20 November 2018

Food Security: Strengthening resilience to climate-fragility risks

Food Security: Strengthening resilience to climate-fragility risks

Violent conflict and global environmental changes endanger the progress that many countries have made in improving food security, often with the support of the international community. Access to sufficient and healthy food is crucial to human security and welfare. It also has important repercussions for societal, state and international security. Whereas the exact role of food insecurity in driving unrest and other forms of conflict remains contested, the stunted development and risks of disaster and displacement – as well as the impacts of food insecurity on governments’ legitimacy – constitute plausible security risks that a preventive foreign policy needs to address. Alleviating these risks requires intensified efforts to improve access, availability, stability and utilization of food and to shift towards managing risks rather than exclusive reliance on post-hoc responses to disasters and crises.

Ensuring global food security will entail using fewer natural resources to produce both more and better quality food while increasing environmental sustainability. This challenge is compounded by the need to address the geographic and social distribution of food security threats. The international community can play a role in helping to get the balance between inevitable trade-offs right. This policy brief maps out specific risks that foreign policy-makers need to be aware of.

Even if primary responsibility lies with national governments, the international community has a residual responsibility – and, if rejecting that responsibility, will have to cope with the consequences of inaction such as large-scale suffering and potential destabilization. Preventing food insecurity from turning into an issue of international peace and security is hence not only about altruism, but enlightened self-interest.