sized enterprises, which play a critical role in these chains. Favorable government policies that are predictable and transparent are essential to attract private sector investments.

International financial institutions (IFIs) also play a pivotal role. Secretary Yellen highlighted the progress made since these institutions launched the IFI Action Plan to Address Food Insecurity in May 2022. Food security and agriculture-related lending across these institutions have increased significantly. The World Bank, for instance, achieved $22 billion in new lending commitments, surpassing its target. The IFIs will continue to provide policy advice and support countries’ investments in resilient food systems.

Evolving Multilateral Development Banks

To combat food insecurity effectively, Secretary Yellen argued for broader efforts to address global challenges, such as pandemics, conflicts, and climate change. She emphasized the need to evolve multilateral development banks (MDBs) and presented substantial reforms related to their mission, vision, and financing capacity. These reforms could potentially unlock $200 billion in new lending capacity over the next decade, with a focus on priorities like food security.

In conclusion, Secretary Yellen stressed that while short-term responses are crucial, they alone cannot eliminate food insecurity. Long-term policies and investments are needed to build resilient systems capable of withstanding future shocks, ensuring that people worldwide can lead healthy and prosperous lives.