Warning that rising food and oil prices pose a crisis for the world’s poor, Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, is calling on President George W. Bush and other leaders convening in Japan next week in an economic summit meeting to make new aid commitments to avert starvation and instability in dozens of countries.
“What we are witnessing is not a natural disaster Â— a silent tsunami or a perfect storm,” Zoellick said in a letter sent Tuesday evening to the major leaders of the West. “It is a man-made catastrophe, and as such must be fixed by people.”
Zoellick’s letter, obtained by The New York Times, came with a lengthy study of the impact of rising prices for food, fuel and commodities on the world’s poor. He sent the letter as Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda prepares to host Bush and six other world leaders in the Group of 8 economic summit meeting on the northern island of Hokkaido.
In recent weeks, the United States and some other countries have stepped up their pledges to get food to the poor in the 50 hardest-hit countries. But Zoellick said in his letter that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Food Program had short-term needs of $10 billion.
Bank officials said that the world faced a shortfall in aid, but that pledges of financing had not been channeled into a central place and the size of the shortfall was not clear. “This is a test of the global system to help the most vulnerable, and it cannot afford to fail,” Zoellick said.