Published March 30, 2009
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his top lieutenants on Monday are convening the first meeting of the U.N.’s Task Force on the Global Food Crisis. Ban says it will “study the root causes of the crisis,” and propose solutions for “coordinated global action” at a summit of world leaders in June.
Ban might want to consider convincing the oil-rich nations of the Middle East to provide more than the near-invisible amount of money they currently give to the World Food Program (WFP), the U.N.’s food-giving arm, which is charged with alleviating the food crisis.
WFP internal documents show that the major oil producing nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) gives almost nothing to the food organization, even as skyrocketing oil prices and swollen oil revenues contribute to the very crisis that the U.N. claims could soon add 100 million more people to the world’s starving masses.
The overwhelming bulk of the burden in feeding the world’s starving poor remains with the United States and a small group of other predominately Western nations, a situation that the WFP has done little so far to change, even as it has asked for another $775 million in donations to ease the crisis.
Donor listings on WFP’s website show that this year, as in every year since 1999, the U.S. is far and away the biggest aid provider to WFP. Since 2001, U.S. donations to the food agency have averaged more than $1.16 billion annually — or more than five times as much as the next biggest donor, the European Commission.
This year, the U.S. had contributed $362.7 million to WFP just through May 4, according to the website. That figure does not include another $250 million above the planned yearly contribution that was promised by President George W. Bush in the wake of WFP’s April warning that a “silent tsunami” of rising food costs would add dramatically to the world population living in hunger. Nor does it include another $770 million in food aid that President Bush has asked Congress to provide as soon as possible.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, with oil revenues last year of $164 billion, does not even appear on the website donor list for 2008.
And while Canada, Australia, Western Europe and Japan have hastened to pony up an additional $260 million in aid since WFP’s latest appeal, the world organization told FOX News, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the international oil cartel, tossed in a grand total of $1.5 million in addition to the $50,000 it had previously donated.
The OPEC total amounts to roughly one minute and 10 seconds worth of the organization’s estimated $674 billion in annual oil revenues in 2007 — revenues that will be vastly exceeded in 2008 with the continuing spiral in world oil prices.
The only other major oil exporter who made the WFP list of 2008 donors was the United Arab Emirates, which kicked in $50,000. UAE oil revenues in 2007 were $63 billion.
By contrast, the poverty-stricken African republic of Burkina Faso is listed as donating more than $600,000, and Bangladesh, perennial home of many of the world’s hungriest people, is listed as donating nearly $5.8 million.
George Russell is executive editor of FOX News.