From Covid 19 to War in Ukraine: Anatomy of the Global Food Crisis in 2022

by Hilal Elver*

In March 2020 the world was shut down along with much of the global economy to avoid the spread of the powerful virus COVID-19. Suddenly, the so-called “efficient” global food supply chains were dismantled, harvests were left in the soil, food workers returned to their homes, the major organizing principle of supply and demand balance all but disappeared, and quite simply, the global food market as we knew it came alarmingly close to collapse. COVID-19 arrived at a time that food production was historically high, and prices low, but constraints on the movements of people and goods left many people without food, and global food systems entered an unusual stalemate. These results were not entirely unpredictable, but the world was unprepared to cope with the challenge. This was true in many countries and regions in both the Global North and Global South. As a result, the number of hungry people has increased by 150 million since the outbreak of the pandemic.

While the world was still struggling with many variants of Covid-19, and full recovery is not yet in sight, the February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation brought about a further deterioration in global food trade as these two countries happened to be major players in the global grain market.  Today’s food markets are heavily reliant on international food trade. Since the early 1990s, nearly a quarter of all food produced crosses international borders. The high dependency on global grain imports for the food security of many countries in the Middle East and Africa is causing a severe food crisis in many parts of the world.

FAO State of Hunger and Malnutrition Report 2022

On July 6, 2022, in the middle of multiple unresolved crises, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Program (WFP), International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) (Those three are called UN Rome-based institutions), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) published their annual flagship report on progress toward ending hunger, achieving food security, and improving nutrition. The major message of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report (SOFI) was that “the world is moving in the wrong direction” to end hunger, food insecurity, and all forms of malnutrition. The SOFI 2022 report projects that nearly 670 million people, or 8% of the world’s population, will be affected by hunger in 2030, instead of the “zero hunger” target Nr. 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that were adopted by the United Nations in 2015. SOFI assesses the relevance of conflicts, including the most recent war in Ukraine, along with climate extremes and economic shocks. Additionally, for the first time, the report adds growing inequalities as major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Continue reading “From Covid 19 to War in Ukraine: Anatomy of the Global Food Crisis in 2022”

A Science and Policy Interface in Global Food Governance:

 The High Level Panel of Experts of the World Committee of Food Security

by Hilal Elver*

Global food insecurity is a highly complicated, persistent, and multi-dimensional issue that involves multiple sectors, various players, and policy domains (McKeon 2021). It appears in various ways in the different regions of the world, and it has a vast variety of interdependent underlying structural causes that are also linked to other global issues. In times of massive crises, the international community focuses on establishing effective food governance (McKeon 2015).  The sudden spike of food prices in 2007-2008 created major political uprisings in many developing countries. At that time, improving global food governance became a central focus of international discussions. As a result, in 2009, the Committee of the World Food Security (CFS) (originally created in 1974 as a UN intergovernmental body) was reformed and renewed to serve as a forum for review and follow up for food security policies. Since then, CFS is widely seen as the “foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform”for food security and nutrition globally.

Continue reading A Science and Policy Interface in Global Food Governance:

Dr. Sara Bleich, Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA, appears on Repast

Repast is the food law and policy podcast produced by the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy. Each month Michael Roberts and Diana Winters interview a thought leader in the field of food law and policy to discuss past achievements, current developments, and future challenges. You can find Repast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

This month , Michael and Diana talk with a very special guest–Dr. Sara Bleich, the Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA.   Dr. Bleich is leading the department’s work to counter food and nutrition insecurity in the United States.  In this episode, Dr. Bleich discusses the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security, the difference between food security and nutrition security, health equity, structural racism, the upcoming historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, and much more.

Dr. Sara Bleich is on leave from her tenured position as a Professor of Public Health Policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  She is a well-regarded public health policy expert specializing in food and nutrition policy and the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications. Her research centers on food insecurity, as well as racial injustice within the social safety net. Dr. Bleich holds a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University.

In the first year of the Biden administration, Dr. Bleich served as Senior Advisor for COVID-19 in the Office of the Secretary. In January 2022, she transitioned to her new role as the first Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at the Food and Nutrition Service at USDA.  She will elaborate more on this role today.  From 2015-2016, she served as a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration, where she worked in USDA as a Senior Policy Advisor for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services and with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. 

Michael T. Roberts is the Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

Diana Winters is the Deputy Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

For more on the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security, see here.

See here for Secretary Vilsack’s address on the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security.

See here for the USDA’s new blog series on nutrition security.

Look here for information about the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.

ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN RIGHTS DURING ARMED CONFLICT: NORMATIVE AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Protection of Right to Food and Environment in Times of Armed Conflict

by Hilal Elver*

The following is the keynote address given by Hilal Elver to the Geneva Academy on June 8, 2022. Footnotes at end of article.

Internal and international armed conflicts are one of the major reasons for increased food insecurity and malnutrition. Despite well-established norms of international human rights law and international humanitarian law protecting the right to food, hunger and  malnutrition, as well as famine has skyrocketed in last few years. There is a shocking failure in addressing criminal acts of deliberate starvation and other severe violations of a fundamental human right: the “right to food.” This non-compliance by States and other political actors as well as the reluctance to implement existing international norms to protect human rights and the environment in times of war is a critical failure of international community.

Most recently, the war in Ukraine has elevated catastrophic hunger and malnutrition levels to the top of the global agenda. The war has raised awareness of ongoing widespread hunger and malnutrition even beyond Ukraine, as the parties to the conflict are the major players of global agricultural trade.

Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights specifically recognizes “the fundamental right of everyone to be from hunger,” which further imposes an obligation on States to ensure “the satisfaction of, at the very least, the minimum essential level” of this right under all circumstances, including the times of war. Freedom from hunger is accepted as part of customary international law, rendering it binding for all states regardless of whether they are party to the Covenant. States cannot put aside or postpone the realization of this core component of the body of economic and social rights. According to their international legal obligations, States must continue to take deliberate and targeted steps using all appropriate means to fulfill these rights, even in times of conflict.  Yet, 60% of the people suffering from hunger and malnutrition globally live in conflict-ridden places, mostly in the Middle East and Africa.

Continue reading “ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN RIGHTS DURING ARMED CONFLICT: NORMATIVE AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK”

Call for experts – High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to world food security and nutrition. 

During its 46th plenary session, the Committee on World Food Security requested the HLPE to produce a report on “Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition”. As part of the report elaboration process, the HLPE is now calling for interested experts to apply to the ad-hoc Project Team for this report.   

Experts wishing to apply to this call shall find all the information here.

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