Food Systems in Conflict and Peacebuilding Settings: Ways Forward
For food system transformation in conflict-afflicted, it is important to apply a peacebuilding lens to food security interventions and peacebuilding efforts.
This policy paper is the third and final paper of a three-part series on food systems in conflict and peacebuilding settings. The objectives of the series are to emphasize the urgency of addressing the relationship between conflict and food insecurity and to point out existing opportunities to do so. The first paper outlined the pathways and interconnections between violent conflict and food insecurity, which have a two-way relationship. On the one hand, violent conflict is a main driver of food insecurity because it disrupts food systems, affecting people’s ability to produce, trade and access food. On the other hand, food insecurity can be a contributing factor to the emergence and duration of conflict, depending on the context. The most common factors that exacerbate the risk of food insecurity contributing to violent conflict include environmental stress and climate-induced food shortages, production resource competition and grievances related to social issues and food price. The second paper contextualized these pathways and interconnections with case studies of Venezuela and Yemen. The case studies showed that the conflict environment has had detrimental consequences for food security in both countries; it caused the food systems of these oil-producing and food import-dependent countries to contract. The paper identified four key themes that demonstrate the complex relationships and linkages between conflict and food insecurity: a shift from agriculture to oil, detrimental government policies, migration and displacement and the politicization and weaponization of food, including food aid.
Conversely, equitable and sustainable food systems have the power to foster peace. This paper explores the opportunities for breaking the vicious cycle between food insecurity and violent conflict. For food system transformation and food security activities in conflict and peacebuilding settings to create conditions conducive to peace, it is important to apply a peacebuilding lens to food security interventions and a food security lens to peacebuilding efforts. The lenses can be integrated by taking a humanitarian–development–peace (HDP) nexus approach that enhances the integration of humanitarian, development and peace interventions.
Knowledge Gaps in Global Responses and Policy Debates
People’s sustainable development depends on their food security, which in turn depends on food systems. Food systems, however, are in crisis. Food systems need to transform to be more equitable and sustainable. Such transformation in conflict-affected countries demands a coherent response that combines immediate humanitarian assistance with investment in local capacities to prevent, cope with and recover from crises, and to sustain peace.
The United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) 2021 set the stage for a global food systems transformation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. However, the summit failed to unpack and discuss the pathways between food insecurity and conflict or to integrate a peacebuilding lens into its food systems approach to achieving the SDGs, despite that conflict continues to be the main driver of food insecurity.
Food Systems Transformation Needs Concerted Implementation and Funding
The gaps in global responses and policy debates are manifested in a persistent fragmented approach to funding and to implementing food security and food system transformation activities. Intervening organizations and their response plans often fall firmly into either the humanitarian, development or peacebuilding sectors, which means they do not address the full spectrum of food security issues. Barriers to addressing the full spectrum include the tendency of humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors to neglect the peace element and to instead focus on the dual nexus between humanitarian and development work. Furthermore, diverse understandings of peace and its interconnection with food systems make it difficult for humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors to adopt joint positions and learn from each other. Ways of working need to be more integrative while at the same time ensuring that humanitarian principles are not undermined. One example is to work through consortia comprised of international, national and community-based organizations with a balance of expertise across the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sectors, which can help better integrate the peace element.
Furthermore, conflict and peacebuilding settings tend to be very dynamic and therefore require flexible and, particularly, multi-year donor funding. This type of funding enhances the ability of agencies to respond quickly to changes in the context and to work towards peacebuilding objectives and outcomes that have a long time span. However, donors need to do more towards their commitments to make funding flexible, longer term and more localized.
Transforming Food Systems: Local Food Systems in Focus
Context-specific and locally led and owned humanitarian and development interventions that build on existing local capacities are essential for the long-term success of food system transformation. However, there is a status quo that works in favour of multinational corporations and produces unsustainable and unequitable outcomes that fuel grievances among local food system actors, which can lead to conflict, and therefore it needs to be reconsidered.
Furthermore, such a local approach is necessary, particularly in conflict and peacebuilding settings, to strengthen sustainable and just elements of food systems and transform unjust elements that can contribute to conflict. However, flexible and multi-year funding is not sufficiently dispersed to local actors. The result is that decision-making power remains centralized within the UN and some large international NGOs.
Operationalizing a Nexus Approach in Support of Food Security in Conflict and Peacebuilding Settings
Food and peace facilities have been proposed as an innovative approach to breaking the pathways between food insecurity and conflict while strengthening and transforming food systems to generate conditions conducive to peace. A food and peace facility would be a multidisciplinary hub constituting humanitarian, development and peacebuilding analysts, actors and funders in conflict-affected countries. The overarching objective of the facilities would be to generate the evidence and analysis needed to better understand the pathways in local contexts. Furthermore, the facilities would support and incentivize actors to implement a nexus approach for addressing the double burden of food insecurity and conflict. They would institutionalize cooperation by bringing together actors engaged in different elements of food systems across the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sectors from the local to the international. This kind of collaboration would ensure that the analysis that informs operations and funding streams incorporates highly contextual dynamics.
The paper ends with four recommendations for humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors. The recommendations seek to provide guidance for measures that can be taken to advance an integrated approach to food security and food system transformation activities. An integrated approach is needed to break the pathways between food insecurity and conflict while strengthening and transforming food systems to generate conditions conducive to peace.
- The state holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union should work to include peace and conflict as critical items on the agendas of upcoming summits and multilateral events on food security and food systems.
- Humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors should integrate a peacebuilding lens into food security interventions and a food security lens into peacebuilding efforts.
- Humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors should work in consortia and through multi-stakeholder processes to draw on each other’s expertise and to include local actors in a meaningful way. This demands: (a) simultaneous, rather than sequential, humanitarian, development and peacebuilding programming; and (b) that humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors act on their Grand Bargain intention to make interventions ‘as local as possible, as international as necessary’.
- Donor governments and international humanitarian and development organizations should ensure funding supports the HDP nexus approach to food systems transformations. Donor governments should do so by (a) delivering on their Grand Bargain commitments to make at least 30 per cent of their funding flexible and longer term; and (b) making at least 25 per cent of funding available to local and national organizations. International humanitarian and development organizations should do so by committing to passing on flexible and multi-year funding to national and local cooperating partners.