Governance for a Resilient Food System

Publication date: 31 May 2011
Author: Alex Evans, Center on International Cooperation, New York University

Today, the world produces enough to feed all seven billion of its inhabitants – but nearly a billion people still go without. This paper is about why this global scandal continues, and what can be done to solve it. Its central argument is that access to food is as important as how much food is produced – and that in a world of food price volatility, climate change and other kinds of shocks and stresses, the challenge of building resilience in the food system takes on overwhelming importance.

Section One of the paper looks at what needs to happen within developing countries, focusing, in particular, on a massive scale-up in provision of social protection systems that target the poorest and most vulnerable people. This section of the paper also discusses the wider challenge of reducing vulnerability to hunger in developing countries and increasing resilience.

Section Two of the paper turns to action that needs to be taken internationally – above all to tackle the sharp increase in food price volatility of recent years. The section sets out a range of actions that are needed to reduce volatility and protect poor people as well as a discussion of the role of financial speculation in increasing volatility, and whether action is needed to tackle this.

Section Three focuses on ways of easing current tightness in the global supply and demand balance for food through policies to reduce demand. While policymakers are right to focus on increasing food production, a range of factors – including climate change, water scarcity, competition for land, energy security issues and falling rates of crop yield growth – suggest that this may not be easy.

Finally, Section Four explores how this agenda can be put into practice – both in terms of where the key political opportunities lie, and what kind of international institutional reforms are needed. It begins by setting out why multilateral action is so crucial to the global food justice agenda, and proposes a range of essential reforms to the current multilateral system to increase its effectiveness on surveillance, decision-making and implementation.