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Good Food Security Governance: The Crucial Premise to the Twin-Track Approach

Events - 05.12.2011

World leaders have committed themselves on several occasions to work towards eradicating world hunger. The results so far are mixed at best as illustrated by the well-known graph on the prevalence of undernourishment. The sad story is quickly told: The problem of undernourishment is structural. A huge socket of 850 million are food insecure worldwide – with more in times of crises. There is thus a growing belief of governance as the missing ingredient in the ‘standard’ response to food insecurity.

graphWithout due recognition of governance concerns, fighting food insecurity is elusive. The essence of this statement – a development approach that focuses purely on technical consideration but ignores governance – is now common-sense. From Kofi Annan1 (“Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development”) to Tony Blair2 (“aid is one half; the other half is governance”) there is a broad consensus about the relevance of governance.

Governance is not a silver bullet. Certainly, food security policies and programmes need to reflect a sound analysis of the situation and promote the best technical solution to a problem. But development doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in a social, cultural, political and economical context; involves individuals’ hopes, wishes, beliefs and agendas; institutions with mandates and authority and follows processes that are either set by law or are customary to a country or area. Food security governance seems to be something intangible and amorphous. But there is little doubt that it determines to a great extent whether a food security action is successful or not (or whether it is implemented at all).

The task now is to better understand the factors and elements that comprise food security governance and to find ways to expand our technical work on food security by an additional emphasis on governance. The good news is that we do not have to start from scratch. When FAO’s member states in 2004 adopted the ‘Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security”(Right to Food Guidelines for short) they already agreed on the steps to be taken to add governance to food security.

A debate is needed to clarify the concept of food security governance, explain its boundaries and its relation to concepts and terms of a similar nature. We also need to review the tools at hand, learn how they have been used and identify gaps that can be closed by future work. We need to generate a common understanding within FAO and its Government partners on the term and its use and learn from the experience made by different parts in the house that work on the topic of governance or, in their work, acknowledged the huge importance of this area of work.


The workshop seeks to achieve three objectives:

  • Examine whether a unique angle to governance exists for food security and, if so, what comprises ‘food security governance’
  • Identify the limiting factors that prevent improved governance for food security
  • Using the concept in operational terms: Identify the pillars for FAO’s work on governance in 2012/13


1. Report of the Secretary General on the work of the organization, 1998
2. Africa Governance Initiative, Tony Blair Office, http://www.tonyblairoffice.org/africa


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