Indonesia’s minister of defense: ‘the threat of food insecurity is an existential threat to humankind’

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FREDERICK KEMPE: Good morning to everyone. It’s so wonderful to see such a full crowd. And good morning to all of you, ladies and gentlemen, honorable guests. It’s such a pleasure to be with you all today.

Mr. Minister, it’s great to have you here. Thanks to you, Minister Prabowo. Thank you to the Defense Ministry. And thank you to the Indonesian government.

This is a multilateral gathering, this is a multinational gathering, but we decided to start in this fashion to honor our bilateral relationship within this multilateral relationship—to honor our host country and to all—with the US Air Force Band honor the country that’s visiting. But with the presidential band here, that’s a special treat for us to start in this manner.

Thank you for those joining us in person and for the thousands tuning in virtually as we kick off day two of the Atlantic Council inaugural Global Food Security Forum in Bali, Indonesia, an official sideline event of the G20 summit which is, of course, coming in just a couple of days. What a stunning venue this is, surrounded by Bali’s natural beauty, rich cultural life, and traditions, and friends and partners from across Indonesia and the world. I was able to travel a little bit around this beautiful Bali area to get to know your culture a little bit better, to visit with your people a little bit more. And it’s just been a rich experience being here, a few days ahead of this forum, so that I could acquaint myself even more closely with this extraordinary country and culture.

I want to start by extending by thanks officially to the Indonesian government. Thank you, again, to Minister Prabowo, and the Ministry of Defense. Thanks, as well, to Minister Luhut and the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment for your collaboration and for your hospitality in the lead-up to and throughout the forum.

Congratulations to Indonesia for assuming the G20 presidency this year. We wish you good luck as the summit approaches. I most profoundly want to thank Gaurav and Sharon Srivastava Foundation. Thank you, Gaurav and Sharon.

Without the two of you, without your foundation, we quite literally would not be here and be able to do this work. Gaurav and Sharon, your steadfast commitment to combatting world hunger and food insecurity rests at the heart of this forum’s mission. I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate your vision, your leadership, and your friendship.

Thank you also to our sponsors, Abt Associates, Arsari Group, EMP, and Harvest Commodities, and our media partners, CNN Indonesia and Compass Group. And finally, I want to acknowledge The Atlantic Council Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security—so capably led by Matt Kroenig and his team—for spearheading this weekend’s programming—of course, the rest of The Atlantic Council team that’s traveled so far to make this work.

We gather today at a critical juncture for global food security. It might have taken Putin’s war in Ukraine to highlight it for us, but it was sitting there in front of us in any case. Later this week, world leaders will convene here in Bali for the G20 Summit bringing together major developed countries and emerging economies to discuss the international economic and financial landscape and identify areas ripe for multilateral engagement.

Food security is becoming a bigger and bigger one of those areas, and it cannot be separated from energy security. It can’t be separated from military security. It can’t be separated from national or international security, and that’s the point of doing this.

The United States is a food security champion. The United States is the largest international food assistance donor in the world, providing hunger relief and support to those most in need, including in response to COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

In September, the US convened a Global Food Security Summit with world leaders to mobilize global food security action. This is all for good reason. Threats to global food production, supply chains—distribution and access—are mounting by the day.

Near-term shocks like COVID-19 pandemic have—and the war in Ukraine have rattled global food supply chains in some of the most critical regions of the world. Ukraine, Europe’s breadbasket, earlier this year faced a Russian blockade of its Black Sea ports that halted grain exports to global detriment, and we’re lucky that that blockade is not there any longer because one third of the world’s wheat supply—one third of the wheat supply comes from Russia and Ukraine together.

In recent months, fertilizer prices have skyrocketed as the cost of raw materials and gas have gone up, and Russian fertilizer exports face serious disruptions. Food prices have continued to soar. Long-term risks of climate change, extreme weather, rising seas, and a sustained conflict pose further destabilizing threats, as acute food insecurity escalates, and hunger hotspots intensify.

The United Nations estimates that 800 million new people in the world face food insecurity coming out of the ripples from the war in Ukraine, and 300 million are in severe distress of food insecurity and hunger—300 million new.

But amid these challenges opportunities abound for progress and solutions, and that’s what we’re here for. Yesterday, as part of our first day of programming, we convened a series of closed door sessions with global food security experts from across government, business, and civil society to explore immediate and future food security trends and solutions—most of all, solutions.

We discussed the nexus between food security, energy security, and hard security, and how solutions are needed to address the overlapping vulnerabilities on these fronts. Energy crises become food crises. Conflict drives food insecurity. Food, then, becomes a weapon of war.

We stressed how important it was for the global community to recognize that food cannot be weaponized the way it has been—the way it has been recently. We discussed leveraging technologies as a critical tool for agricultural modernization and resilience, from investing in climate smart tech enterprises to educating and empowering young tech savvy farmers to make farming cool, paying particular attention to including women, who are often the backbone of farming communities.

The future of food security and sustainability requires innovation, and we spoke of streamlining access and accountability to food finance to ensure lines of credit flow to countries and people in need. Food security requires financial security at both the community and at the global level.

As the G20 showcases, there is potential for enhanced international cooperation. But governments and on these critical sets of issues cannot do it alone. Achieving food security and ending world hunger will also require robust public-private partnerships—robust public-private partnerships and wide-ranging innovation across the agricultural sector, technology, finance, and policy.

So, from identifying root causes of food insecurity and malnourishment around the world to envisioning more resilient food chains—food supply chains and agricultural technologies of tomorrow, we gather today to take this multifaceted challenge head on and, as you can hear, we got—we made some progress yesterday. We’re going to hope to make even more progress today.

Indonesia, with its dynamism, with its growing prosperity, and its food security interests is a promising place to launch our efforts. I hope you find today’s programming productive and that it will serve to inform and supplement the upcoming G20 summit agenda and sustained food security initiatives to follow.

At the end of this form we will be distilling insights from our sessions and collecting them into a memo with concrete recommendations for G20 leaders and, of course, for far beyond.

We’ll stick with this issue, galvanized by this moment, to continue working on it over the years. Our challenge to all of you—to all of you here in the room is to help us identify solutions that, together, can turn our ideas into policy action.

So now I would like to turn to a set of video keynote remarks from the Honorable Chuck Schumer, United States senator from New York, and Senate majority leader. It’s an honor that Senator Schumer took time for this. Having the Senate majority leader speak to this conference is an apt way to kick us off.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): Hi, everyone. It’s Senator Chuck Schumer, and thank you all so much for the chance to join you at this year’s Atlantic Council Global Food Security Forum.

Now, as we all know, the past two and a half years have been some of the most disruptive in modern history—a global pandemic, a warming planet, and on top of it all the tragic bloody war in Ukraine.

These crises have produced terrible consequences around the world and, above all, it’s made an awful food shortage even worse for tens of millions of people—the poor, the elderly, far too many children.

This global food crisis is unacceptable, it’s immoral, and it is on all of us to work together to find solutions for the hungry and the food insecure. As Senate majority leader, I believe Congress has to play a role in fighting this crisis, and the issue should transcend partisan politics because it’s about basic justice for all human beings.

So we need government leaders, the private sector, and advocates working together. I pledge to you to do all I can to make sure Congress stands with you as allies in this effort.

Thanks for leading this crucial conversation because no issue is more important than making sure everyone has enough to eat so each person can grow and thrive in the 21st century.

Thank you all, thanks for what you’re doing, and my very best.

FREDERICK KEMPE: The fact that Senator Schumer sent that special message to you in the middle of our midterm elections where it was unclear whether he would remain Senate majority leader, and right now it’s still in play and we’ll know in a few days but it looks better for him than it did a couple of weeks ago. So, Senator Schumer, from here we thank you for doing this.

Now I’d like to turn over to Gaurav Srivastava, the founder of the Gaurav and Sharon Srivastava Family Foundation for his remarks. Gaurav, over to you.

Watch the welcome remarks

GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Excellencies, honorable members, and representatives, ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues and guests, it my great honor and privilege to stand before this distinguished assembly of brilliant minds and renowned policymakers at a time when our global community is at its most urgent need for unity, cooperation, and common purpose.

This extraordinary forum, live-streamed around the world, represents the exhilarating realization of a longstanding vision of my wife, Sharon, and I have shared passionately for many, many years. We are everlasting partners in a devoted enterprise of international hope and inspiration, co-conspirators in a fervent advocacy of comprehensive social change and universal accountability, and doting parents committed to the brightest future imaginable for our children, for your children, and for all of humanity.

Together we offer our deepest gratitude to our gracious Indonesian hosts and friends; to the minister of defense, Republic of Indonesia, Prabowo Subianto. Thank you. Coordinating minister for maritime and investment, Luhut Pandjaitan. Thank you. To Anie and Hashim Djojohadikusumo, thank you very much. You all have been instrumental in the realization of this global food security summit. Thank you and God bless.

Our sincerest appreciation is extended to Fred Kempe, Matthew Kroenig of the Atlantic Council, and the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. Thank you very much. To our American policymakers and their international counterparts, and we thank the people of the world for their faith and fortitude as we reaffirm our solemn pledge to deliver both equity and equality to those who have been so woefully deprived.

A recognition of food as a human right was established nearly 80 years ago. President Roosevelt, as well as leaders of 48 other nations, convened in Hot Springs, Virginia, for the United Nations Conference of Food and Agriculture. This conference was particularly unlike the ones we are all participating in today. The outcome: a universal declaration of human rights. Within that declaration, not only is the right to food proclaimed, the right to adequate food as an essential facet to an individual and family standard of living is stated.

In the near century, since this crucial mandate and cornerstone of the FAO, 192 member nations and organizations have stood side by side, linked in a tireless battle against the insidious plague of food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, guided by the enduring motto, Fiat Panis—Let There be Bread. Towards that moral imperative there have been meaningful strides made, critical lessons learned, transformative policy enacted, cutting-edge technology developed, and a salient goal set to end hunger by 2030.

But as history has proven time and again, we exist in a rapidly changing and unpredictable world. The processes established to successfully transport food to where it needs to go before the COVID-19 and before the invasion of Ukraine no longer work. Over the last three years, these concerted efforts and best intentions to stem the tide of global undernourishment have stalled. They continue to grow stagnant against the prevalence and extremes of climate change, the spread of protracted regional conflict, and the economic impact of the pandemic, and the carnage and chaos currently ravaging parts of Eastern Europe. The harsh truths and painful realities of these calamitous setbacks are glaring. And 828 million people worldwide will go to bed hungry tonight.

How can it be that in the United States, the wealthiest nation in the world, one in every eight children still go to bed hungry every single night? In my own home city of Los Angeles every one in five people experience food insecurity, unsure of when or from where their next meal will be. Globally, 45 million children under the age of five are suffering. They are suffering from acute malnutrition, their small bodies chronically deprived of essential nutrients stunting physical, cognitive, and social development, and making them especially vulnerable to infectious disease and drastically elevated mortality rates. They face educational limitations, behavioral problems, lifetime earnings reductions, and a perpetuation of the same vicious malnutrition cycle passed on to their own children.

The numbers are staggering, the trends and projections alarming, and the insidious endurance of this most pervasive and devastating human affliction—of which no country or region is immune—remains wholly and unconscious—consciously and utterly indefensible. Socioeconomic detriments of health explain the cycle. Poverty, race, ethnicity, gender, employment status, education, immigration status are all notable factors. The direct link between these factors and food security is undeniable. Try as some might, there can be no reasonable debate over the breadth of this humanitarian crisis, no credible arguments to be made against the merits of immediate action, no partisan interpretations, conflicting ideologies, or wavering convictions. We must all agree that no man, no woman, and no child should ever suffer through or die from hunger again.

Yet, as we all know, there is no quick fix. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Food security is a complex puzzle of mismatched and missing pieces. The complete picture is an interconnected web of contributing factors explained by the socioeconomic determinants of health, each fraught with significant issues of their own.

Currently, the greatest world crisis hindering food security is the war in Ukraine. It has affected and impacted the globalized agricultural and energy markets at a time when supply chains were already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day I track and appraise the innumerable impacts this war has had business of global exports. Exports of vital nutrients have been interrupted, future harvests been put in jeopardy, the energy markets sent reeling, fertilizer prices sent soaring, and the cost of wheat continuing to skyrocket. Russia and Ukraine, two world breadbaskets, major producers and exporters of vital commodities in energy, engaged in a conflict that threatens to push many millions and more into poverty and food insecurity.

Establishing food and energy security is an urgent issue affecting us now, but the future forecasts are sobering. At this rate, the dire ramification will continue to grow exponentially. The systems that we put in place and the choices we make now will determine the security of our children and our grandchildren will inherit.

Like many of you in the audience, I have tasted the horrors of war, choked on the repugnant stench of violent death and destruction. My work through my company, Unity Resources Group, has taken me to hotspots around the world where I have borne sad witness to the heroism and self-sacrifice of young men and women slaughtered in the blink of an eye before their earthly journeys had ever begun. I have seen whole families erased, three generations decimated in the wake of a contemptible missile strike on civilian targets. And I have watched helplessly as tormented mothers weep over the broken bodies of their murdered children, soaked in their blood, praying for merciful relief from a living nightmare that will never come.

I stand by you—before you today as a proud American devoted to the venerated principles of my country, valuable and human in an imperfect world. I am humbled by the education I have received, the experiences I have had, and the many blessings God has given me. I count each one with eternal gratitude, none more absolute than my ability to consistently put food on my table, to ensure the health and well-being of my beloved family, a luxury of which countless parents around the world are so cruelly deprived. I appeal and relate to you as an anxious father deeply troubled and guilt-ridden over an inexcusable legacy of widespread confusion, conflict, and chaos all of our children will likely be forced to inherit. I implore you as a member of the human race mortified by the unnecessary suffering of even a single brother or sister, furious over the goals we have missed, the priorities we have misplaced, the opportunities we have squandered, but still greatly emboldened by the prospect of providing my children, your children, and the children of the world—children of the world with the well-deserved birthright of dignity, security, and essential rights to work together collectively to propose solutions to this long-lasting issue we are facing.

To accomplish this mission to bring food and comfort to those most in need, we must delay the procrastinations, abandon the rhetoric, and accept unpopular truths as a call to action and not an excuse to passivity. In an ideal world where socioeconomic factors existed in harmony void of biases, inequities would be reduced and chronic illnesses caused by malnutrition’s many forms would be mitigated. But that beautiful dream still stands as a tall order.

At the Gaurav and Sharon Srivastava Family Foundation, we will assist in the creation of a new paradigm between food and fuel to the body and energy as the fuel to the food production system, a new perspective that will drive a propulsive shift to a nutritionally nourished world. We must understand and embrace the symbiotic relationship between food and energy, an unavoidable reality we must bear is that our current food systems are even more reliant on energy than ever before. As a foundation, we are doing our concerted part to illuminate the intersection of food and energy, adding a voice to a crucial conversation about the necessity of energy production to deliver the food to those in need.

While we all dream of a near future in which clean and renewable energy is not just a lofty ambition, about the everlasting law of the land, I implore you today to entreat to welcome the notion that lines of food production cannot exist isolated from the energy that propels the productivity. It is our human obligation to focus our efforts on the problems we are facing here and now. It is our universal imperative to take immediate action to relieve the men, women, and children who are suffering today—not tomorrow, not next week, and not in 50 years.

While our days of fossil-fuel dependence are numbered, we also agree that the immediate and complete eradication of oil reliance is still beyond our grasp. Modern agriculture runs on oil. Commercial farmers need tractors, irrigation pumps, harvesters. The fertilizers that feed the crops, the pesticides that preserve them, the packaging that protects their quality are all produced using oil. From seed to harvest, packaging to storage, containers to ship, trucks to roads, these supply chains lead to food, the focus of conservation today—food that cannot be brought to the homes of hungry families so that the mothers and fathers never have to ration their children’s food and hear the cries of their hungry child or give up their own meal so their child doesn’t have to experience the pangs of hunger. These are harsh realities.

As we diligently march towards a gradual decarbonization, fossil fuels remain our most realistic and expeditious improvisation to addressing the most advanced food system lines to ensure food security. This is the physical, literal realistic change to be able to deliver on the promise established 80 years ago on the right to adequate food.

The United States has always been looked as a shining beacon of hope, a gateway to humanity’s future founded on the unimpeachable virtues of liberty, equality, and steadfast in the ethical imperatives of welfare, justice, and dignity, and driven boldly to lead by example. By expanding the scope of our Feed the Future Initiative, our President Biden has reaffirmed our unfaltering commitment.

It is a time for all of us, as we collectively represent the world’s 20 largest economies, to work together and build on the progress we have already made. We must fearlessly continue the copious work that still lies ahead of us. It’s time to show our citizens, our foreign neighbors, our fellow man and woman that our promises are not empty, that our outrage is real and conviction is unwavering, just like the superheroes our children imagine us to be.

This forum, these conversations, and the discourse to follow today, I mark this as a compelling watershed in our struggles. But we cannot forget that at this very moment across America single parents are shopping for groceries forced by insufficient budgets to choose between fresh vegetables and lean proteins that will feed their children for two days, or boxes of far less nutritious pasta that provide for an entire week—a heartbreaking plight nobody should face—not in 2022, not ever.

These are difficult choices to be made, sobering concessions to digest, and a pragmatic roadmap to be plotted, that prioritize grace and humanity over politics and caustic saber-rattling. These are discussions we need to have today to influence that parent’s ability to not to choose between aiding short-term hunger or choosing long-term health for their family. It’s very basic.

We must devise alternative plans to keep the energy flowing, to stabilize market shocks, to mitigate a deepening energy crisis, and re-open the plentiful grain gates of Russia and Ukraine to the world. Plans conceived with redundant safety nets, oversight and adaptability, born with a spirit of pragmatic neutrality, intended as a less aggressive, non-interventionist proxy, to the imposition of price gaps that do not work.

We need a program that can be managed and maintained through clear and transparent reporting mechanisms with banking support from trustworthy institutions and multifaceted administrative superiors—a program that needs to be crystalized, that in short order will adequately feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, and dramatically rebuke the all too comfortable warmongers and profiteers, who pose the greatest threat to peace and security on a global scale. And most importantly, we need a confident first step in the right direction—a bridge towards progress and resolution, a gleam of contagious hope that every living soul on this planet is urgently in need of.

My wife, Sharon, and I are blessed with two young children, our divine inspiration. We watch them play in wonderment, interacting harmoniously with all other children—the ones that look and speak like them, and the ones that don’t.

They are the future, our legacy, and our source of tremendous clarity and reflection. Their unconditional love and universal acceptance humbles me, and sometimes makes me embarrassed to be a grown-up.

Sharon and I firmly believe that the answers we seek are simple and infinitely achievable, we just have a history of making the journey unexplainably complex. All of us in this room and on this planet must commit to a solemn covenant, impervious to race, gender, social economic, geographical divides, an unbreakable promise to all generations that have and will come to be—that every human citizen on this Earth will soon be guaranteed the dignity and respect they inherently deserve.

On the question, where do we go from here, the inspirational leader and civil rights visionary Martin Luther King declared: our world is bruised and battered by a universal blight that knows no boundaries, an epidemic that does not discriminate, an abomination that won’t be solved without compromise, compassion, and undivided resolve.

We must steel of conviction, draw our strength from a higher power, and learn from our children that we must from now on until the very end of time. It is our only hope. Thank you. Thank you.

Now it is my distinct pleasure to introduce a true champion of defense and security, an Indonesian patriot, an emissary of global peace and unity, a bridge builder towards the abolishing of all food insecurity, and a brave line front warrior in the battle against the grave threats that undermine health, prosperity, and wreak havoc on the very fabric of society, the minister of defense, Republic of Indonesia, and my dear friend, Prabowo Subianto.

MINISTER PRABOWO SUBIANTO: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished participants of the Global Food Security Conference organized by the Atlantic Council.

I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to speak to give some remarks on this topic.

Since yesterday, I took note that a lot of participants coming from many parts of the world with their impressive background and expertise in the field of agriculture, food security, and, I’m sure, by the brief moments I was here, I am very confident that all the contributions, all the remarks, all the comments, the suggestions, recommendation will, of course, I understand, be compiled. And I think this will be a very valuable contribution to finding solutions for the threat of global food insecurity that is facing our planet.

Actually, I would like to thank and commend the initiators of this conference, Mr. Fred Kempe and Atlantic Council General Wesley Clark, Mr. Gaurav—I call him Mr. G. because sometimes a bit difficult to pronounce your surname. It’s also difficult to pronounce my surname.  I think my surname is longer than your surname.

I would like to thank the initiators for this effort. In fact, in my opinion, the main topic of the whole G20 summit should be about food security.

In my opinion, food security or, shall we say, the threat of food insecurity is an existential threat to humankind because without food there is no civilization. There is no humankind.

Because of the experts standing here, I do not pretend or aspire to give an expert’s perspective. I will give overview—an overview of the Indonesian perspective on this issue and, perhaps, this can help contribute to our general understanding.

First of all, food, energy, and water actually is one cycle that is interrelated. To secure food we need water. Water is the essence of life, and to secure food the speakers before me have emphasized the importance of energy.

In this cycle, which in front of us has proven to be a threat—a threat of scarcity—this is compounded by more threats that compound this existential threat.

First, whether we like it or not, there is a population explosion. Maybe this is sensitive. There are part of the global elite, still very influential, still very powerful in—even in my country that do not like for us to talk about population explosion.

But if we are a real leader sometimes leaders must say unpleasant things. This is a dilemma. It’s a paradox, especially for politicians. Especially for politicians who want to get elected.

Fortunately, the Indonesian general election and the presidential election is still rather in the future.

This is the dilemma of people in leadership position. If we warn about a danger coming they accuse us of being pessimistic. My president, President [Joko Widodo] this year alone, I think, has spoken maybe 25 times more in public, warning the Indonesian people that we are facing difficult times.

Next year will be very difficult, and there are people who accuse him of spreading pessimism. And I understand maybe some people cannot accept the necessities of how do we face this population explosion.

For instance, Indonesia, our increase in population every year is 1.9 percent. That is 5 million new babies every year, 5 million new mouths—5 million, the size of Singapore. Every year in Indonesia, there is a new Singapore. You see, Indonesians, when they face adversity, they laugh. Indonesians are happy people. Sometimes we don’t know what’s ahead of us. Maybe we will—we will go somewhere happily.

What I’m saying is this: Every 10 years, a new Malaysia. What government in the world, what expert in the world can consider feeding five more—5 million more mouths a normal and an easy challenge? My friend Mr. G has said he’s very proud of feeding his family. A leader of Indonesia must think of feeding 5 million babies every year—every year. Anybody who wants to run for president of Indonesia I think should consult his psychoanalyst, I think.

The challenges in front of our government is not an easy challenge, but this is not something that we must be afraid of. As a former soldier, you know, they say former soldiers—old soldiers never die. They just fade away. General Clark has faded away today. He’s supposed to be here in front of me. But you know, many old soldiers, like myself, like General Clark, you know, old soldiers never die, they just fade away, that is somewhere. But in Indonesia, old soldiers never die and they never fade away. Until the Almighty God calls us. Then not only do we fade away; we are called away very fast.

So this population explosion is something in front of us—5 million jobs, 5 million new spaces in schools, in hospitals. This is the dimension of our challenge.

Climate change, we feel it. Jakarta is—the sea level is increasing 5 centimeters every year. And during one of my visits to the coastal area of Tanjung Priok, families, the water is in their living room. They are sleeping in their bedroom with the seawater in their bedroom. Climate change is not some theory; it is in front of us.

In Karawang—which is maybe, what, one hour from here—the sea has come in maybe already at least three, four kilometers—three, four kilometers, maybe more. Karawang—you are from Karawang, are you? (Speaks to audience member)

So climate change for Indonesia is real. Can you imagine four kilometers times 200 kilometers long, 300 square kilometers? How many hectares have we lost from productive land, from arable land, from our rice bowl? Karawang is the rice bowl of Indonesia.

And of course, in front of us, geopolitical conflict. I just would like to reiterate, you know, Indonesia, our traditional foreign policy is one of friendship to all countries. We respect all countries. We respect all great powers. We are free and active in our relationship. We always try to maintain equal—equal in our respect and relationship. We call ourselves—we consider ourselves by history—Indonesia was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. I would like to reiterate this because, although we consider United States as a very good friend and strategic partner of Indonesia, the United States having many times assisted Indonesia in our darkest moments—the United States have supported our war of independence. So we acknowledge this friendship. But as a good friend, sometimes we have to be courageous enough to remind our friends, remind our close friend who we admire, who we want to emulate—I think the top Indonesian intellectuals, educated leaders, most of them are educated in Western countries. I think many of our leaders understand and have read your Declaration of Independence. We also aspire to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is our goal also for our people. But this is important: In any geopolitical conflict, there are always two sides to a story. And each side is convinced they are right. Each side is willing to die for what they consider to be right. I have to remind everybody there is always two sides to a conflict.

The important thing is, do we want to resolve the conflict or not? If we do not want to resolve the conflict, we are entering a very dangerous region and a dangerous zone of time. A few days ago, I was listening to a remark by a very senior former United States military leader, Admiral Mullen. I think three days ago. I think Admiral Mullen was the former chairman of the US Joints Chiefs of Staff, if I’m not mistaken. Is that correct? Please correct me if I’m—he was the former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. He reminded everybody—it’s on the YouTube—we are in danger of a nuclear war. We are in danger of a nuclear war. We hope, we pray that the leaders of the world will be wise and enlightened.

But we have seen in history many great conflict, many great explosion/conflagration happen out of accident. Wars happen because of accident. Sometimes wars happen because of one lieutenant or one captain who start firing because he was afraid. Therefore, what we talk about is compounded by these threats. Geopolitical conflict on all matters, in our opinion, the situation of the world, the fact that our planet is getting smaller, we need wisdom. We need compromise. We need patience. We need the courage to go halfway.

Zero-sum game victories I don’t think is feasible in the current state of the world. We can be right, but are we doing it in the long-term interest of our people? Without food, energy, and water, economic crisis, social unrest, civil war, failed state. Therefore, food, energy, and water is existential.

Indonesia, we are—we have been blessed the last three, four years with very consistent and very big rainfall. However, now we have to be prepared. After the phenomenon called La Nina, we have to be prepared for El Nino, and when El Nino comes, we have to be prepared for several years of dry weather.

Therefore, it’s also part of our initiative, the Indonesian defense community, we are working very hard to secure water. We are exploring for water in the dry parts of our country. I think over the last two, three years our military we have—we have drilled and we have made pumps, energy in something like 700 sites, and within this month, our defense university—we have sent survey teams, and we drill, I think, another 120 water pumps.

And also, what is very interesting is there is a new geological phenomenon, actually. The experts tell us there are underwater rivers flowing to the coasts of many of our islands, and this is very, very, very prevalent in volcanic islands. And we are, I think, the largest island—island groups with volcanoes.

There are many underwater rivers flowing every day to the coast. And now, our mission is to find where it goes out, and then to trap them in flexible pipes, and bring by pumps this freshwater to the land, inland to the villages. So, actually, the existential threat, there are solutions in front of us, and solutions which are not technologically very difficult for us.

It flows every day, every hour. We have also big rivers that are flowing to the sea, and with water management, with water engineering, we can make very, very good use of the water that’s available. The key is the will to find solutions.

When we talk about food security, there’s some things, again, that’s unpalatable to be spoken of, but I will say it anyway… How do we deal with food insecurity? To be very frank, if the political elites of all countries have cohesion, are united, do not fight amongst their lead—who wants to be what—and the elite are informed, want to learn, want to study, and the elite will not be swayed, will not be influenced by traders.

I want to make it clear. I am not against traders. I was—before going into politics, I was a trader myself. Trade—that is what fuels human growth and human enterprise. But in this matter of food security, sometimes the traders think short term. The political leaders must think long term. The traders think of annual profit. It’s not their fault; they are traders. They think of annual profit; political leaders must think five years, 10 years, 25 years ahead.

But sadly many countries, including my own country, sometimes our elites are near-sighted, uninformed, sometime do not want to be informed. I have been talking about food security in Indonesia I think for the last—I don’t know—20 years. When I retired from the military, I was elected as a chairman of the farmers association, and after that I was elected also as the chairman of the small market traders association. Maybe many of them come here to listen to me.

We have, what, now something like 16,000 traditional markets—16,000—and always the challenge is between the big supermarkets and the small, traditional markets. How do we reconcile that they live together, not killing—the big guys absorb all the profit and the small guys die because of lack of oxygen. This is the challenge again.

And many of our elites also—now after we see the conflict in other parts of the world, after the FAO, the WHO remind us, then now everybody talk about food security. But let me say very frankly, maybe three years ago many of our elite do not even want to address the matter of food insecurity. So I think this is something that we must take note of, and therefore, events like this is very important as part of the educating the elite. Solving hunger, solving food insecurity, yes, is about seeds, about technology, about this and that, and yes, but more important is the unity, the cohesion, the ability amongst national elites and international elites to work together. To cooperate—to cooperate, and this is easier said than done. I do understand that.

So our goal must be, as all the experts say, feeding 8 billion people. The problem is availability and affordability. The problem is some of the countries have secure supply of calories and secure supply of protein. And that is the challenge how we can reach zero hunger, which is SDG number two, the Sustainable Development Goal that we must all aspire to.

Here we see the dark green; those countries, secure calorie supply. And the dark blue, secure protein supply.

Food security, the essential thing is also trade, food trade. We see many countries that are reliant on calorie imports. We thank the Almighty God that Indonesia, actually, we need not be reliant on calorie import. We are now self-sufficient in rice. We are also able to produce maize on our own and we have alternatives to wheat.

The other essential element of food security, as everybody has mentioned, of course, is synthetic fertilizer. Half of the world is reliant on synthetic fertilizer. Also, the reserves of potash and phosphate is also not distributed equally around the world. It’s concentrated in Canada, Russia, some parts of the world. This will affect global food production.

And therefore, once again let us not be morally upset about the use of food as weapon. Food has always been a weapon throughout the history of mankind, thousands of years. Wars have erupted to secure food, to secure land, to secure water. So let us be very realistic, ladies and gentlemen. That’s why leaders must always calculate the entire spectrum of the threat.

As a former military officer, we learned that war is not just the beginning or the war start with the firing of a shot. No, war is already a spectrum. Trade competition is war. Financial war, we can destroy a nation by destroying their currency. So, once again, leaders must always think the entire spectrum.

Because, as I said, a conflict has two sides. One side may be strong in this area. The other side may be strong in the other area. And two conflict sides, they want to win. They want to survive. Therefore, they will use all weapons at their disposal. That is the lesson of history.

Fertilizer will be strategic because of the source of fertilizers, source of the ingredients of fertilizer. We must be prepared for daunting challenges ahead.

We all know everybody’s talked about the vicious—the cycles that are emerging: food price increasing, oil very high. The price of natural gas is already 10 times higher than two years ago in Europe. Cost of maritime trade, three times pre-pandemic average. Interest rates rising. Price of fertilizers increase. And this results in cost-of-living increase, real incomes falling down, the ability of to cope small families farmers decreasing. The financial power of several countries decreasing. What is the result? We have to be prepared for social and political unrest in many parts of the globe.

Some more figures. Wheat price have risen 200 percent in two years, palm oil nearly 200 percent in two years. Indonesia, very fortunate, we are the largest producer of palm oil. And at one time we were embargoed by Europe, our palm oil, but it turned out perhaps to be a blessing in disguise. Because we could not go to the European market, we are forced to use our palm oil for biofuel, for biodiesel. And now we have bio-gasoline. Sometimes threat, sometimes adversity result in opportunity.

So we… maize, sugar, soybean. We understand also the components of food, that energy very strong component. A lot of people have spoken about this. Corn, high component. Soybean, what, I think nearly 40 percent—38 percent components energy. Rice, not so—not so high. Peanuts, not so high.

Protein, protein crisis. In the next 25 years, the demand for protein will rise quite significantly, from now around 324 tons—324 million tons of a year to nearly 600 million tons, 80 percent increase in the next 25 years. And like it or not, I think we have to reassess the propensity or our habit of eating a lot of meat from cattle, from chicken, from pork because the input for one kilogram of body weight meat we need for cattle is 31 kilograms of input. For pork, it’s 10 kilograms. For chicken, it’s four kilograms. The most efficient is fish, two kilograms and some even 1.7 kilograms. So the future is actually aquaculture to provide our protein needs. This is force of nature.

Those who adapt, those who want to learn, those who want to invest will survive. And actually, the resources are in front of us. Once again, Indonesia is blessed by the Almighty God. We have many challenges, but we have a lot of sea. I think we have one of the largest—the longest coastline in the world. I think maybe Canada and Chile more than us. But Indonesia is—maybe we are second to Canada, I think, the longest coast.

Can you imagine how many hectares of aqua farms we can have on the coast and off the coast? We have now 23 million hectares of arable land. But we have also 120 million hectares of forest. Sad to say, about 80 million hectares of our forests are degraded—are already degraded.

So what is our vision? What is my strategy which I propose to my president that the degraded forest we convert to productive land to create food and energy?

They are already degraded, but before they supported forests. That means the land is fertile. By the greed of many short-term—how can I say that in an audience that’s a lot of Americans here, you know? Because, right.

But I would say that many capitalists are very greedy. Even some capitalists they are proud. They say greed is good. That is the essence, I think, of neoliberalism, right. There are capitalists that say greed is good. Let me be richer and richer, and I don’t care what happened to the poor and the hungry, you know.

Once again, I do not criticize capitalism, per se. But I’m saying we have suffered. It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s our collective fault. Whenever God has given so much blessings to people, sometimes the people become complacent and the people become negligent in protecting their resources and their future.

So, can you imagine if the 80 million hectares or 88 million—I think the data is there—if we convert only 16 million—16 million of those 80 million degraded. If we convert this to food production, we can be the breadbasket of the world.

So this existential threat and this, let us say, ecological or environmental disaster, we can turn around to be environmental and food opportunity for the world. It does not—we do not need too much technology. We do not need—the nature has given us this, let us say, comparative advantage.

Sixteen million hectares. Let us say 8 million for food and 8 million for energy. We can produce renewable energy, clean energy. Buy your energy from a lot of plants, from palm oil, from Iran, palm sugar, from cassava.

We also—we are in a tropical climate. We can have three crops a year. Three crops a year with good management, good technology. Good management—can you imagine the increase in production?

We also have 225 million hectares of marine territory. We also—within that area there’s 23 million hectares of marine protected area. This is the breeding ground where our fish—the fish of the world come to Indonesia to breed and to lay their eggs.

The fish of the world breathe in Indonesian waters, lay their eggs in Indonesian waters.

So Indonesia’s current role, we are now number-one grower of palm oil. We are now number-five grower of cassava, without the additional 16 million hectares of land.

We are now the number-two producer of captured fisheries. But we have a vacuum. We have a need for 40,000 fishing boats, of 300 grow stand to 500 grow stand. We have a need of 40,000 fishing boats. This is not including the aqua farm that we plan to build.

By the way, if any of the participants are still here on the 15th or on the 16th, I will be visiting fish aqua farm. If any of you would like to join me, I will be very honored if you would like to see that this is not a dream. In the future, we already—some of our entrepreneurs are already cutting this out and, by the way, making a lot of money.

But that is the risk. High risk high gain. To be the pioneer is always very courageous, need courage. We are the number-one grower of seaweed. Healthy, protein, antioxidant, is against cancer. And we are now already—self-sufficient in rice production.

So I think joining Jokowi in this government, I think, was the correct decision on my part. I’m proud that I joined much too many opposition from my own party.

But, as I said, that’s the challenge of leaders, right. Sometimes we have to have the guts to choose unpopular positions. At that time, it was popular, it was—at that time it was unpopular in my own party. But now they come to realize, oh, yeah—that guy is not that stupid.

You know, sometimes soldiers, we have the reputation of having no brains, especially infantry. I was in the infantry, you know. The smart guys in the army they always go to the engineers and the artillery. Those of us who are average they send to the infantry.

But now the developments in a certain part of the world where there is now open conflict—I will not say where. It’s somewhere in Europe. The development of war tactics now they say it is the return of the poor bloody infantry.

One infantry man can destroy a bank with a rocket which costs only maybe $100,000 can destroy a bank which costs $5 million. So I think I made the correct decision also at that time when I was young joining the infantry. And as a former soldier, I realize the importance of food.

I come now to a topic—my favorite topic, actually, is cassava, but this is also Bill Gates’ favorite crop. I think cassava will prove to be the savior crop of the world.

Indonesia, I think, can become the foremost producer of cassava, and cassava is the most efficient in the need for input, for water, et cetera, et cetera. If you see here, the input for cassava is quite efficient. It produces 250,000 calorie, but only need 65—what’s that—cubic meter of water per metric ton… the rice 1,139; wheat 954; maize 815. Very efficient.

Cassava is now a strategic food crop. It can produce the replacement for wheat, for pasta and noodles, et cetera, bread. Here I’ve examples.

This is already in production by our entrepreneurs. We are producing pasta from cassava; instant noodles, cassava. This Korean beef mushroom, cassava. We can produce bioethanol. We can produce alcohol, vitamin, other products, bioplastics, glue, explosives, feed for cattle. Cassava, very efficient. We have seen that. Health benefits—100 percent gluten-free, low glycemic index, high in iron and calcium.

I continue. I think I’ve taken a lot of time. Cassava products already in the Indonesian market. Here, we also see we already have the patents for modified cassava. We call it mocaf. We also have the intellectual property rights for the industrial processes. There’s already a factory producing cassava.

I hope the inventor of mocaf, Professor Subagio, please stand up. He’s the cassava professor—I think the foremost in the world—working many years in Nigeria in many parts of the world, and we see they’re producing processes. There’s also Mr. Fidriento, an entrepreneur—a courageous entrepreneur who pioneered the industrial production of mocaf. So we also now starting producing our logistics strategic reserve.

So let me conclude by how I see Indonesia’s future role. I think we will be the number one exporter of wheat flour equivalent—mocaf from cassava. We will also be the number one exporter of sustainable marine ecoculture production.

We are also—we will be the number one exporter of sustainable shrimp, aquaculture production. We do not want to deplete the natural fish. We have to preserve it because we are the breeding ground for many of the fish of the world.

We will also be the number one exporter of sustainable lobster aquaculture production. So we will be in the forefront to produce protein and calorie in the world. We want to be a factor in solving global insecurity threat. And we invite partners from all over the world to join in. Can you imagine 16 million hectares how many combined harvesters, how many tractors, how many silos, how many railroads, how many harbors, how many technologies, how many scientists, how many water engineers that we can accept and we can absorb?

So we are open. We invite all partners from around the world—that I think we can be a factor for growth. Indonesia can perhaps be an additional factor in the growth of the world economy, and in really providing solutions to overcome world hunger.

In conclusion—you see, they do not give coffee here for me. If they give coffee, maybe I speak for another two hours.

It is my opinion that I hold very strong to successfully handle the challenge. We need global peace, and we need global partnership. We have to work together. If we can come to this, if we can reach out to our adversaries, if we can overcome past mistakes, if we can admit to ourselves that perhaps we have made some mistakes, and we can work in a global partnership, I think we can solve the problem.

But, as I mentioned, in any country without the cohesion, without the unity, without compromise, without cooperation amongst the national elite, there can be no national prosperity. To have prosperity, we need peace. That is the lesson of mankind history. I was a former soldier. I know the ravages of conflict. There is no benefit to war and conflict.

Sometimes we are forced to, but as a former soldier, I realize we must avoid conflict. That doesn’t mean that we must be defenseless. No. Apparently humans as a species are very prone to domination and to take what is in front of them that is not protected and defended. That’s the human nature.

I think that concludes my remarks. Let us work together to achieve understanding, compromise.

Hopefully in this G20 in Bali—Bali—the name of Bali, of the Balinese people is pulau dewata, the island of the Gods.

So we hope that there will be magic and miracles in the island of the Gods. Let us work for peace and prosperity. Thank you very much.

FREDERICK KEMPE: Mr. Minister, that was a tour de force. That was just amazing. In a moment you’ll hear the minister on a panel with General Clark and with Gaurav.

For the moment, I just wanted to make one announcement. We want you all back here this evening 7:30/8:00 for our concert. We have John Legend, the great singer. We have Sandhy Sondoro. And we have the US Air Force Band back with us again.

We’re not going to take—because we’re a little bit over time, we’re not going to take the coffee break. So if you need a break, please take your break as you can grab it.

And with that, I want to turn your eyes to the screen to see Senator Stabenow, another message from the United States, the chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee.

Watch the keynote

SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): Hello to everyone taking part in the Global Food Security Forum. Whether you’re in Bali or joining remotely from home, thank you for being here to discuss the incredibly important issue of global food security.

As chairwoman of the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, food security at home and abroad is a top priority for me. And we’re facing a truly unprecedented hunger crisis, as we know. Many factors have caused the rates of food insecurity to skyrocket, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and Putin’s war in Ukraine. Some countries are experiencing historic drought, while others are faced with record levels of flooding. These extreme weather events harm farm and livestock production, and displace people from their homes and communities, as we know.

The World Food Programme estimates that as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night. And about 50 million people are at risk of famine. This should be completely unacceptable to all of us. Farmers play a critical role in providing US-grown food for those in need, in the form of commodities and ready-to-use food that can save a child’s life. But it’s also critical to help build local markets and invest in development projects so that local communities and economies can be more resilient and withstand shocks. It’s important that we use all of the tools in the toolbox to respond, because each situation throughout the world is unique.

In Congress, we’re staring consideration of the five-year farm bill, a process to reauthorize the food and farm programs in the United States. This includes programs like Food for Peace, the McGovern-Dole Program, and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, which are critical to address global hunger. The Senate Agriculture Committee has a long history of bipartisanship, particularly in supporting international food aid. I’m working with Senator John Boozman, the top Republican on the committee, to advance a strong bill that protects and enhances these programs.

Congress acted this year to provide additional resources to respond to the extraordinary levels of food insecurity we’re facing, but we know that more must be done. Thank you for joining in the fight to ensure that we tackle global food security in a way that benefits all of those we represent around the world. I look forward to working with you as we tackle this important issue.

ANNOUNCER: Please welcome to the stage senior anchor of CNN Indonesia Desi Anwar.

Watch the keynote

DESI ANWAR: Hi, everybody. OK. Well, welcome to the next session, which is hopefully a fireside with three very distinguished speakers, two of whom you’ve actually heard today. But if everybody can please settle down. And I know that we’re very, very late this morning. OK. If everybody would please find their seat, we do have three very distinguished speakers coming up and including our minister of defense, Prabowo Subianto, and also General Wesley Clark, and also Gaurav.

I mean, we’ve—wow. What can I say? I mean, Fred, Atlantic Council, I’m speechless. I mean, what an amazing lecture we’ve just heard there. And I’m just, you know—it’s incredible, the breadth and the substance. And I think we can all agree that we learned a lot from Minister Prabowo’s lecture and I think his only Atlantic Council forum. I mean, this has encapsulated everything about food security. And you know, what can I—well, let’s—I hope he’s coming back to join the session.

And I’ve been asked to stall for time here, so forgive me. Things have been very weird, somewhat, this morning.

Anyway, food security. We’ve listened to the keynotes this morning and we know that food security—global food security is very much present-day challenges. And of course, our food supply system, our global—the entire global food system rests on the premise of global security. If there is a disruption in the global security, it will affect food security. And the reason being is that we are now such a globalized world. We’re so interdependent with one another, particularly for our food supply, there’s not one single country in the world that can actually feed their own people without importing food, without getting food supply from other countries. And then once this supply chain is disrupted, obviously, this is a real threat. And we have had terrible, terrible global shocks recently, what with the pandemic, which actually brought the world to a halt. We’ve had—you know, we are in the middle of a war in the Ukraine which is, obviously, affecting food supply and also trade. And we are also in the middle of an economic—global economic crisis: rising food prices, inflation, energy crisis.

And of course, this must—these are something, global challenges, that need to be resolved on a global basis. Global problems need global solutions. And I think this G20 forum, this G20 summit is a very, very good opportunity for world leaders to actually gather together and find solutions for these problems.

Now, I would now like to invite my three panelists to the stage.

I’ll start with General Wesley Clark, chairman and CEO of Wesley K. Clark and Associates. It’s a consulting firm. And General Clark is—big hands, please. How are you, sir? Please take a seat. And, General Clark, welcome to Bali. Welcome to Indonesia. General Wesley Clark is a former NATO supreme allied commander of Europe and a retired four-star general. And it’s interesting when we talk about food security we are turning to our military experts to help solve some of the problems. Once again, welcome, sir.

And our next speaker, Minister of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia, the man of the moment, Minister Prabowo Subianto. Hello, sir. How are you? I just want to say, very impressive. Like I said, I was telling Fred and our friends from the Atlantic Council, I mean, I’m speechless. That was an excellent—that was a really good, long lecture. But I also would like to remind you, 2024 is still, what, two years away. OK.

Last but not least our—well, we’ve listened to his keynote speech before, very impassioned speech—Gaurav Srivastava, founder of Gaurav and Sharon Srivastava Family Foundation—also chairman of various groups, such as Harvest Commodities, Apraava Energy and Commodities, and Unity Resources Group. Gaurav, thank you for joining us again.

And let’s have a big hand for everybody, for our speakers.

DESI ANWAR: Ok, let’s start with you. If you don’t mind, Minister, let me start with General Clark. After hearing your incredible lecture—we learned a lot, obviously—just your thought on food security. I mean, General Clark, you were the former, you know, NATO allied commander for Europe. And there’s, obviously, some of the things that was mentioned, the idea of food security is very much tied with global security, with hard security. And just your thoughts on our minister’s speech. And also, how do these two interlink in your perspective?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: So, first of all, I thought—I think Indonesia’s really setting a very, very high standard for approaching the issue of food security. And I’m very impressed by the technology, by the work on cassava especially. And you know, this is the way we have to move forward. Just like we discovered fish farming about 30 or 40 years ago and it spread around the world, cassava may be the miracle—it may be the miracle carb of the 21st century. And I think Indonesia’s got a leading role in this, so I think that’s really impressive.

I think when you look at food security, I agree with what Minister Prabowo has said. It is about more than food; it’s about water, it is about energy. I do think we have to be sure we’ve got the right balance. When we talk about food security, it’s about availability, it’s about affordability, those things. But it’s also about taste. Everybody grows up with a comfort food and tastes change over time.

Now, my wife, her comfort food is a baked potato. I don’t care that much for baked potatoes, but she likes it. I like spaghetti and meatballs. That’s my comfort food. People have these—it’s partly what you grow up with. It’s partly changing tastes as you mature. But we have to take account of expectations that people have.

And the protein map that you showed, Minister Prabowo, was really interesting to me, because when you look at people in Africa and you look at the amount of protein they can get, the amount of calories they can get, of course, that’s the first thing you go with. But when these people come to London sometimes or Paris, they might be looking for McDonald’s. And so it is about expectations. It’s about availability. It’s about affordability.

I think we have to harness the best of government leadership and private-sector leadership in this space. I think—what I’ve learned in my—I studied economics of underdevelopment at Oxford. I looked at it in Vietnam. I worked it in—as best I could in Bosnia and looked at how they could recover. And for the last 22 years, I’ve traveled around the world and looked at countries. Look, you have to use the profit motive.

It’s just like what the minister mentioned about cassava, this man who has engineered the best way to do it. Has to be profit in it. So it’s the balance between government leadership and vision and the private sector picking up the step, having the right incentives and signals to unleash creativity and technology.

DESI ANWAR: OK. So the partnership is, obviously, very, very important between government and the private sector.

But let me just put it back to, you know, food nutrition, obviously, is very, very important, but let’s frame it back to food security. As we know with, you know, what’s happening in the war in the Ukraine, I mean, even Indonesia, we were affected, you know, because we still import a lot of wheat, for example, and fertilizers. General Clark, what would you see as the—as the biggest challenge? What is the state of our food security at the moment with what’s going on in the world and your own definition of food security? Because we are completely interdependent when it comes to, you know, the food system is very global. And then once you have these blockages and once you—you know, the supply side is disrupted, I mean, how can we mitigate that? And where do you see, you know, the challenges of food security—

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think we have—

DESI ANWAR:—as a global security?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Look, we have to elevate consideration of food security. It’s grown in importance each year over—and each decade, really.

But in order to import things that countries need, they have to export. And governments have to help set the incentives for this. So if Indonesia wants to import, let’s say, cellphones and electronics from China or the United States or someplace, then how does it get paid for? And all of this has created in the area of food this incredibly complex network, and so it becomes something that—what COVID has taught us, what the Ukraine war has taught us is this must be a higher priority in all international discussions. We’ve got to strengthen these supply chains, listen to what our people need all over the world, and then governments have to work together to meet those needs.

DESI ANWAR: And on the global security side of it, I mean, obviously, if we have global security problems, it would impact food security, vice versa. And we have, for example, you know, climate change issues. And sometime in the future, if not already, fight for resources and diminishing resources will be a big problem as the world is trying to feed, you know, over 8 billion people.

And the other thing is that we have a very unequal world. In some areas of the world like you mentioned, Gaurav, we have oversupply of food. And in some parts of the world, you know, people go to bed hungry. How much of a threat do you think is food security to global security, especially seeing that what we need is global stability in order to get food security?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think what we are experiencing is one of these moments in history where mankind—humankind goes up or down. We have 8 billion people. We’re in an incredibly complicated world. We still have old aspirations, old ideas like some people think of the world as a chessboard. You know, this is my country, that’s your country, I want your country. We have to get rid of these old ideas of nationalism and move together toward a new understanding of our responsibilities for humanity. It’s a step-by-step process. It’s a generational process. And along the way, we’ve got to let go of some of the anger and hurt from previous generations. This is true in Europe. It’s true in Africa. It’s true in Asia. And it’s true in my country. We’ve got to look toward the future. There’s incredible technology opportunities. So it’s a make-it-or-break-it time for humanity.

DESI ANWAR: But do you think—is food security a real threat to global security?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Right. Well, food security has been brought to the fore by the war in Ukraine. So this is the moment, as Fred Kempe was saying yesterday, we’ve got a crisis. Use it. Make something different out of the way the world is structured today.

You know, we’ve had the Food and Agricultural Organization for 70 years. It’s great. We have the World Food Programme. It’s fine. Now, look at the current situation and let’s move forward. What’s the next step we need? How do we harness the strengths of government, the vision of government with the initiative and technologies of the private sector? This should be a principal issue at the—as Fred was saying earlier—at the G20, and we hope they’ll really tackle it.

DESI ANWAR: Gaurav, I mean, let’s pick up on that—you know, your idea, what is food security, the definition of food security. Where are we now? Are we at the critical, you know, junction when food security is threatening our global security? And also—like you also mentioned—you know, very impassioned in your keynote speech about, you know, putting—every child should not go hungry anywhere around the world. So how do you see this?

GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: I think it’s one thing to talk about these global ideas, but at the end of the day what matters is what we are doing back home. And being in conflict areas you start understanding that food, and energy, and oil, and water—these are national security issues. For far too long they have been considered not to be, and I think that narrative has to change.

Given today the conflict in Ukraine, given today the COVID-19 pandemic, given where we just came from, I think this thing has been [thrown] in our face. Indonesia, which has several hundred million people… there are so many people, and the choices are they need food to eat, they need to fill their cars with gas. And the choices they are being asked to make is should they—to take sides in a conflict.

And I think it goes back to what the minister said, is this policy of remaining as a nation that is neutral and cares about Indonesia first I think is important. And I think while it really important on global issues, it is also important to understand that the issues are local because if there is lack of food, then it is cause for serious security issues. And the conversations that are now being had back home in the United States, I think a lot of those conversations have to be in that direction.

It is also important to remember that the government is not the one who is buying and selling oil or buying and selling food. It is traders. It is private businesses, and I think it requires industry, requires talk leaders, requires government to work together in conjunction with traders to see what works; not impose policies that ultimately do not work. And that’s—that is the—that’s what I think.

DESI ANWAR: So it’s very important, you know, the partnership between the government and the private—public-private partnership.

GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Public-private partnership.

DESI ANWAR: I think the important point is also, because we are so globalized, we are so interdependent for our food supply, our whole global food system is so entwined. So how do you see this going forward for countries to actually not only just increase their resilience, but within the countries themselves, there’s inequality when it comes to access to affordable, you know, nutritious food. What is the best way to address it because it’s not just an international or global issue, but it’s also—within the national itself, there is great inequality when it comes to food security.

GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: There is a short-term issue and then there are long-term issues. I think the short-term issues which need to be addressed is how do you deal with this imbalance. And yesterday we were talking at a roundtable, and we discussed ways of setting up special licensing programs to be able to work together and allow trade to flow.

And the other point is, at the end of the day, country needs to be self-sustainable. And in several conversations with the minister, his key idea of making Indonesia independent, taking issues that are security—whether it is defense, whether it is food, or whether it is energy—and making sure they are independent is key.

And that’s—so I think there is a short-term objective, which we—which we can—which we look working on this program, and then the long-term objective is creating self-sustainability. That’s what I think.

DESI ANWAR: OK. Minister Prabowo, actually, Indonesia, for the last couple of years, we didn’t import rice. We actually got an award from the International Rice Research institution for rice self-sufficiency. But we do still import other things like, for example, wheat and fertilizer.

Just, you know—just very quickly, I mean, we know what the—you talked about the strategy of Indonesia, creating a food resilience, national resilience, self-sufficiency. But given that Indonesia has the G20 presidency, now what would you actually like to see, the concrete outcomes from this summit when it comes to food security and creating global food security for everybody?

MINISTER PRABOWO SUBIANTO: I think when you notice the remarks of the speakers before me, also my remarks, I mentioned that there is food insecurity problem, but this problem has been compounded by—as I mentioned—population explosion, climate change, and geopolitical conflict. Climate change needs political wisdom and leadership from all countries. Population explosion needs wisdom, leadership, courage from the national elites. But geopolitical conflict, as I mentioned, needs statesmanship, needs leaders with a historical vision and a realistic—a realistic approach. I think this is what we hope from the G20. Here we are very happy, we hear that President Xi Jinping of China and President Biden of the United States will meet. This is—this is a—I think a very optimistic event. By meeting, by communication, by interaction, these two global powers must show global leadership, global statesmanship, global wisdom. So this is our hope from the G20.

So the problems of food security, hunger, is current a clear and present danger because we understand 300 million people are already starving basically; another 500 million on the verge of starvation, but this is all related to geopolitical reality. We understand 30 percent of wheat comes from Ukraine and Russia. We understand potash, phosphate is a resource very scarce. Fertilizer dependent on potash, dependent on phosphate, so yes, you ask me what we hope from the G20. We hope statesmanship with wisdom to overcome this.

DESI ANWAR: OK, the G20 itself, we’ve come in in a very, very challenging sort of environment, not just because it’s post-pandemic, but there’s a war in the Ukraine, a global economic crisis, and inflation. And of course, you know, tension between China and the US for example. So it’s, you know—and of course there is the Russia situation, but are you—how optimistic are you that, you know, world leaders can actually sit down, you know, with that wisdom and statesmanship that you are talking about?

And the other thing is Indonesia—this is our presidency. You know, what can we offer as a country to address and also to maybe, you know, facilitate the path to global food security as well as global security?

MINISTER PRABOWO SUBIANTO: OK. In my opinion, there are, let us say, optimistic goals, yeah. Idealistic goals. There are also realistic and modest goals.

I prefer to have realistic and modest goals. Indonesia, in my opinion, our contribution to the international geopolitical situation is that we succeed in making or taking care of our own house. We must keep our house—our own house in order.

We need—Indonesia needs peace, stability. And with peace, stability, we can provide solutions.

As I said in my presentation that with a little bit of investment, with a little bit of rearranging some of priorities, we can be the breadbasket of the world. This is not something impossible.

This is mathematics. We have already 80 million degraded forest. We must take care of this with our planning agency calculating 60 million hectares. If we convert this, this can be the breadbasket of the world.

So we can be a solution to the world.

Number two, energy. We have to go to renewable clean energy, green energy, to cut down global warming. That’s number two. This is, in my opinion, realistic.

We take care of our own house. We are peace, prosperity, smart investment. We can be the source of protein through the world, source of calories to the world. That is our contribution.

In the real sense, we are nonaligned. We are friendly with all the major powers. So we can be the intermediary. We can promote dialogue and friendship.

So I think, in my opinion, that is our, let us say, modest goals and idealistic goals.

DESI ANWAR: Yeah. And this is also an opportunity for Indonesia to showcase what we have and what we’re doing is very well displayed in this morning’s lecture.

Now, General Clark, your thoughts, please? You know, do you agree? What kind of leadership can Indonesia, you know, give in this circumstances? And also, for the US as being the global security power, what can the US do in order to promote global food security and make sure that, you know, everything’s—

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think the United States can do several things.

Now, we’re going to hear later from some American experts on this and so I don’t want to say that I’m an expert on this.

But I have looked at it and I think, you know, there’s—first, there’s the role of the American dollar. And so we have to be very aware in the United States that when we use interest rates to deal with domestic American inflation, it has worldwide consequences.

I know we are sensitive to that, but we just have to remain sensitive to it because countries all over the world rise and fall based on how the Federal Reserve system responds to, in some cases, US domestic economic concerns.

So that’s the first thing.

Secondly, I think the United States has done a remarkable job with the technology of agriculture for things like row crops. So I’ve done a lot of work with the corn farmers in the United States, and you look at the productivity of corn. Now, I’m going to use the term acre instead of hectare. There’s about two and a half acres to a hectare.

But back when I was growing up, if you got maybe 60, 80 bushels of corn per acre, you were a great farmer in Iowa. In the 1990s, we were up to 90 bushels. Now the average in recent years has been 170, 180 bushels of corn per acre. And some—in some cases, we’re getting 350 bushels of corn per acre.

Why is this? A combination of factors. It’s private sector, farmer ingenuity, government leadership in terms of agricultural extension. So I think if we look at these principles and try to help countries all over the world with technology, some financing to get it started, sharing our systems on how we look at farmland, how we evaluate its need for nutrition, how we use what’s called precision agriculture, taking advantage of GPS to know for each meter of land what exactly are the nutrients that are needed for each crop. If we look at some of the Israeli technologies on drip irrigation, for example, we can do amazing things.

And so I think the United States has to lead. But I think the United States has to be very careful in doing this because we have a spirit of generosity in America, but we have something called Public Law 480 which enables us to take surplus US agricultural commodities and ship them abroad in times of need as a measure of relief. Sometimes in doing that we’ve actually undercut domestic agriculture in those countries that have been the beneficiaries, so I think we have to be careful.

You know, it’s what—the old joke is if you are in bed with an elephant and it turns over, you can be crushed. And so the United States, for—starting really a hundred years ago, became the elephant in world finance in so many areas and in food. And we have to be very careful about this because, as Minister Prabowo was saying, there’s so much potential in Indonesia, in Nigeria, in DRC, elsewhere in the world. We don’t have to rely on row crops in the United States. So we’ve got to use our leadership wisely.

DESI ANWAR: OK. Well, just very quickly, what would you like to see the outcome of this G20? What concrete results, maybe what, you know, maybe agreement? Or, you know, what kind of things would you like?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think what we’ll see is—already in President Biden’s talking points he’s elevated the issue of food security. And one of the things we’re going to do from this conference, I hope, is give talking points to the White House so we’ll get further intensification of this focus on food security. It really is a fundamental, and I think the White House is coming to understand this.

It’s not something about getting farmers to vote for a particular political party so, therefore, you’ve got to be nice in Iowa. It’s much bigger than this. And in the United States, we’re fortunate because we don’t really have to import food. We do like shrimp, get some of it from here, but—and tuna. But we don’t have to. It’s a matter of taste. So in the American discussions, we’ve misunderstood and underestimated the issue of food security. We have to change our appreciation of priorities.

DESI ANWAR: And, OK, Gaurav, I mean, the general mentioned about innovation and technology. Obviously, you know, food—it’s important to have innovation as well as technology. And more importantly, actually, is to energize people to care about food production. What are your solutions to, you know, achieving greater food security by strengthening, for example, the farmers or involving the young people, women and, you know, all sectors of society to focus on this?

GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Now, I was talking to one of my friends from Africa and they mentioned that the US is kind of the head of the kite. And once there is tailwinds at the head of the kite, the effect is felt all the way at the back and there is a big lag that happens.

It is important to understand that for the reasons that we have been the elephant that turned left or right, the reasons are we need to be really careful and work together and understand that working with our partners like Indonesia and with other nations is the way to build alliances. By providing maybe financing through institutions like DFC, working with policymakers—and we have had several conversations—General Clark and I had several conversations with folks at the White House, folks in Congress, in the Senate on these critical issues as to the role that the US can play. And it’s important to understand that we cannot—cannot—put countries like Indonesia in that impossible spot to make a choice, because the realities of what we are facing back in the US and the realities here in Indonesia or other countries are too separate, and the basic sustenance needs of working together is essential.

The war in Ukraine is an essential—is an essential conversation to talk about. And I was in New York right around the time when we had the Citizens Award, October 19, and I had conversations with one of the members from the U.N. And they showed—and she told me of this large discrepancy between the support that goes to the issue of Ukraine and what’s happening in Africa, what’s happening in Asia. The value of human life is the same, whether it is a child in Ukraine or whether it is a child in America, child in Africa, or child here. It’s all the same. And the conversation that behooves us today is how do you create a program that prioritizes food security, energy security, and national security as one issue. And hopefully, we will be able to achieve that with—

DESI ANWAR: This is what you’d like to see come out from this G20 summit, OK.

We’ve run out of time, but let me just ask a final question to Minister Prabowo, or maybe you’d like to read your notes first. All right. In your presentation, I mean, there was a lot of gloom and doom about, you know, the threat of nuclear war. I just want to ask how, you know, the—how critical is a—I mean, do you think there will be soon at some point wars due to climate change and when food supply gets disrupted and when, you know, people are fighting for diminished food resources, energy resources, water resources? Is this something that, you know, in your—do you visualize, do you foresee this as something that is the threat that keeps you awake at night?

MINISTER PRABOWO SUBIANTO: Well, you know, I—of course, you know, I—basically, deep down in me I am an optimist. Yeah. But as someone who has to deal with security/defense, we have to deal with reality. And of course, our reference are to the players, the big players. So when I hear very senior US former military leaders saying they’re worried about nuclear war, when I hear many strategic thinkers like Professor Kissinger—Henry Kissinger, when I hear very important academics who are—whose life is about studying geopolitical conflict like Professor Mearsheimer or Professor Jeffrey Sachs or many of the leaders of this—of the world powers, when they talk that they’re worried about nuclear conflict, that—I’m worried, you know, because we are basically—we are—we don’t see the logic of a major world conflict in this time and age. Ideology-wise, every country can choose their own way to prosperity.

Every country has their own right, you know? The West have been very successful in democracy, but some other countries have succeeded. You cannot—you cannot deny that China has succeeded in their economic growth. They have succeeded in eliminating extreme poverty. We cannot hide this. We cannot denigrate this. So the success of the West, yes. But we have to see the success of China and the aspirations of other countries—Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa.

So what I’m saying is that I base my assessment on the assessments of the big powers—of the strategic thinkers of the big powers. When they say they are worried, well, I think it’s also logical that I’m worried.

DESI ANWAR: OK. Not to end on a pessimistic note. Thank you very much. Minister Prabowo, for that remark.

Well, let’s hope this G20 summit will be, you know, the path to global collaboration, will the way to world peace, because this is what we all want, right? OK, big hands, please. General Clark, Minister Prabowo, and also Gaurav, thank you very much for an interesting fire chat side. And I would now like to give the program back to the next session. Thank you.

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