Skip to content

Nordic statement at the Security Council Open Debate on 'Conflict and Food Security'

11.03.2021  16:54

United Nations, New York, 11 March 2021

Ms President,

I am honoured to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries; Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and my own country Denmark.

As Nordic countries, we highly welcome this open debate on the impact of conflict on food security and the continued and rising relevance of resolution 2417 and we would like to thank United States as the Security Council president for convening this meeting. When it was unanimously adopted in May 2018, following an initiative by Sweden and the Netherlands, this was a landmark resolution. It was the first time that this Council explicitly addressed the link between conflict and hunger and recognised the need to break the vicious cycle of conflict and food insecurity. In the resolution, the Council emphasised the obligation of Member States to help ensure that food assistance reaches those in need and condemned the use of starvation as a method of warfare. The world will never be able to eliminate hunger unless there is peace, and conversely, food insecurity is a key driver of conflicts and so we would like to highlight again the Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire.

Our debate today is timely. Increasing food insecurity and famine require urgent action at scale. The hope of achieving SDG2 on ending hunger in 2030 is slipping through our fingers. Hundreds of million people face acute food insecurity across the world. We are deeply concerned that 34 million people are now assessed to be at the highest risk of, or already in, famine or famine-like conditions, which requires immediate life-saving action. In 2020, South Sudan, Yemen and Burkina Faso already showed famine-like conditions. In 2021, food crises are also escalating in Tigray/Ethiopia, North-East Nigeria, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Syria, Mozambique and Afghanistan. Famines do not occur naturally in 2021 – they are man-made. Conflict is the single most important driver of hunger and nearly all countries with risk of famine or famine-like conditions (in IPC Phase 4 or 5) are affected by protracted conflict. In most of these conflict-affected countries constraints to humanitarian access are aggravating the problem. This is unacceptable.

As long as armed conflicts continue to drive food insecurity, UN Member States have an obligation to provide flexible and rapid disbursable humanitarian funding to support the prevention of famine and hunger through timely, independent, effective and efficient humanitarian action.

We would like to draw attention to three areas that we believe are crucial for bringing change and positive development to the millions of food insecure people living in areas of conflict and fragility:

  • humanitarian access and protection of civilians
  • implementation and roll-out of the HDP nexus in fragile crises settings, and;
  • strengthening of systems for early warning and anticipatory action, also in areas of conflict

Firstly, in line with UN Security Resolution 2417, the Nordic countries urge all parties to armed conflicts to fully comply with international humanitarian law. In our view, it is fundamental to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and work towards accountability for violations. Humanitarian access is widely hampered by violence, insecurity, corruption and bureaucratic constraints. Humanitarian and medical personnel must be protected, and humanitarian access to those in need must be ensured. When violations do occur, those responsible must be held accountable.

Secondly, when we discuss the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, there is a need to shift focus more towards the actual implementation and the roll out of the nexus approach – of course with full respect for humanitarian principles and the unique mandate of humanitarian actors. While doing what we can to ensure early action and to strengthen resilience, we also need to focus more on peacebuilding and prevention of conflict within a coherent framework. In areas where food insecurity and conflict reinforcing each other, all actors must work together.

Humanitarian action – also longer-term humanitarian interventions – cannot stand alone.

Thirdly, there is a need for a shift towards a more forward-looking humanitarian system in relation to food insecurity, also in areas of conflict and high levels of fragility. Strengthening anticipatory humanitarian action will help save lives and mitigate the impact of crises. For this to happen, we all need to work on stronger coordination and on better sharing of data, analysis and information. Developing comprehensive early warning systems in fragile contexts is not an easy task, but it will need humanitarian and development actors to join efforts. The Nordic countries support the linking of early warning systems with anticipatory action. We welcome initiatives such as the WFP and FAO collaboration on Early Warning of Acute Food Insecurity Hotspots.

Although conflicts together with climate change are the main drivers of hunger, the added dimension of the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 is aggravating food insecurity. There is a need for a more integrated approach to climate adaptation and mitigation, protection of the environment, and addressing , poverty, fragility and food and nutrition insecurity, and a better coherence between our humanitarian, development policy and climate adaptation instruments in the localities and countries where this is relevant. Environmental impacts of armed conflicts can also cause or aggravate food insecurity. The ongoing work of the International Law Commission on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts is compiling and clarifying the relevant norms of international law. The recently updated ICRC Guidelines on the Protection of the Natural Environment in Armed Conflict can help in the adoption of concrete measures aimed at better protection of the environment in armed conflicts.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention towards two food crises, where the situation is deteriorating quickly, and where action is urgently needed:   

Conflict-induced starvation is currently rising in both Ethiopia and in Yemen, underlining the need for compliance with Security Council resolution 2417.

The Nordic countries are very concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Tigray in Ethiopia, which is driving increased food insecurity, displacement and creating severe protection concerns, including sexual and gender-based violence. 4,5 million out of 6 million people within the region are acutely food insecure, and humanitarian access is severely restricted. The Nordic countries welcome the announcement by the Ethiopian Government on unhindered humanitarian access and call for immediate, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need throughout Tigray. The situation in Tigray warrants preventative action by the Security Council to address the risk of conflict induced food security, in line with Security Council resolution 2417.

In Yemen, the humanitarian situation is dire – it has in fact never been worse. 50 thousand people are already living in famine-like conditions, with 5 million just one step away. Action and more funding for the UN-led humanitarian response is urgently needed to avert large-scale famine – as was done in 2018. Since the beginning of the humanitarian crisis, the Nordic countries have contributed significant funding for humanitarian operations, including by pledging a total of 77 million USD for 2021 at the recent high-level pledging conference. While continued and increased support to humanitarian operations is needed to save lives, it is no long-term solution. The humanitarian situation in Yemen clearly underlines the need for a political solution to the conflict and we fully support the efforts of Special Envoy Griffiths in this regard.

We thank the Security Council’s commitment to address conflict-induced food insecurity and we will closely follow how it will play its part in this important area.