FAO chief briefs the United Nations Security Council on measures to break the vicious cycle between conflict and hunger

/New York – With conflicts, extreme weather, desert locusts, economic shocks and now COVID-19, likely to push more people into acute food insecurity, coherent actions are needed among humanitarian, development and peace actors, to address the root causes  that perpetuate existing food crises, said FAO-Director-General QU Dongyu today.

He delivered his remarks at an online briefing organized by the United Nations Security Council on the topic of ‘The Protection of civilians from conflict induced hunger’.

Speaking about the global food crises, the FAO chief stressed that it is impossible to ignore impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the food security of the world’s most vulnerable populations, and assured the participants that FAO is working at all levels with its member states to reduce the risk of the pandemic disrupting food systems and causing a global food crisis.

During the meeting, Qu also presented the key findings of the Global Report on Food Crises  – launched jointly today by the European Union, FAO, the World Food Programme and 12 other partners – clearly showing the link between conflict and rising levels of acute food insecurity on one hand, and between livelihood interventions and peace processes on the other. To this end, the FAO Director-General pointed to the importance of early warning and quick action to pre-empt food insecurity caused by conflicts.

“We need prevention, as the forecasts for food security in 2020 look bleak,” he said, referring to the report’s key findings.

According to the report, even before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global food systems and livelihoods of millions of people at the start of the year, 135 million people in 55 countries were already trapped in food crises situations struggling to cope with high levels of hunger.

This is the highest number in the last four years. Almost 60 percent of all those people in 2019 faced acute hunger in contexts of conflict or instability.

In this context, the FAO Director-General expressed concern about the situation in South Sudan, where more than half of the population are expected to face crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, and in Yemen, which remains the world’s worst food and malnutrition crisis with the number of acutely food-insecure people expected to exceed 17 million in 2020.

FAO’s experience shows that interventions supporting livelihoods and food security contribute to local peace and broader peace processes, Qu said, stressing the need to address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict.

As an example, he cited the nature of conflicts in the Sahel where 12 million people experienced acute food insecurity last year, and this number could rise to 17 million during the upcoming lean season.

In many areas, the relationship between farmers and pastoral herders, which was once cooperative, has become confrontational as they compete over the same scarce resources, Qu said.

By closely monitoring the evolution of these shocks, rapid intervention to mitigate their impacts is possible, and FAO and its partners are already working to strengthen the resilience of these communities, with a focus on cross-border areas, he added.

“We are committed to rising to this challenge and we have mobilized our organizations in ways not seen since the foundation of the UN,” he stressed.

Qu concluded by saying that FAO will continue supporting the Security Council by providing professional consultation with up-to-date information and analysis on food security in conflict contexts to facilitate the Council’s timely action to avert food crises.

During the meeting, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley; and the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, also delivered remarks. Today’s meeting was convened at the initiative of the Dominican Republic, this month’s Council president.