The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said that Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative has put “the right to food far out of reach for many people.”
Speaking at the opening of the Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, Türk said that global hunger levels have returned to as they were in 2005, with almost 600 million people projected to be “chronically undernourished” by 2030.
“A year and a half of horrific warfare has ravaged Ukraine, with a heart-wrenching toll on its people, and damage to vast areas of agricultural land,” Türk said. “The Russian Federation's withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July, and attacks on grain facilities in Odesa and elsewhere, have again forced prices sky-high in many developing countries – taking the right to food far out of reach for many people."
Türk said the planet has sufficient financial resources, technology, and land to provide “adequate food for all.”
Despite this, he continued, “climate change, the consequences of the pandemic, and Russia’s war on Ukraine” are some of the reasons behind the continued existence of global hunger and food insecurity.
“The world is betraying our promise to end hunger by 2030,” Türk said. “The human rights cause in all its facets has the potential to unify us, at a time when we urgently need to come together to confront the existential challenges that face humanity.”
“All of us need to play our part,” he added.
Some context: Ukraine, often referred to as the “breadbasket of Europe,” is a major exporter of grain, much of which is sent to developing countries in Africa. After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country, its navy blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, preventing Ukraine from exporting its crops to countries in need.
The blockade remained in place for several months, before Russia agreed to the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July 2022 – a major diplomatic breakthrough brokered by the United Nations and Turkey – which allowed the exports of grain to continue.
However, Russia allowed the deal to lapse in July of this year. It has since resumed its blockade of Ukraine’s ports – as well as launching a prolonged bombardment of Ukraine’s port infrastructure and grain storage facilities.