Conflicts remain one of the primary drivers of food insecurity [fr]
Protecting civilians from conflict induced hunger
Statement by Ms Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 21 April 2020
I first wish to join others in thanking the Dominican Republic and Minister Vargas for organizing this meeting. I also wish to thank Mr. Qu, Mr. Beasley, and Mr. Egeland for their insightful briefings, as well as, through them, their teams helping people on the ground.
The link between international peace and security and famine is well documented – we have seen it in recent years in Yemen, South Sudan, Syria or the Sahel region. There is no doubt that this Council shall deal with this issue, and the more so if we are on the brink of a hunger pandemic as Mr Beasley is pointing out. This is the reason why France had taken the initiative of organizing an Arria meeting on this topic in 2017. We welcome the progress made since then, with the adoption of resolution 2417 in 2018 and the negotiation of a PRST which will hopefully be agreed very soon.
After a steady decline for decades, we have seen worrying trends of rising hunger emerge again since 2015. In 2018, 11% of the world’s population suffered from hunger, highlighting the immense challenge of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 of "Zero Hunger". Conflicts remain one of the primary drivers of food insecurity, setting in motion a vicious circle: conflict increases food insecurity, which in turn fuels violence. Conflicts also lead to the displacement of people towards places where food resources are not sufficient to feed local populations, refugees and internally displaced people altogether. We are all aware that civilians, especially women and children, are the main victims of this vicious circle of food insecurity and armed conflict.
It is an appalling reality but starvation of civilians is still often used as a weapon of war. It is also used as a means of recruitment by parties to armed conflict who deliberately limit access to food and attack humanitarian workers.
As we keep repeating, meeting after meeting, respect of international humanitarian law is a must in all situations of conflict: all parties must respect the rules of war, in particular they must respect international humanitarian law provisions protecting civilians, including humanitarian workers. As Mr Egeland emphasized, parties to conflict must ensure a safe and unhindered access of impartial humanitarian relief to all the people in need.
Using starvation as a method of warfare against civilians constitutes a war crime under international criminal law. Such crime cannot go unpunished.
In addition, I fully concur with the representative of Germany in emphasizing the link between climate change, conflicts and food insecurity. We must take into account that many countries affected by conflicts also experience the harmful effects of climate change. The Global Food Crises Report 2020, which was released today, clearly shows that extreme weather events are becoming an increasingly important contributor to food insecurity.
This is notably the case in the Sahel region and aggravates conflict-driven food insecurity. In this context, France regrets that climate change could not be explicitly mentioned in the Presidential statement that we are negotiating.
We are convinced that climate change is also the driver of displacement, which is another source of the food crisis. France is currently chairing the platform on disaster displacement (PDD), a group of States working together towards a better protection for people displaced in the context of disaster and climate change.
I wish to underline the importance of prevention and early-warning systems to act more effectively to prevent conflict-induced famine. The UN Secretary-General and governments must provide timely information regarding food insecurity levels in order better to anticipate, prevent and mitigate the effects of a food crisis.
We are convinced that improving food security and nutrition contributes to peacekeeping and to the achievement of sustainable development goals. That is why France is increasing its financing of food aid, from about 40 million euros in 2019 to more than 50 million euros in 2020. Our food assistance this year covers regions affected by conflicts, while also taking into account the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis.
And this is where I would like to conclude. Today, with the propagation of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to reach lasting solutions to the conflicts that lie at the heart of these humanitarian tragedies. We reiterate our full support to the call of the Secretary-General for an immediate and global ceasefire to facilitate the response to the pandemic. We have a collective responsibility and moral obligation in this regard. The Security Council must remain mobilized. France will continue to play its full part in that regard.
I thank you.