Why Peace And Localization Are Key To Transforming Food Systems – Analysis


By Emilie Chazelle and Alain Leroy

In 2022 over a quarter of a billion people were acutely food insecure and required urgent food assistance, in 58 countries or territories. Conflict and insecurity remain the most significant drivers of food insecurity in 19 countries or territories where more than 117 million people face acute food insecurity. A growing number of food crises are protracted, resulting in long-term consequences and spillover effects across borders. 

Humanitarian funding has increased significantly over the past decade. Nonetheless, humanitarian need has grown even more rapidly, as illustrated by the fact that United Nations humanitarian appeals rosefrom US$9 billion in 2012 to $52 billion in 2022. As a result, the humanitarian funding gap passed $25 billion in 2022—the widest ever

A path to ending humanitarian need sustainably?

The international community has recognized the need to adopt a humanitarian–development–peace (HDP) nexus approach to address the complex interplay between hunger, conflict and fragility. In 2016 the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and the twin resolutions on Sustaining Peace in the UN Security Council and General Assembly sought to foster robust collaboration and coordination among humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors to achieve collective positive outcomes through risk-informed and joint analysis, planning and programming.

This has provided valuable political momentum for the idea that only the inclusion of peace alongside development and humanitarian initiatives could help to address the root causes of conflict and food crises and reduce humanitarian needs sustainably.

Peace remains the overlooked component 

However, there remains a significant gap in knowledge and action regarding how to integrate the peace dimension into food crisis responses, and the needed overhaul of the aid architecture is yet to materialize. Countries facing protracted crises have no choice but to rely on humanitarian assistance. In 2021 the share of humanitarian assistance in bilateral official development assistance (ODA) from members of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to countries with protracted crises reached a five-year high of 41 per cent in 2021 but was still inadequate to sustainably reduce needs. Meanwhile, the share of ODA supporting peace fell to a five-year low of 11 per cent.

This is despite the fact that integrating peacebuilding into food security programming has proved effective in fostering lasting peace and reducing needs in various contexts. For example, in an initiative in Colombia the World Food Programme promoted reconciliation alongside food security by including former guerrillas in community-level sustainable farming programmes. A SIPRI study found that this succeeded in shifting attitudes and increased leadership skills, thereby contributing significantly to the long-term resilience of the community. 

Local actors are key to advance conflict-resilient and sustainable food systems

A critical factor in the work in Colombia was integration with local dynamics and structures. Communities in conflict-affected areas have their own ways of responding to food crises. Thus, rather than simply importing new mechanisms, international relief efforts and national response strategies should seek to understand and, where possible, build on what is being done locally. The experience and expertise of local actors should serve as a foundation to generate, plan, programme and execute food systems interventions—be they research or humanitarian responses—and related policy development. 

Starting from local actors’ experience makes it possible to build on local understandings of conflicts and of terms such as ‘peace’ that usually differ from one place to another as well as from what are mostly Western academic concepts. Only through joint context analysis bringing together humanitarian, development and peace perspectives is it possible to lay the ground for sustainable, inclusive and conflict-resilient food systems. 

Local actors’ operational and managerial capacities must be considered when looking at some of the structural barriers to their access to funding—such as complex grant application processes and convoluted eligibility and funding criteria—which persist despite a pledge that 25 per cent of humanitarian funding should go to local and national responders made at the WHS in 2016. An independent reviewpublished in 2023 by the Overseas Development Institute found no increase in direct funding to local actors.  

Locally led food systems interventions must be leveraged to contribute to peace

Hunger and lack of prospects are significant drivers of conflict, pushing youth towards marginalization and violence. As the relationship between conflict and food insecurity goes both ways, long-term food system interventions and resilience building can play a crucial role in capitalizing on local capacity, restoring agricultural production and, ultimately, consolidating peace.

The HDP nexus approach to food crises calls for a paradigm shift in humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors’ ways of working. Recognizing the centrality of local experience and expertise, and the interconnectedness between food security, economic prosperity and sustainable peace can positively impact how we collectively create food systems that are conflict-resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

SIPRI is pleased to share a series of guest blog posts from partners of the 2023 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development.

About the authors:

  • Alain Leroy is a Programme and Policy Officer with the HDP Nexus Coalition Secretariat at the World Food Programme.
  • Emilie Chazelle is a Programme and Policy Officer at the World Food Programme and the Head of the HDP Nexus Coalition Secretariat.

Source: This article was published by SIPRI


SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public. Based in Stockholm, SIPRI also has a presence in Beijing, and is regularly ranked among the most respected think tanks worldwide.

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