Links between conflict and hunger
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War and Poverty . Links Between Conflict and Hunger . What is conflict ?. “Conflict : The differences and clashes between needs, interest, perceptions and activities of actors which are part of social life” — Verstegen , 2001 Embedded in society - It is MAN MADE

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Links Between Conflict and Hunger

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War and Poverty

Links Between Conflict and Hunger

What is conflict ?

  • “Conflict : The differences and clashes between needs, interest, perceptions and activities of actors which are part of social life” —Verstegen, 2001

  • Embedded in society - It is MAN MADE

  • Can be violent or non-violent

What is conflict ?

  • Poverty and hunger can be both a cause and consequence of conflict

  • Hunger and violent conflict —> Famines

  • Runs through various stages of escalation:

    • Stable peace

    • Unstable peace/latent conflict

    • High tension

    • Open conflict

What can cause conflict?

  • Opposing interests

    • Usually aggravated by socio-cultural differences

    • Religion, class, ethnicity, language, and political views

  • Socio-economic and political inequalities

    • Power imbalance - concentration of power in the hands of very few people

    • Coercive state power

  • Competition for resources

    • Fertile land

    • Energy resources

    • Water

Who does conflict involve and affect?

  • Often caught up in the midst of conflict

    • Political groups

    • Ethnic, religious or language groups

    • Regional or class groups

  • Vulnerable groups (those w/o power...)

    • Women, children, the poorest of the poor

    • Children of war -> Child Soldiers

    • Victimization of Women

    • Poor people without any options

What can trigger conflict ?

  • Perception of:

    • Opportunity

    • Threat

    • Injustice

  • Fear is a powerful weapon

  • The use of media and education to promote socio-cultural difference with ill intentions

Links between Hunger and Conflict

  • War and conflict destroys a country’s assets

    • Land and water

    • Biological resources

    • Human Capital (the people), e.g. Cambodia

  • Government expenditures:

    • Lower investments in education, health, agriculture and environmental protection (e.g. buying guns vs. building schools)

Links between Hunger and Conflict

  • Food and economic insecurity

  • Natural resource scarcity — can itself be a source of conflict

    • When dominant groups seize the land and food resources from marginalized portions of the population => often leads to violence. (e.g. Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia)

Breaking the link between hunger and conflict?

  • What comes first? hunger or conflict?

    • Conflicts can lead to hunger and reduce food production (e.g. Zimbabwe)

    • Hunger and lack of access to food often times leads to violent conflicts (e.g. Food riots in Haiti)

  • Fighting hunger will require both:

    • Prevention and resolution of violent conflicts

    • Re-building war-torn societies

How can conflict lead to food insecurity?

  • Massive numbers of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and refugees

  • People losing their assets (e.g. homes)

  • Destruction of markets

  • Workplace inaccessibility—specially true for farmers (no farmers, no food!)

  • Government instability

    • More corruption.

    • Diversion of donor assistance...

“Food Wars” and “Food as a Weapon”

  • “Includes the use of hunger as a weapon or hunger that follows from destructive conflict”

    -Messer, Cohen, D’Costa, 1998

  • 1980 and 1990 famines in Africa, Asia, Central and South America

    • Post-conflict economies = lack of resources

    • Chronic food underproduction

    • Food insecurity

    • E.g. Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Mexico

  • Today’s examples include:

    • Zimbabwe

    • Sudan (Darfur)

    • Sierra Leone

    • Afghanistan

    • Iraq

Delivering Food Aid in Conflict areas

  • Aid must be delivered in ways that prevent competition leading to conflict

    • Food in the hands of women

  • Distributing the aid in ways that do NOT prolong the conflict

    • Food to non-combat population

Food Aid in conflict areas

  • The UN and other humanitarian agencies provide aid to civilian population to prevent famine deaths

  • Food aid is very difficult

    • Combats will hijack the aid and use it as means of war to reward supporters, starve opponents, and keep the conflict alive

    • Aid workers are also victims of the violence

    • Hard and expensive to recruit people working on this line of work

Delivering Food Aid in Conflict areas

  • Accountability from those delivering the food

    • Ensure the food gets to those who need it

  • Help with reconstruction assistance

    • Food for work . Building social capital by working with communities

The Aftermath of War

  • Land mines have to be removed

  • Destroyed infrastructure most be re-built (roads, bridges, water systems, etc)

  • Housing re-built

The Aftermath of War

  • Agricultural systems and food markets have to be restored

  • Communities revitalized

    • Children back to school

    • Parents back to work

    • Deal with psychological consequences of war

Prevention and Resolution

  • Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy!

  • Conflict early warning systems that include social, political, and economic factors

    • What are the major groups involved? What are their claims? Which groups are most vulnerable ?

    • Bolivian separatist conflict. Possible civil war.

Prevention and Resolution

  • Contingency planning

    • Pre and post war aid

  • International Intervention when it is really needed (e.g. Rwanda—the international community failed)

Conflict can affect everybody regardless of race


  • Former Yugoslavia: Ethnic cleansing.

    • In the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict between the three main ethnic groups,

    • the Serbs (Orthodox Christians), Croats (Catholics), and Albanians (Muslims),

    • resulted in genocide committed by the Serbs against the Muslims in Bosnia.


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