Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security


Theme 2:
What works best? Drawing on existing knowledge, please tell us how we should go about addressing the hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition challenges head on.   For example, how important are questions of improved governance, rights-based approaches, accountability and political commitment in achieving food and nutrition security?


In the development field, the concept of governance achieved prominence at the end of the 1980s and beginning of 1990s with the recognition that development policies were failing, in part because insufficient attention had been paid to political and institutional processes and outcomes. These concerns also were reflected in the field of food and nutrition security , and took special relevance due to challenges aroused by the globalization, with different positions that looked at the global level as the most challenging level, or at the national level as the critical point where governance weaknesses constrains the adequate provision of public goods.

After the 2007-2008 crisis, all the stakeholders have recognised the need to reconfigure the prevailing arrangements for food and nutrition governance at global level and  also the critical role of governance at national and local level. This consensus was expressed in  World Summit on Food Security Declaration (2009) that  underlines the need to “Foster strategic coordination at national, regional and global level to improve governance, promote better allocation of resources, avoid duplication of efforts and identify response-gaps.”;  it has also seen in the move to reform the FAO Committee on Food Security (CFS). Simultaneously the scope of governance has passed from the visions limited to government responsibilities to the recognition of the role of civil society and private sector.

The current governance of food and nutrition security reflects its multidimensionality and cuts across many areas of policy such as development, production, health,  trade, science, human rights and climate change. At global level there is no single international institution with the exclusive mandate to address food and nutrition security; instead there are multiple institutions that are responsible for various aspects. In addition, other common types of international institutions, such as special programs or funds, and informal institutions have a relevant impact and play determinant roles (e.g. the G8/G20). All those elements configure governance of food and nutrition security as a complex regime with rules and functions determined in distinct international fora, and a heterogeneous nature in terms of membership composition and decision-making procedures. At national levels a similar complex regime  prevails, with public and private institutions and stakeholders interacting in a multisectorial scenario influenced by the international framework and external actors.

The complex regime of governance food and nutrition security has not achieved the results intended and is under strong scrutiny. It does not provide mechanisms that ensure that humankind overcomes the challenges it  face yet, it is however the product of a long process of cooperation. Improving it requires to understand the gaps, conflicts and weaknesses that cause its poor functionality.

The first is an issue of overall institutional architecture which creates overlaps  of authority and jurisdictions of different bodies and institutions.  

The second issue is the lack of internal coherence and consistency when it comes to principles, laws and regulations, stemming from the lack of consensus on hierarchy of different laws and gaps in the global regulatory system to resolve contradictions, as it is the case between trade and human rights.

The third issue is a two part problem: 1)lack of practical linkages between bodies that necessarily should be linked, and 2) absence of follow up between them, that is to say, a disconnect between deliberative institutions where consensus on diagnoses and recommendations are reached and those international bodies that handle negotiations and decision-making needed to put in practice what is agreed upon by the former.  

Those issues are not specific to ‘food and nutrition security’ governance; they are also seen in a variety of development areas, such trade or environment, themselves governed by complex regimes. The global governance system yet does not offer effective solutions to resolve the  contradictions resulting from the above mentioned issues.

Building the Post-2015 Global Development Framework.

The reform of Committee on Food Security (CFS) has been very successful but there needs to be a continued international effort to strengthen the mechanisms for enabling the participation of all stakeholders and countries in a meaningful way and facilitate more inclusive dialogue processes. The regional integration bodies could play a bigger role acting as a node that facilitates the link between the global and the national level  in the dialogues and deliberative aspects, but also by taking action to enable States in implementing recommendations from CFS, thus filling some gaps of the governance regime.

The regional actors  could also play a relevant role to build a global framework sensitive to regional and national contexts and capacities and facilitate national ownership. Building  frameworks in this way facilitates their adoption thru stronger commitments and realistic timeframes.

Within the process of developing the global framework there should be space for committing to global governance as a goal or target in and of itself. This should fill some gaps related to overlapping mandates,  lack of adequate mechanisms to resolve conflict of principles, laws and regulations, and other system failures.

FAO member States approved the Voluntary guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security that constitutes a framework for enhancing food and nutrition security governance at national level. The Right to Adequate Food can also be a reference point to overcome some of the inconsistencies of food and nutrition security governance at global level.

Improving governance at national level matters and is a critical aspect but it has to be complemented with a clear and sound improvement at  international level, otherwise we will perpetuate the weaknesses and failures of past decades.


Juan Carlos García y Cebolla
Team Leader – Right to Food
Agricultural Development Economics Division (ESA), FAO
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome, Italy