GLOBAL - Improving food security can help build sustainable peace and even ward off looming conflict, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told members of the United Nations Security Council.
"We know that actions to promote food security can help prevent a crisis, mitigate its impacts and promote post-crisis recovery and healing," Graziano da Silva said.
Conflicts are a key driver of protracted crises, where hunger is three times more likely than in the rest of the developing world, while the countries with the highest levels of food insecurity are also those most affected by conflict.
That is borne out in cases ranging from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan and Somalia. He also cited post-conflict Angola and Nicaragua, post-genocide Rwanda and post-independence Timor-Leste as cases where peace and food security were mutually reinforcing.
The opposite can also prove true, leading to a relapse into violence.
Simple measures to boost farming
Failure to boost food security can jeopardise stabilisation processes, a risk currently faced by Yemen and also in Central African Republic, where half the population is now food insecure, Mr Graziano da Silva said.
Food security assistance can be used even during conflicts, he added, noting that FAO's final push to eliminate the livestock disease Rinderpest took place amid war and required an approach allowing animal health workers to gain access to cattle.
Syria is another example. Today, many farmers have fled their lands, but those that have remained are growing almost two-thirds of their pre-crisis wheat output, helped by FAO's distribution of seeds. That's inadequate but "has been critical to prevent even worse displacement and to set the foundations for rebuilding" the country, he said.
Fostering rural development can also facilitate peace building efforts. FAO has agreed to partner with the government of Colombia to fast-track projects enhancing food security and rural development in an effort to consolidate the peace treaty that appears close to being reached there.
International efforts in favour of peace will be more effective if they include measures to boost the resilience of rural households and communities, as it is they and their livelihoods that bear the brunt of the damage in contemporary conflicts.
"Where food security can be a force for stability, we have to look to food and agriculture as pathways to peace and security," he added.
Efforts to support farming and rural livelihoods can be a motivating rationale for bringing people together after conflict, and offer "peace dividends" by contributing to the sustainability of peace, he said.
The UN's duties and role
Today's event was organised by the Government of Angola, which holds the Security Council presidency in March, and the Government of Spain, currently also a member of the Council.
They convened this meeting of the Security Council under the Arria Formula, a working method introduced a quarter of a century ago that has been increasingly used to discuss issues related to peace and development and which also allows Council members to take advantage of expertise and information provided by outsiders.
It was the Food and Agriculture Organization's first-ever participation.
Mr Graziano da Silva pointed out that a core premise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all UN member states last year is that "there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development."
He also noted that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's "One Humanity: Shared Responsibility" report for the World Humanitarian Summit to held in Istanbul in May calls for "active engagement in conflict prevention" by all international actors including the Security Council.
"As we all know, prevention requires addressing the root causes of conflict, including hunger and food insecurity," Mr Graziano da Silva said.
He announced that FAO is now developing a corporate peacebuilding policy to amplify its contribution to conflict prevention, which entails creating a more efficient and flexible framework for collaboration.
"Implementing such a policy will require stronger engagement with governments and a wide range of peace building, humanitarian and development actors," he said, noting that FAO has a long history of working closely on related matters with partners both outside and within the UN system, including the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
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