War-related Famine: Action Needed.
In a 11 November 2022 presentation to the Paris Peace Forum, David Beasley, Director of the United Nations World Food Programme warned that there are real dangers of famine in countries currently in armed conflict or which have been in armed conflict in recent years such as Afghanistan. He mentioned in particular Somalia where the conflicts have not received the media attention they deserved. (1)
He also mentioned the situation in South Sudan, in Ethiopia, in the countries of the Sahel, and in Yemen. In each of these countries, the agricultural infrastructure has been sharply damaged. Infrastructure rebuilding, the creation of water wells, the redevelopment of livestock, the establishment of functioning markets would take a great deal of effort even if peace is restored. These conflicts have led to migration, especially of men which has further weakened the agricultural potential. In many of the African countries he mentioned, there is also the impact of climate change and a reduction of rainfall. The war in Ukraine has also had a negative impact on food supplies and on food prices.
Executive Director David Beasley meets women and men resorting degraded land in Burkina Faso. Photo: WFP/George Fominyen (January 2021).
By Editorstandard, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
The current World Food Crisis.
There is a growing consensus that radical measures are needed to deal with the current world food crisis. These measures will have to be taken in a holistic way with actions going from the local level with the individual farmer to the national level with new government policies, to the multi-State regional level, embodied by the European Union and the African Union, and to the world level with better coordinated efforts through the United Nations. In the past, food security has too often been treated as a collection of national food security initiatives. While the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all is essential, a focus on the formulation of national plans is clearly inadequate. There is a need for a world plan of action.
Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash.
The world requires a World Food Policy.
Today, cooperation is needed among the U.N. agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations, and the millions of food producers to respond to the growing food needs. There is a need for swift, short-term measures to help people now suffering from lack of food and malnutrition due to high food prices, inadequate distribution, and situations of violence. Such short-term action requires additional funding for the U.N. World Food Programme and the release of national food stocks. However, it is on the longer-range and structural issues on which we must focus our attention. The world requires a World Food Policy and a clear Plan of Action coupled with increasingly effective measures of armed conflict resolution through negotiations in good faith.
The promotion of a coordinated World Food Policy.
The Association of World Citizens has taken a lead in the promotion of a coordinated world food policy with an emphasis on the small-scale farmer and a new awareness that humans are part of Nature with a special duty of care and respect for the Earth’s inter-related life-support system. As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World:
“Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live”. (2)
In a Special Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council devoted to the food crisis, I outlined five areas that should be of special concern: the impact of climate change, energy costs, the use of ethanol and other biofuels, the food production and export policies of major agricultural-production countries, and the role of speculation in commodities. (3) These issues still require attention as we develop a World Food Policy. Short-term and longer-range action is needed.
Photo by Steve Knutson on Unsplash.
1) For a good overview of the many-sided conflicts in Somalia see Serah G. Phillips. When There Was No Aid: War and Peace in Somaliland. (Ithaca. NY: Cornell University Press, 2020, 227pp.)
2) Stringfellow Barr. Citizens of the World. (Garden City. NY: Doubleday and Co, 1952, 285pp.)
3) Association of World Citizens Written Statement: A/HRC/S-7, NGO/2, 21 May 2008
René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.