For the people of Ukraine, the Russian attack is a nightmare and a humanitarian catastrophe of terrifying proportions.
But war is also fast becoming a matter of life and death for vulnerable people around the world.
We have all seen the tragedy that unfolded in Ukraine: cities razed to the ground; people suffering and dying in their homes and on the streets; the fastest displacement crisis in Europe since World War II.
But beyond Ukraine’s borders, far beyond the media spotlight, the crisis has launched a silent onslaught on developing countries. This crisis could plunge up to 1.7 billion people – more than a fifth of humanity – into poverty, misery and hunger on a scale not seen in decades.
Ukraine and the Russian Federation provide 30 percent of the world’s wheat and barley, a fifth of corn and more than half of sunflower oil. Together, their crops feed the poorest and most vulnerable and provide more than a third of the wheat imported by 45 African and least developed countries.
At the same time, Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter and the second largest oil exporter.
disrupt supply chains
But the war is preventing farmers from tending their crops while closing ports, ending grain exports, disrupting supply chains and sending prices soaring.
Many developing countries are still struggling to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with historic debt burdens and rising inflation.
Wheat and corn prices have increased by 30 percent since the beginning of 2022.
Brent oil prices have risen more than 60 percent over the past year, while natural gas and fertilizer prices have more than doubled.
The United Nations’ own life-saving operations are severely strained. The World Food Program has warned that it faces the impossible choice of taking from the hungry to feed the hungry. It urgently needs $8 billion to support its operations in Yemen, Chad and Niger.
Some countries are already sliding from vulnerability to crisis and serious social unrest. And we know that the roots of many conflicts lie in poverty, inequality, underdevelopment and hopelessness.
But while much of the world is showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine, there is no sign of the same support for the 1.7 billion other potential victims of this war.
We have a clear moral duty to support them everywhere.
Develop coordinated solutions
The Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, which I launched last month, aims to work with governments, international financial institutions and other key partners to develop coordinated solutions to these interlinked crises. I thank the world leaders in all sectors who support this initiative.
On food, we call on all countries to keep markets open, oppose hoarding and unjustified and unnecessary export restrictions, and make reserves available to countries most at risk of starvation and starvation.
This is not the time for protectionism. There is enough food for any country to get through this crisis if we act together.
Humanitarian appeals must be fully funded, including for the World Food Program. We simply cannot allow people to starve in the 21st century.
In the energy space, the use of strategic stockpiles and additional reserves could help to defuse this energy crisis in the short term.
But the only solution in the medium and long term is to accelerate the expansion of renewable energies, which are independent of market fluctuations. This allows for the phasing out of coal and all other fossil fuels.
And when it comes to finance, the G20 and international financial institutions need to go into emergency mode. They need to find ways to increase liquidity and fiscal space so governments in developing countries can invest in the poorest and most vulnerable and in the Sustainable Development Goals.
This should be a first step towards deep reforms of our unfair global financial system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Social protection, including cash transfers, will be essential to support desperate families during this crisis.
But many developing countries with high external debt do not have the liquidity to provide these safety nets. We cannot stand idly by as they are forced to choose between investing in their people and servicing their debt.
The only lasting solution to the situation in Ukraine and the attack on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people is peace.
As the United Nations works to support the innocent victims of this war, both inside and outside of Ukraine, we call on the world community to speak with one voice and support our plea for peace.
António Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations