FAO focus on breaking the cycle between conflict and hunger

Director-General calls for building resilient livelihoods as the path to sustainable peace

25 September, 2018, New York - Boosting the resilience of the most vulnerable people, activating early responses to early warnings and coordinating interventions are the three pillars of an integrated approach to peace and food security, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at a side event during the United Nations General Assembly.

"There will be no sustainable peace if people continue to be left behind," he said at a panel discussion of ways to break the cycle between conflict and hunger. "If we do not create conditions for vulnerable people and communities to thrive and live with dignity, this will trigger conflict, instability and forced migration."

He specifically referred to efforts by FAO, along with the International Fund for Agriculture and the World Food Programme and other partners, in the Sahel region, which has been wracked by lethal conflicts between farmers and pastoralists over natural resources and by armed militias such as Boko Haram. Improving pasture and water management, adopting climate-smart agriculture practices, distribution of fertilizers and seeds, control of livestock and plant diseases as well as humanitarian relief are key interventions for creating peace and stability and achieving food security.

"We have to address the root causes of peace and instability," Graziano da Silva said. "Hunger and food insecurity are among these."

The role of the UN Security Council on conflict and hunger
In May 2018, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2417, which explicitly recognized the link between conflict and hunger.

This came after a result of a series of engagements at the UN's most important body during the last couple of years. In 2016, FAO co-organized an Arria Formula Meeting at the Security Council together with Spain and Angola which discussed, for the first time, the relation between food security and peace. A practical result of this meeting was the decision to producea periodic and specific joint report by FAO and the World Food Programme that would address the food insecurity situation in the countries under conflict which are regularly assessed the Security Council.

Throughout 2017, the evidence for the link between conflict and hunger was growing:  In March of that year, the first Global Report on Food Crises was launched, evidencing the relation between the increase of acute food insecurity and the escalation of conflicts; in June, the Directors-General of both FAO and the World Health Organization briefed the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Yemen; in September, the 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report highlighted that about 60 percent of hungry people were living in conflict contexts. 

This year, the Director-General briefed the Executive Committee of the Office of the Secretary-General on the issue on land and conflict, as part of the work of the Organization with the pastoralists, and the Organization launched the Corporate Framework to Contributing to Sustaining Peace in the framework of Agenda 2030, which was shared with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

"When we first brought this approach to the Security Council in 2016, we were asked by its members: what does a food and agriculture organization has to do with us? Well, now they use our  regular data as part of their analysis and passed a resolution which address the cycle of hunger in conflict-affected countries", said Graziano da Silva.

Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, is a champion of that outcome. "I welcome the data which is regularly provided by FAO and WFP to the UN Security Council," he said. "Conflict prevention is key to eradicate hunger."

FAO, peace and partnerships

FAO's expertise in food and agriculture have powerful contributions to make in sustaining peace and achieving Zero Hunger, as the Director-General has been emphasizing in recent years, notably to the UN Peacebuilding Commission and the UN Security Council.

Today's panel, opened by the UN Secretary General  and including senior officials from IFAD, WFP, the European Commission, the Government of the Netherlands and the head of Action Contre la Faim, focused on how to operationalize that Resolution, promote investments in food security that sustain peace, and improve access to quality data on hunger in fragile contexts.

The role of partnerships is essential and can be strengthened, Graziano da Silva said.

FAO views the World Bank's Famine Action Mechanism, which harnesses inputs from major technology companies, as a promising initiative that can complement FAO's existing early warning toolkits to forecast crisis and enable action before they happen.

Another important emerging forum is the Global Network against Food Crises, backed by a broad spectrum of stakeholders including Africa's Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the European Union, and USAID. Its annual reports have since 2017 provided a solid evidence base for coordination around decision-making processes and resource allocations.

©FAO/Kevin Downs
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva speaks at a side event during the UN General Assembly.