If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. James 2:15-17
The conflict in Ukraine continues to cause a terrible toll of death, destruction, displacement and misery for the Ukrainian people, with thousands of civilians reported to have been killed, and more than 14 million people – well over a quarter of the entire population – forced to flee from their homes. In addition, the impacts of this war are being felt far beyond the borders of Ukraine or the European region, producing a downward spiral effect on a global economy already battered by COVID-19 and the climate crisis. Prices of food, fertiliser and energy have risen rapidly in many parts of the world, given the important roles played by Russia and Ukraine in these markets.
As reported recently in The Economist, together Russia and Ukraine supply 12% of traded calories globally. Over 30 countries depend on them for at least 30% of their wheat supply, and almost 40% of total African wheat imports come from Russia and Ukraine. The war is seriously exacerbating a pre-existing global food crisis resulting from climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and conflicts elsewhere, as well as underlining the fragility of corporate-dominated food systems. Ukraine’s exports of grain and oilseeds have almost ceased, and those from Russia are greatly impeded. Food prices are currently at their highest since records began 60 years ago, worsening hunger in many of the world's poorest and most vulnerable regions. Wheat prices had risen by more than 50% since the start of 2022, even before a further 6% increase on 16 May after India announced it was suspending its exports because of an extreme heatwave affecting its own harvests.
The number of people facing acute food insecurity has more than doubled - from 135 million to 276 million - since 2019. A total of 44 million people in 38 countries are teetering on the edge of famine, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine threatens to push them over the edge.
Moreover, the increased prices of basic commodities compounded by the impacts of the conflict in Ukraine are generating social and political instability in several countries around the world.
Accordingly, the WCC executive committee, meeting online 30 May-2 June 2022:
- Reiterates the urgent call for a ceasefire in Ukraine, and for dialogue to achieve a sustainable peace for the people of the region, and stability in the wider world.
- Stresses the need for sustained and strengthened international response to hunger and other humanitarian crises around the world that are being exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine.
- Reaffirms the central importance of the international community addressing structural drivers fuelling hunger and malnutrition – including climate change, unresolved conflicts, and persistent extreme poverty – to prevent recurrent food crises.
- Calls on nations and communities to envision a new global food security strategy that focuses on building resilience at the local level, supporting smallholder food producers, promoting and scaling up agro-ecological food production, reducing food waste, building food reserves, curbing speculation and reducing reliance on deregulated markets.
- Emphasises the human right to food, based on principles of dignity, non-discrimination, self-sufficiency and solidarity, which should form the basis of a new food security strategy.
- Acknowledges and welcomes the establishment by the UN Secretary-General of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance (GCRG) to support developed and developing countries in facing these converging crises, and commit the full collaboration of the WCC to this initiative.