FAO Liaison Office in New York

UN Security Council sounds alarm over link between conflict and hunger in the COVID-19 era


Today the United Nations Security Council held an open video conference on the “Protection of civilians from conflict-induced hunger”. Organized under the Presidency of the Dominican Republic, the event marked the first time that Security Council statements have been fully webcast since teleworking was effectuated to counter the spread of COVID-19. Keynote speakers included the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Qu Dongyu; the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley; and the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland.

Conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have all impacted negatively on the state of food security around the world. "We need prevention, as the forecasts for food security in 2020 look bleak," noted FAO Director-General. He went on to explain how interventions supporting livelihoods and food security contribute to local peace, and broader peace processes, as they address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict.

Presently, cross-border areas, such as in the Liptako-Gourma region of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are particularly fragile. In the Sahel, last year 12 million people experienced acute food insecurity, and this number could rise to 17 million during the upcoming 2020 lean season.

WFP Executive Director asked all parties involved in conflicts to grant the United Nations swift and unimpeded humanitarian access to vulnerable communities. “Humanitarian goods and commercial trade must continue flowing across borders, because they are the lifeline of global food systems, as well as the global economy,” added Beasley.

In late March, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged warring parties across the world to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19, which he called “the common enemy that is now threatening all of humankind”.

The Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council invited Member States to ratify the recent amendment of the Rome Statute, which expands the war crime of deliberate starvation to situations of non-international armed conflicts. Egeland affirmed that “the starvation of civilians in warfare and the denial of humanitarian relief are grave violations of humanitarian law for which perpetrators must be held to account.”