From Hunger to Violence

Following on the reports last week about Australia's water crisis and its effect on food, I read this story on the deepening food crisis with alarm. A perfect storm of factors -- including skyrocketing fuel prices, severe droughts, conflicts and trade imbalances -- have driven up prices for basic foodstuffs (rice, wheat, corn, etc.) to a level beyond what many can pay. In response, violence has broken out in Haiti, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia and Senegal -- and UN officials predict more violence as the crisis spreads.

To its credit, the United States has pledged $200 million in emergency aid, and Congress is considering more. But the World Food Program is still worried about meeting the need.

From a security standpoint, this looks like a good investment; it's probably cheap at twice the price. Tamping down violence in these countries -- or worse, dealing with wars over scarce food and water -- will cost a lot more than short-term aid.

By Phillip Carter |  April 23, 2008; 8:57 AM ET  | Category:  Emerging Conflicts
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The food security crisis and the conflict/stability connections should facilitate a broader debate about addressing larger livelihood concerns for the world's poor within a security context. This debate should occur in narrow security terms ie diversifying the "war on terror" through a hearts and minds strategy aimed at addressing day to day sources of insecurity poverty, health, and natural resource management. Such an approach would bring into better balance a 3D strategy (defense, development, diplomacy) to redress grievance-based motivations for engaging in conflict or joining extremist movements. This debate should also occur within a more expansive human security context of asking what is it that really threatens the most lives in most parts of the world and it is these same livelihood/poverty/health/development threats. Helping to meet these needs will save lives for humanitarian and moral reasons AND support the more narrow stability and security goals outlined above. Such an approach should be pursued all along the conflict continuum from conflict prevention to conflict termination and peacemaking to post-conflict peacebuilding. Breaking the environment-conflict links, the food-conflict links, the poverty-conflict links require going beyond problem identification to finding ways to meeting these basic needs on a large scale. Traditional military means are only a small part of the arsenal required to meet these needs (although AFRICOM mission definition is an interesting place where these issues come together). Yet some of the most effective advocates of a more robust development approach to security can come from military leadership more interested in preventing conflict than prosecuting war.

Posted by: Geoff Dabelko | April 30, 2008 5:58 PM

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