The latest Guardian features a warning from the UN that rising food prices could spark worldwide unrest and threaten political stability. At a conference in Dubai, Sir John Holmes, undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and UN emergency relief coordinator, announced that escalating prices would trigger protests and riots in vulnerable nations, and that food scarcity and soaring fuel prices would compound the damaging effects of global warming. Sir John Holmes also observed:
- On average, the price of food has risen 40% since last summer
- Climate change has doubled the number of disasters from an average of 200 a year to 400 a year in the past two decades
And examples of the violence which has erupted as a result of food scarcity include:
- Riots in Haiti
- Violent protests in the Ivory Coast
- Price riots in Cameroon in February
- Heated demonstrations in Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal
- Protests in Uzbekistan, Yemen, Bolivia and Indonesia
In Jordan UN staff went on strike for a day this week to demand a pay raise in response to the 50% hike in prices, and rice producing countries such as Cambodia, China, Vietnam, India and Pakistan have curbed their rice exports to guarantee enough supplies for their residents.
The World Bank’s president, Robert Zoellick, has announced that unless the US, Europe, Japan and other wealthy countries provide funds, “many more people will suffer and starve”. Others, such as UK Professor and new chief scientific adviser to the government, John Beddington, warn that the damaging effects of the food crisis will make itself more quickly felt than climate change.