Secretary Statements & Remarks

Remarks by Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen at G20 High Level Seminar on Strengthening Global Collaboration for Tackling Food Insecurity

As Prepared for Delivery

I thank the Indonesian Presidency for convening this seminar.

We are meeting at an extremely difficult time for global food security, which was already under pressure from conflict, climate change, and economic shocks associated with COVID-19.

Now, Russia’s war against Ukraine has exacerbated those challenges and led to a global crisis of food insecurity as prices spiked for food, fertilizer, and fuel.  Putin’s actions, including the destruction of agricultural facilities, theft of grain and farm equipment, and the effective blockade of Black Sea ports, amount to using food as a weapon of war.

Those most directly impacted are the poorest households in the poorest countries.  Families that already spend a disproportionate share of their income on food are forced to make stark choices.  Low-income countries that already face severe fiscal constraints struggle to import enough food and fertilizer and to provide even the most basic social safety net to their people.  These effects are setting back development and undermining efforts to eradicate poverty.

We must take action to address the short-term food insecurity crisis and, equally importantly, the longer-term drivers of food insecurity, including the nexus with climate change.  The speed and wisdom of our decisions now will make the difference on whether we get the current crisis under control.

The G20 must work together to tackle these challenges and protect vulnerable families from the threat of hunger today and tomorrow.  Let me suggest three lines of effort:

First, we G20 countries must set the example and call on others to avoid counterproductive policy responses such as export restrictions and stockpiling, which distort markets and further drive-up prices.  Equally, governments should tailor fiscal responses to those most in need, leveraging digital tools where possible to carefully target support for vulnerable households rather than employing blanket subsidies that are regressive and costly. 

Second, we must leverage the existing food security and agriculture architecture to the maximum.  The multilateral development banks (MDBs), the Rome-based food agencies (including IFAD), the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the IMF, and the WTO all have roles to play.

For example, I met with the heads of the International Financial Institutions on this important issue, and they responded in May with the IFI Action Plan to Address Food Insecurity.  We must continue to encourage these institutions to step up and surge their response to the crisis with urgency and to implement their commitments as outlined in the Action Plan.  I was also pleased with the strong outcomes on food security at the WTO’s 12 Ministerial Conference.  Thank you, Ngozi.

We don’t need new institutions.  We need robust coordination, knowledge sharing, research and development, financing, and action.  In this respect, the Global Alliance for Food Security is helpful.

And I further propose that G20 deputies consider how to enhance cooperation between G20 finance ministries and the relevant other authorities, including by improving data transparency.

Third, G20 countries must take steps to provide financial assistance.  For our part, the U.S. announced last month that we are committing a further $2.76 billion to tackling food insecurity, on top of $2.8 billion already provided since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  We are also providing $500 million for the EBRD’s Resilience and Livelihood Framework to support food and energy security and $155 million to GAFSP.  We will also be contributing to the African Development Bank’s African Emergency Food Production Facility and IFAD’s Crisis Response Initiative.

Much more work remains to eliminate hunger and poverty beyond responding to the current crisis.  I look forward to continuing our engagement with partners in the G20, International Financial Institutions, and other International Organizations.

Thank you.