As Food Prices Rise, Durbin, Biden and Kerry Request Emergency Food Aid Increase
United States Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Joe Biden (D-DE) and John Kerry (D-MA) today sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to significantly increase his request for emergency food aid funding in the upcoming Iraq supplemental. The Senators asked the President to request an additional $200 million in dedicated food aid, for a total of $550 million.
"We are on the brink of a global humanitarian crisis," Durbin said. "With food prices soaring, millions of the world's poor risk deprivation and starvation. America cannot stand by and watch that happen. "
Rising global food prices have caused recent unrest in Haiti and Egypt and risk causing similar strife in over 30 other countries. The situation is so dire that the World Food Program recently issued an urgent appeal for emergency aid. Today, Senator Durbin met with Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program to discuss the programs needs and problems it faces as global food prices continue to rise.
In addition to calling for a significant increase in food aid funds, Durbin, Biden, and Kerry asked that the President consider allowing a percentage of the food to be purchased locally in order to help local economies and reduce logistical costs. The U.S. contribution to the World Food Program is an important symbol of American generosity and leadership, particularly in helping some of the world's poorest and most unstable nations.
Last week, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that in the developing world, families spend half to two-thirds of their income on food. Even small increases in prices risk plunging millions into situations of chronic hunger. With hunger comes the panic and desperation which can lead to unrest.
Today's letter also asked the President to take steps to fund our peacekeeping obligations overseas. With growing global instability, the UN's peacekeeping operations are at an all time high. The Senators asked the President to increase his request for peacekeeping funds to cover our current arrears and fulfill our future obligations.
A copy of the letter can be found below.
April 15, 2008
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to request attention for two critical international needs in a revised Iraq supplemental request from your Administration. Specifically, we urge inclusion of $550 million for emergency food aid (up from your $350 million request in October) and up to $744 million to support UN peacekeeping missions. Both items are extraordinarily important symbols of American generosity and leadership, particularly in helping some of the world's poorest and most unstable nations.
As many as 33 countries are facing a mounting risk of hunger and social unrest due to the soaring price of food. The World Food Program has issued an extraordinary emergency appeal to address the problem, noting that it anticipates a significant shortfall as a result of rising food and fuel prices. Just the other week, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that, "For countries where food comprises from half to three-quarters of consumption, there is no margin for survival." Unrest over food prices has already been seen in Haiti and Egypt. In areas such as Darfur, where the World Food Program meets the needs of up to three million people a day, the risk of unrest is even more troubling.
Given the dire and immediate nature of the food crisis, the U.S. should also consider allowing a percentage of any emergency aid through the supplemental to be purchased locally.
Many of the world's most unstable areas also rely heavily on UN peacekeeping assistance to bring an end to violence and rape as well as to create conditions for long-term political solutions. Such peacekeeping missions help advance important American interests and provide critical backing for our diplomatic efforts. In the Security Council, the United States has supported, and rightfully so, the increasing need to deploy UN peacekeepers to many corners of the globe, from Sudan to Lebanon. However, we also have fallen far behind in our peacekeeping financial obligations. In addition to current arrears, appropriated funding for this year will likely be insufficient -- creating a potential debt of $744 million. We believe upholding our financial commitment to UN peacekeeping missions to be important not only to America's security needs, but to its larger diplomatic efforts in the UN Security Council and around the world.
You have regularly spoken about the need to help those suffering from such humanitarian crises as AIDS or genocide and we recognize that you share our concern. Accordingly, we urge your leadership in meeting the world's emergency food aid and peacekeeping needs.
Sen. Dick Durbin
Sen. Joe Biden
Sen. John Kerry