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Ukraine: ‘Perfect storm’ threatens economic devastation in developing world

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Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine is causing immense suffering and devastation there, but also creating a “perfect storm” which threatens economic devastation of “many developing countries”, the UN chief warned on Wednesday.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres was speaking in Sweden alongside Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, where he is attending the Stockholm+50 conference, which he described as “a crucial opportunity to bolster our response to the triple planetary emergency of climate disruption, pollution and biodiversity loss.”

‘Practical steps’

Mr. Guterres said the UN remained “intensely focused on practical steps to save lives and reduce human suffering” inside Ukraine, including maintaining humanitarian corridors, but for many developing countries, the climate crisis, growing debt and economic insecurity, were now compounded by “ballooning energy costs and growing hunger”, due to the war that is crippling Ukraine’s food exports.

A perfect storm is threatening to devastate the economies of many developing countries, he said.

He called for “quick and decisive action to ensure a steady flow of food and energy in open markets, by lifting export restrictions, allocating surpluses and reserves to vulnerable populations, and addressing food price increases to calm market volatility.”

But there would be no solution, without bringing Ukraine’s food production back into the global market, alongside food and fertilizer from Russia.

Diplomatic push

The UN chief told reporters he was continuing to “exert every possible effort and use my good offices to promote a dialogue” between Moscow and Kyiv, to end the war, and the UN now has two teams led by Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, and UN trade and development chief, Rebeca Grynspan, working on a deal to alleviate the food crisis.

The two agency heads are working on an agreement for the “safe and secure export of Ukrainian-produced food through the Black Sea”, Mr. Guterres said, “along with unimpeded access of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets, especially developing countries.”

According to the UN Spokesperson, Ms. Grynspan had “constructive discussions” in Moscow on Tuesday with Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, and is now in Washington, for talks on the same issue of facilitating Russian grain and fertilizer exports.

The Secretary-General said he and the Swedish Prime Minister had discussed the Ukraine crisis, it’s implications for wider European security, “and possible pathways towards de-escalation and a negotiated settlement in line with international law and the UN Charter.”

Sweden’s solidarity

He expressed gratitude for Sweden’s “remarkable solidarity” in welcoming Ukrainian refugees and for providing vital support to our humanitarian operations.

Mr. Guterres also welcomed Sweden’s leadership on climate action, showing how setting and striving towards climate targets, could create jobs, generate green growth, and strengthen the social fabric overall.

“I welcome Sweden’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 at the latest, and negative emissions shortly thereafter”, he said, adding that he was counting on the European Union, “to match this ambition and review its renewable energy and energy efficiency targets this year.”

Adaptation and mitigation must be pursued with equal urgency”, he said, with developing countries receiving necessary support at speed and at scale.

“I count on all developed nations including Sweden to reassure developing countries with a clear and credible roadmap on how they will double finance for adaptation – as agreed in Glasgow (at COP26) last year.

“But most importantly, we must uphold the Paris Agreement, keep the 1.5 degree goal alive, and rescue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

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