Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 28 - April 2023 عربى
Regional Developments

MENA Region in the Global Food Crisis Response

On 14 December 2022, the World Council of Churches (WCC), in collaboration with the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSIPM) for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), held a global webinar “Global Food Crisis and the Responses: a comprehensive update and discussion.” Its aim was to update WCC and CSIPM respective constituencies with a consolidated status update of the food crisis and the responses in various regions. The webinar built on the popular regional consultations organized by the CSIPM in July 2022, as CSIPM regional representatives shared the main outcomes and insights discussed in those consultations, involving regional strategies to get through the crisis and build a sustainable future. The webinar also discussed the outcomes of CFS 50, its annual meeting held in October 2022.

HIC-HLRN Program Advisor Heather Elaydi and one of HIC’s representatives on the CSIPM Coordination Committee Hala Barakat presented their report on the food crisis in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which was supported in part by WCC. Elaydi and Barakat were invited to produce the report as the West Asia and North Africa representatives of the CSIPM did not hold regional consultations, and an overview from these regions was needed. Their report focused on two key issues in the regions: conflict, war and occupation (Elaydi) and women’s rights (Barakat).

The Russian war in Ukraine has brought recent attention to the global food crisis. However, for many countries in the MENA region, conflict, displacement, occupation, sanctions and war have for years been the biggest barrier to achieving sovereignty over local food systems and food security for their populations. The Middle East represents just 6% of the world’s population, yet is home to 20% of the world’s food insecure people, due largely to the impact of protracted conflict. While some conflicts in the MENA region have roots in local populations’ struggle for change, in many contexts, interference from other countries has destabilized, exacerbated, and prolonged these conflicts.

Roles and responsibilities associated with food security and nutrition largely fall on the shoulders of women and girls and, despite the key roles women play in food systems, female-headed households experience more-severe financial burdens and are the most susceptible to food insecurity, with a prevalence of malnutrition, including undernourishment and obesity (13.2% and 28%, respectively). Multiplying inequalities, women in the MENA region own only 5% of agricultural land, but represent at least 40% of the agricultural workers.

Elaydi and Barakat’s report was also used as the basis of the MENA section of the Global Network on the Right to Food and Nutrition’s (GNRtFN) most recent publication, State of the Right to Food and Nutrition Report 2022, coordinated by FIAN International. HIC-HLRN is a long-time member and key MENA region partner of the GNRtFN.

Reflecting global developments from July 2021 to the end of 2022, the report focuses on the connection between war, systemic violence, and structural inequality. It examines how powerful economic actors, notably governments and corporations, use conflict, occupation and war to create and perpetuate their dominance over food systems and global efforts to address hunger and malnutrition.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupted the global food system and added another layer to the multilayered global food crisis. However, despite dominating
global headlines, it was not the only conflict causing record levels of internally
displaced people. As previous editions of this report have underlined, most undernourished people live in countries experiencing armed conflict such as Burkina Faso and parts of the MENA region, which go largely unnoticed by mainstream media.

The CSIPM consultations also contributed to the most recent CSIPM publication, Voices from the Ground 2: Transformative Solutions to the Global Systemic Food Crises, co-authored by Barakat and HIC’s other CSIPM Coordination Committee representative André Luzzi.

The consultations show that official support during the crisis has overwhelmingly benefited the corporate sector, leaving small-scale food producers behind. While the state has undertaken some weak measures, hundreds of examples show that, in all regions, solidarity actions undertaken by local communities and organisations of food producers, workers, women and Indigenous Peoples have had to take over the state’s responsibilities as the principal duty bearer obliged to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. Simultaneously, the vital contributions of small-scale food producers, who are already engaged in food systems transformation based on food sovereignty and agroecological transition, are not recognized or supported.

The regional consultations tell the stories of those most affected by this multifaceted crisis. They provide rich evidence of the spontaneous and voluntary actions taken by youth, women, Indigenous Peoples, peasants, workers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, the landless, urban food insecure and displaced persons to provide practical and strategic responses to the food crisis in the breach that governments left.

These voices from the ground must be heeded to formulate meaningful responses. Policy responses need to be anchored in a comprehensive human rights approach, by recognising the agency of those most affected as rights-holders, and the accountability of governments as duty bearers and implementers of states’ binding obligations.


Download Global Food Crisis: Updates from the MENA Region

Download State of the Right to Food and Nutrition Report 2022

Download Voices from the Ground 2: Transformative Solutions to the Global Systemic Food Crises

Watch Global Food Crisis and the Responses: A Comprehensive Update and Discussion

Image: Artwork from the announcement of the webinar: Global Food Crisis and the Responses: A Comprehensive Update and Discussion. Source: CSPIM.


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