To a starving family in Somalia, to a frightened mother in Yemen, to a hungry school kid in Mali, Russia’s war in Ukraine might seem thousands of kilometres away.
Its devastating effects, however, are hitting those mothers, fathers and children directly and with terrible consequences.
Russia is not only leading its brutal war with tanks, missiles and bombs. Russia is leading this war with another terrible but more silent weapon: hunger and deprivation.
By blocking Ukrainian ports, by destroying silos, streets and railroads, and especially farmers fields Russia has launched a grain war, stoking a global food crisis.
It is doing so at a time when millions are already threatened by hunger, particularly in the Middle East and Africa – due to the devastating effects of the climate crisis, due to the Covid pandemic, due to conflicts raging in their own regions.
When I met with villagers in Mali and the Niger a couple of weeks ago, they told me what it means when the price of grain doubles at the local market. It means that children go to bed hungry. It means a family is in pain.
The world’s poorest are paying a devastating price for Russia’s ruthless war. In Mali the bread now costs double what it did before. In Lebanon its price has increased by 34 percent. I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart:
We see your pain. We hear your suffering. And we stand by you side.
Three aspects are crucial now.
First, we need concrete action.
That’s why it was so important that we made concrete commitments amongst the G7 partners last week: to support Ukraine in keeping up its production and to be able to export the grain that is needed so badly worldwide, and to step up aid to those women, men and children who most urgently need it.
Overall, Germany is providing 4 billion euro related to food security this year.
But – and this is my second point – we must also look beyond the here and now. The bitter truth is that the global food crisis will not be solved overnight.
That’s why we must focus on all the factors contributing to hunger. We must tackle the climate crisis. We must help farmers become less vulnerable to droughts, floods and extreme rains.
We must also continue our fight against Covid, making sure nobody is left behind. As G7 foreign ministers, we have just agreed on an action plan to support vaccination campaigns in the Global South with almost 4 billion USD.
We will only succeed, and you have underlined this, if we work together.
That is my third point.
That’s why I would like to thank you, Tony, for bringing us together today.
That’s why, Secretary-General, we thank you for launching the Global Crisis Response Group - a crucial initiative - because this debate needs to be inclusive, with global reach, bringing together donors and those in need.
And that’s also why we will use our G7 presidency to fight this crucial battle. The Global Alliance for Food Security, which was initiated by the G7 and will be launched tomorrow, is one important step. It will feed into the UN's efforts.
Collegues and friends, don’t fall for Russia’s disinformation campaign.
There are no sanctions – not a single one – on grain exports or fertilizers. There are no sanctions impeding humanitarian aid.
Let’s be very clear: it is Russia’s ruthless war that is putting millions of lives at risk.
But we will not stand idly by.
We will act.
At this time, when an inhuman war is causing such terrible suffering across the globe, it’s a matter of responsibility, of solidarity and of humanity and that’s why we are all here to stand with the poorest.