The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), along with the World Food Programme (WFP), partnered with several global actors produces an annual report, ‘Monitoring food security in countries with conflict situations’ (fao.org 2019). This report is provided to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), under UNSC Resolution (UNSCR) 2417, which was passed May 2018 (fao.org 2019; UNSCR:2417 2018). UNSCR 2417, ‘Protection of civilians in armed conflict’ outlines a series of statements by the UNSC to address the causes and the interconnectedness of food security and the likelihood of armed conflict (UNSCR:2417 2018). UNSCR 2417 also condemns the use of starvation and restricting access to humanitarian aid as warfare tools, while stressing adherence to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law (IHL) (UNSCR:2417 2018, p. 1,2).
The 2019 FAO/WFP joint report takes a closer look at how different food crises have impacted eight nations in Africa and the Middle East with regards to food insecurity and armed conflict (fao.org 2019, p. iv). The nations highlighted are ‘Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lake Chad Basin, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen’ (fao.org 2019, p. iv). The report regards these nations as the areas worst affected by food insecurity and states that there is an ‘unequivocal link between conflict and hunger’ (fao.org 2019, vi). The FAO report is a statistical analysis of the critical issues around food security that cause misery for millions. The report also shows how danger to aid and medical workers, difficulties reaching some communities, infighting within local communities, and drought exacerbate hunger and conflict (fao.org 2019, p. x, xi, xii, xiii). This report’s primary purpose is to provide the UNSC with the information necessary to mitigate or prevent these problems (fao.org 2019, p. viii).
It has become public that the Trump administration (TA) has taken a stance of climate change denial, and they have exerted this pressure on UN statements and framework (Stoakes 2019, p. 1). Per a document leaked to The Guardian, the TA has pressured UN agencies to remove language related to climate change, especially with regards to issues regarding migration, which is linked to food insecurity (Stoakes 2019, p. 1). Per a 2019 UN report, there is clear evidence that food security and hunger are clearly linked to the impacts of climate change (news.un.org 2019, 1). The FAO/WFP report shows that there is a clear link between hunger and conflict (fao.org 2018, vi). With a clear link between climate change and food insecurity, along with food insecurity and violence, it only stands to reason that food security, climate change, and conflict are a part of the same equation.
Chapter V, Article 27(3) of the UN Charter states that any decision by the UN Security Council must meet the requirement that the permanent members provide a unanimous vote on matters presented for consideration (U.N. Charter art. 27, para 3). In this light that it must be noted that the FAO/WFP report on “Monitoring food security in countries with conflict situations,” and UNSCR 2417 do not mention, even once, the impact that climate change has on the issue of conflict and food security (fao.org 2019; UNSCR:2417 2018). In the FAO/WFP report, the word climate is only mentioned three times on pages 12, 14, and 16 where there is only a comment regarding “climate shocks” with climate “change” left out entirely (fao.org 2019, p. 12,14,16). In UNHCR 2417, the word climate is not mentioned even once (UNHCR:2417 2018). What UNHCR 2417 does is address the causes of food security and armed conflict through the lens of IHL, national sovereignty, and the Geneva Conventions framework while stating that the UNSC has the option to sanction those who do not comply with UNSCR 2417 (UNSCR:2417 2018). As was mentioned above, all actions and decisions by the UNSC must receive unanimous approval from all permanent members, which has provided a definite sticking point in this situation.
While there are some apparent weaknesses to UNSCR 2417, there is reason to show why this is a step in the right direction to addressing the underlying issue of climate change and food security. While (as noted above) the UN has shown that the climate and food security are intertwined, the UNSCR 2417 fails to mention this, but it does connect the problems surrounding food security and conflict. Organisations such as Action Against Hunger have praised this as a step in the right direction to addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity (actionagainsthunger.org 2018). While the UN Charter must respect the absolute sovereignty of all member nations, no single nation can drive the normative conversation that drives the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), specifically SDG 2, which is aimed at ensuring zero hunger through enhancing food security (un.org 2015).
When it comes to protecting those that are facing the greatest levels of food insecurity, there are a few measures in place, but these require all parties (state and non-state actors alike) to adhere to the guidelines provided in UNSCR 2417. While this provided a brief overview of UNSCR 2417 and the annual FAO/WFP report, there is a large amount of work to do. Some of this may be through food programmes provided by non-governmental organisations, or through the implementation of national food policies. What is clear from the UN Charter is that states are allowed to direct their own affairs, and it is up to international cooperation to provide food security to those in the greatest need and add climate change to the conversation. Although UNHCR 2417 moves the conversation around food and conflict forward, it still fails to address the underlying issue of climate change and how it impacts food and conflict. If the trend of removing dialogue around climate change from UN documents and policies continues, there is a serious concern that these conflicts will worsen until climate change is recognised as a part of the equation.
Action Against Hunger. (2019). Breaking the deadly link between conflict and hunger. [Online]. Available at https://www.actionagainsthunger.org/story/breaking-deadly-link-between-conflict-and-hunger (Accessed: 29 October 2019).
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2019). Monitoring food security in countries with conflict situations. [Online]. Available at http://www.fao.org/3/ca3113en/CA3113EN.pdf (Accessed: 29 October 2019).
Stoakes, E. (2019). “Leak suggests UN agency self-censors on climate crisis after US pressure.” The Guardian. [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/sep/11/leak-suggests-un-agency-self-censors-on-climate-crisis-after-us-pressure (Accessed: 29 October 2019).
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