U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he is moving "at full speed" pushing efforts to tackle the world food crisis.
Ban said he will hold the first meeting of his recently formed United Nations task force on food next Monday.
He also said he is sending invitations to all world leaders to join him at a high-level meeting to work out a strategy for addressing food shortages and soaring prices. The conference, organized by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, will be June 3-5 in Rome.
"This crisis did not come out of the blue," Ban told reporters. "It grew out of more than a decade of neglect and ineffective development policies. We need a new start."
While there have been "promising steps" in recent days to deal with emergency food needs, the entire U.N. system needs to lead and act together "to boost agricultural development, particularly in Africa and other regions most affected," he said.
The secretary-general said he is urging government leaders not to adopt measures that distort international trade in food and push up prices. He also called for immediate action to get seeds and fertilizer to small farmers.
Ban was asked about criticism from President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, who urged the U.N. on Sunday to dismantle the FAO, calling it an ineffective money-eater that he blamed for most of the current food crisis.
While expressing sympathy for the frustrations of Wade and other African leaders, Ban defended the FAO, saying the agency has led international efforts since 1945 to promote agricultural productivity and humanitarian assistance to people affected by food shortages.
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