7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Conflict prevention and sustainable peace: the role of food security and agriculture

Conflict prevention and sustainable peace: the role of food security and agriculture

Tackling the root causes of conflicts in fragile countries

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 16:15 to 17:30

Key points

  • More dialogue is needed with stakeholders if we want to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating poverty by 2030.
  • There is a clear link between conflict and food security issues.
  • Conflict is the leading cause of hunger.
  • Hunger leads to conflict: ‘a hungry man is an angry man’.
  • Resilience is not a buzzword. It is the only way to stop disasters turning into catastrophes.


We all know that armed conflict leads to death and destruction. We are often less aware of its devastating impact on farming. The destruction of agricultural and irrigation infrastructures, stocks, supply chains and support services to farmers hampers their ability not only to provide adequate and sufficient food, but also to get what food is produced to the market.

The Second Global report on food crises, published in March 2017, found that 10 of the 13 worst food crises in the world are conflict related. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has made food security a priority. Humanitarian and development agencies must focus on enhancing the resilience of farmers and their market systems. It is simply unacceptable in the 21st century to still have people dying of hunger. Not enough has been done to invest in agriculture in developing countries.

Conflicts lead to food scarcity, price hikes, hunger, malnutrition and displacement. Conflicts also undermine aid agencies, which can no longer reach the most vulnerable. This means more hunger and more conflict. In 2016, 40 countries experienced riots linked to rising food prices.

One way to break this vicious circle is for agencies to ‘come out of the silos’ and work with each other. They also need to learn from mistakes: they must analyse the roots of the conflict, including how they are influenced by access to land, water and pasture. Agencies must engage communities, strengthening their resilience and their ability to deal with conflict prevention. As Renée Larivière from Interpeace pointed out ‘no matter how bad a situation is there is a strong capacity in society to stop making it worse’. It should not be about the West telling people how to do things but more about helping them cope better in a crisis.

Food prices rises are a problem. One way to deal with this is to create cooperatives. Another is by increasing the number of storage facilities, so farmers wait until the right time to sell produce on the market. Mitigating tension between cattle breeders and farmers and negotiating migration routes would also go a long way towards resolving conflicts.

Meanwhile, aid agencies need to be careful of how they plan their support and interventions so as not to exacerbate the situation for women, minorities and other vulnerable groups. They must also seize opportunities to build bridges and peace initiatives.


Partnerships are key to dealing with conflict. Humanitarian and UN agencies should cooperate with all the important organisations. Renée Lariviére, Deputy Director General of peacebuilding organisation Interpeace, admitted that she had never considered working with NATO, but having shared a panel with an alliance representative, she saw some benefits in building a partnership.

Organised by

    Leonard Mizzi
    Head of Unit C.1 - Rural development, food security and nutrition
    European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
    Stefanie Babst
    Head, Strategic Analysis Capability for the NATO Secretary General and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee
    Valerie Guarnieri
    WFP Regional Director for East and Central Africa
    UN World Food Programme
    Renée Larivière
    Deputy Director General
    Dominique Burgeon
    Director of Emergencies and Strategic Programme Leader on resilience
    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
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