Global Food Security Cluster turns 10: ending hunger is everyone’s job

Annual meeting of Cluster’s global partners kicks off today

11 November 2020, Rome - The Global Food Security Cluster (gFSC), which coordinates life-saving food and livelihoods assistance to people hit by crises, turns 10 this year and marked the anniversary at its bi-annual meeting of global partners held virtually today, with the participation of the FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, the WFP Deputy-Executive Director Amir Abdulla, and gFSC partners from NGOs and academia.

FAO together with WFP - the Cluster's co-lead agencies - work with 70 global partners, governments, and thousands of local and international NGOs, through the gFSC, to deliver life-saving food and livelihoods assistance in over 30 countries.

The Director-General Qu highlighted that the mission of the gFSC was even more relevant now as the COVID-19 pandemic has been upending other calamities, such as conflicts and pest outbreaks, and tipping more people into high levels of hunger.

"Thanks to a united call to meet the growing food needs of millions and to stabilize food supply chains, FAO and WFP have ensured that food security became one of the cornerstones of the global response to the pandemic and peace building up," said Qu.

The gFSC has established a COVID-19 working group, with over 100 specialists from 38 organizations, to provide technical support and guidance to partners on the ground since the start of the pandemic, in order to manage rapidly changing and uncertain operating environments.

"Our most impactful collaboration is at the country level," said the FAO Director-General.

He underlined the importance of country ownership and strengthening local capacity, giving examples of how FAO was working with governments and other partners to make this happen.

One such example is the Desert Locust response in East Africa where governments, supported by FAO, lead control operations whilst local partners and NGOs raise awareness about the pest, flag infestations, and support farmers to safeguard their livelihoods.

Qu pointed out that FAO was committed to continue working with all partners and seek new ways to improve and refine the Cluster and its work so that it remained "fit for purpose in a fast-changing world".

Abdulla stressed that many places were facing COVID-19, conflict and climate change at the same time. This is why coordinated actions and wise investments of funding - for the greatest return and to avoid duplications - were so important, said Abdulla, adding that the Cluster has been playing a "critical role" in this.

"All organizations, partners, all of us working in this area, we need to focus on the vulnerable, focus on the hungry. We are driven by the Cluster's core values, and that is about integrating, coordinating but doing so with integrity, humanity and inclusion," said Abdulla.

He also noted that WFP's being awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize for Peace was a recognition of "what we all do", of all partners.

Baroness Valerie Amos, Master of University College Oxford and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator joined in opening the meeting through a video message. She congratulated the Cluster for its work to ensure that people caught up in emergencies get food - what she described as "an absolute priority in those moments of crises".

"With the COVID pandemic spreading to so many countries and regions of the world, your task will remain urgent," said Amos, adding that whilst there should have been "much better progress", the gFSC's "contribution and work with partners is already making a difference".

The Global Food Security Cluster - 10 years on

Bruno Minjauw, Global Food Security Cluster Coordinator, and Naouar Labidi, Senior Global Food Security Advisor, outlined the state of hunger in the world and why the Cluster started, what it has achieved so far and where it's headed given today's unprecedented challenges.

Over the past 10 years, the gFSC has responded to major crises - from providing food relief to people hit by typhon Haiyan in the Philippines, Ebola in West Africa - to name a few - to pulling people from the brink of famine in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen in 2017, and fighting today's Desert Locust outbreaks and COVID-19 crisis.

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) - one of the eight members of gFSC's Strategic Advisory Group, who spoke about challenges and opportunities for the Cluster's work, stressed that "the next ten years will be tough", and that he feared the gaps between needs and resources would grow even more. As opportunities, he listed making needs assessment tools "even more real time" so that access to hard-to-reach communities could be improved, and better communications with communities.

More about the Cluster

The gFSC's emergency food operations rely on strong monitoring and evaluation systems, data collection and information sharing, which ensure that actions to stamp out acute food insecurity are efficient - there are no gaps, duplications or time and money lost.

The gFSC bridges emergency response with longer-term resilience so that vulnerable populations are not only pulled back from the edge but have the knowledge and means to improve their lives and livelihoods in the long run.

Since 2013, the gFSC has gone from targeting 52 million people for assistance to over 100 million in 2020. Today, the gFSC needs $9 billion in funding - well over double the amount needed 10 years ago when the Cluster was born.

More about the gFSC meeting

Taking place on 11-12 November, the virtual Global Partners Meeting will cover a range of topics, including: coordination challenges and new ways of working; the resurgence of famine; food security and conflict; climate variability and food systems; as well as improving and adapting localization.

The full list of topics and speakers is available here.

Photo: ©FAO/Albert Gonzalez Farran
Women carry fishing kits and seeds provided by FAO in South Sudan. Part of a rapid response mission by FAO, WFP, OXFAM and Save the Children to provide food, medicines, seeds and fishing kits to people in need.