The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Just Food?

Posted in Food Security by NTSblog on February 17, 2011
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The skyrocketing food prices of 2010 have again raised global concern on the issue of the global food insecurity. Similar to the 2008 food crisis, price volatility once again poses to have dangerous threats to state stability. In 2008, civil unrest took place in Asia and Africa mainly in some poor countries such as Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Similarly, protests in Tunisia and Egypt have also been discussed to have been triggered by the 2010 food crisis.

Interestingly, anger that embeds in such riots was argued to be caused more by “a feeling of exploitation than a fear of starvation”. Such a feeling is understandable throughout society’s most vulnerable groups, as the poor often spend more than one-third of their income on food.  Thus, these groups suffer the most from price volatility, shocks that could threaten their survival.

Source: Nasser Nouri/Flickr

Critiques further underline the issue of injustice in the global food system, in which initiatives to control price volatility often leave the poor more impoverished than helped. Short-sighted policy responses aiming to maintain state stability, such as export bans, tend to create uncontrollable price hike in other countries which hurts the poor. As a result, food riots represent a way for the marginalised groups to seek equal access to food as one of their basic human needs.

It would then seem that social concerns such as equity are equally as important as more widely-cited challenges such as the changing climate and decreasing areas of productive land. To put it another way, equity which embraces the fairness of all components in the food system is strongly related to food security. Thus, to achieve human rights to well-being and access to food security, fair mechanisms and systems are essential.

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