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Conflict and hunger: breaking a vicious cycle

  |   SUN Donor Network, SUN UN Network

Conflict and hunger are on the rise again. There is broad recognition that the two reinforce each other in a vicious cycle, and that conflict is a key driver of situations of severe food insecurity and recently re-emerged famines. Current legal frameworks –international humanitarian law, international human rights law, refugee law and international criminal law – are broadly adequate to the task of limiting the adverse impact of conflict on civilians, including access to food and livelihoods, and to ensuring respect of and protection for the right to be free from hunger. It is not a lack of rules but the persistent failure to comply with them and the lack of accountability that aggravate situations of food insecurity caused or exacerbated by conflict.

This situation requires both urgent and immediate attention and long-term commitments by all parties to armed conflicts, as well as the international community more broadly. Preventing conflict, mitigating its negative impacts on food security and establishing sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems requires a comprehensive, coordinated, innovative, multi-disciplinary response, and an engagement that will have to be sustained over years rather than months. Different actors (States, humanitarian, human rights and development agencies, conflict mediators, civil society and faith-based actors, the private sector) have different skills, expertise and types of leverage that should be used in a complementary way to collectively break the vicious and mutually reinforcing
cycle of conflict and hunger and prevent such situations from occurring. Affected communities and their needs must be at the centre of any response, underpinned by the principle of ‘do no harm’.

This report suggests three key pathways: prevention of food insecurity resulting from or contributing to conflict; compliance with and accountability within legal frameworks; and working towards a
comprehensive and coordinated operational response. To that end, the international community should build on existing mechanisms, initiatives and previous successes, while looking for innovative ways to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of communities affected by conflict and hunger.

Download the Report in English


The conflict and hunger discussion series was initiated by the Netherlands and Switzerland in their respective roles as Chairs of the Group of Friends on Food Security and the Group of Friends on Protection of Civilians at the United Nations in New York. The series of three events held over the course of 2017 sought to achieve a better understanding of the links between conflict and hunger, and to identify potential courses of action for the international community to address and prevent hunger. The events took place in New York (co-organised by Switzerland, the Netherlands and the International Peace Institute), Rome (co-organised by the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and the Rome-based Agencies) and Geneva (co-organised by Switzerland, the Netherlands and the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute). This report represents a summary of key discussions. It was written by the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute in London.

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