Addressing hunger and poverty is the “foundation for stability and peace”, said QU Dongyu, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at a webinar hosted by the Vatican to discuss the link between conflict and hunger. (Photo quoted from FAO’s website)
Entitled “Food for All: Food conflicts and the future of food systems”, the webinar explored the topic of food insecurity and conflict, and discussed how best to address hunger and food insecurity around the world.
“In 2020, at least 155 million people experienced acute food insecurity, at crisis level or worse, across 55 countries and territories. Two-thirds of them were pushed into acute food insecurity by conflicts and natural disasters,” the Director-General said, adding “Where there is widespread conflict and instability, there is food insecurity, food loss and less resilient agri-food systems.”
At the same time, he noted, interventions that increase the resilience and inclusiveness of agriculture-based livelihoods and support food security have an important role in promoting local peace, “as they address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict.”
As an example, the Director-General alluded to the Sahel region, where countries have been particularly hit by acute food insecurity in 2020, and peace remains fragile in many areas. “Conflict and hunger are mutually reinforcing, we need to address them together to end this vicious cycle,” he stressed.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, opened the discussion, saying that food insecurity is not simply a lack of food, but a series of interconnected factors affecting food production and distribution, including economic and political.
Prof. Stefano Zamagni, President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, stressed that food systems should be inclusive for all food system actors, especially for the smallholder farmers, women, indigenous people and youth who are often marginalized. Father Fabio Mussi, PIME, Coordinator of Caritas of the Diocese of Yagoua, Cameroon,drew on his experiences in Africa to highlight the link between conflict, COVID-19 and food insecurity, as well as laying out some potential solutions.
Hunger and COVID-19
The impact of COVID-19 was a much-discussed topic throughout the webinar. QU Dongyu drew attention to the impact that COVID-19 has had on food security across the world, adding that the pandemic has “revealed the fragility of our global agri-food systems” and highlighted “the need for MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems ”.
“Multiple shocks are likely to continue pushing more people into acute food insecurity,” he said, urging humanitarian, development and peace actors to work together to address the root causes of acute food insecurity through well-targeted investments supporting peace, in addition to a sustained humanitarian response.
This sentiment was echoed by Cardinal Turkson, who highlighted the impact that COVID-19 will have on undernourishment, adding that the peace of the world depends on how we deal with hunger in the world.
The event was the third and final in a series of webinars organised by the Vatican to exchange ideas, testimonies, and the Holy See's perspective on food justice.
Held in the run-up to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit taking place in September, the series had the objective of showcasing how an integral ecology – meaning the interconnections between social systems and ecosystems – can inspire the regeneration of food systems in the post-COVID future. The webinars have also provided a platform for women, indigenous communities, people living in crisis settings, smallholder farmers, and others to make their voices heard, in order to learn from their experiences and traditional wisdom, and inform global debates and action plans.