On Nov. 20, the UK will host the Global Food Security Summit where leading experts will come together to “tackle the causes of food insecurity and malnutrition, including through cutting edge UK funded science and technology” — and it couldn’t be happening at a more crucial time.
At home and abroad, food insecurity is on the rise. In 2022, there were 4.7 million people, or 7% of the UK population, in food poverty. Right now, one in every 10 people on Earth is unsure where their next meal will come from and an estimated 345 million people are facing acute hunger and starvation, a rise of 119% since 2019.
Yet, less than 12% of the UK’s military budget could end hunger worldwide for a year.
If the last year has shown us anything, it’s that a butterfly’s wings flapping on one side of the world is capable of driving hunger on the other.
The biggest factor driving hunger is conflict — 70% of the world's hungry live in areas experiencing conflict and violence. Most notably, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 caused a ripple effect around the world raising the prices of wheat, grain, and fertilizer, as the ongoing war has limited or entirely disrupted access to these vital food-producing essentials for the rest of the world.
More recently, in July this year, Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations (UN) intended to address the worldwide food crisis that the conflict had created by allowing Ukraine to continue to ship food in the face of war.
The climate crisis is the second biggest driver of hunger in the world, undermining people's ability to feed themselves and their families through the destruction of lives, crops, and livelihoods.
The Global Food Security Summit will take place against this backdrop in London and will focus on new approaches to tackle preventable deaths of children, building climate-resilient and sustainable food systems, supporting early action to prevent and reduce the impact of humanitarian crises, and using science and technology to boost food security for people in the hardest-hit countries.
It comes shortly after the UK government announced on World Food Day (Oct. 16) that it was teaming up with Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) to push the private sector to produce food that is good for people and the planet.
Indeed, Bill Gates, whose foundation is sponsoring the summit, once described the UK as “leading the way in tackling world hunger.” Yet, cuts to UK aid have meant that nearly 3 million of mothers and their children are going without life-saving nutrition treatment, according to Action Against Hunger.
What needs to happen now?
Tripling Adaptation Funding
In 2022, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the country would be tripling adaptation funding — that’s money allocated to helping vulnerable communities adapt to climate change — to £1.5 billion between 2019 and 2025 as part of the UK’s COP26 Glasgow legacy. This moment set out tangible support for countries facing the devastating impacts of climate change to adapt whether through technology, systems, or sustainable farming mechanisms.
Yet, progress on climate adaptation is slowing when it should be accelerating to catch up with these rising climate change impacts leaving climate-vulnerable countries underfinanced and underprepared.
That’s why it’s crucial that the UK delivers on its promise as well as setting out a transparent roadmap of how it will make that happen.
Funding for Agricultural Development
Smallholder farmers across the world are struggling.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is an international financial institution and a specialized agency of the UN that invests in rural people, empowering them to increase their food security, improve the nutrition of their families, and increase their incomes.
Earlier this year, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, announced a record $150 million pledge to IFAD’s 13th replenishment at the Global Citizen Festival in New York.
The UK should go next, go big, and go bold.
Investment in Agricultural Research and Development
The CGIAR is a global partnership that seeks to increase the social, economic, and nutritional well-being of people through the promotion of agroforestry systems to achieve better land use without detriment of the environment.
As the world’s largest publicly-funded agricultural research network, with 10,000 staff working in over 80 countries with over 3,000 partners, CGIAR is uniquely positiioned to tackle the interconnected challenges of climate change and food insecurity.
In 2020, an external assessment of CGIAR found that over the past 50 years there had been a $10 return on every dollar invested in CGIAR research and development, but the report also found that governments and development partners have been consistently under-investing in this area.
We need to see renewed support for CGIAR from the UK.
What can I do to help?
Take a photo of food that has had to travel globally to your supermarket shelf and tell the UK to support farmers everywhere.
Tweet Andrew Mitchell, the Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, so he knows we’re watching.
Share this article with friends and family and ask them to do the same.