SC: Conflict and Food Security

Statement by Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein at the Security Council meeting on Conflict & Food Security, 11 March 2021.

As we meet, 700 million people in this world do not know where their next meal will come from. 270 million of them are facing acute food insecurity. 

If you tried to imagine a room full of these people, what would they look like? Most would be women and young children. If hunger had a face today, it would surely be female. Tomorrow - it would probably be her child.

But what would we say to them? I am afraid we would need to say that we heard the warning – but failed to agree on how to act.

Investing in ending hunger today is also investing in preventing hunger tomorrow.

People go hungry because they live in areas affected by endemic poverty, climate change, COVID-19 and most of all: Conflict. Food security is security. In Resolution 2417 the world came together and recognised the link between armed conflict and hunger. It is time we shift the Council’s focus from recognition to action. Let me therefore express my gratitude to the United States for organising this debate. Let me also thank the Secretary-General, David Beasley and Gabriella Bu-cher for setting the stage.


Nearly all the countries experiencing acute food insecurity are affected by conflict and armed violence. These countries will never eliminate hunger unless peaceful solutions are found.

I am particularly concerned about two situations:

In Yemen, the situation is desperate. If we do not act, this may become the worst famine the world has seen in decades. After six years of armed conflict, the civilian population has little resilience left.

More than 16 million people are food insecure. Nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five are at risk of malnutrition. This situation is first and foremost man-made. Only an inclusive, politically negotiated solution can bring this crisis to an end.

The crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray, continues to deteriorate. There is widespread food insecurity, and reports of starvation. Systematic looting and destruction of food, crops and agricultural equipment is cause for great concern. As Under-Secretary-General Lowcock warned last week, if food does not get through and there is no agricultural revival, there is a possible risk of famine.


The Security Council must speak out with one voice - against violations of international humanitarian law, including obstruction of humanitarian assistance or access and the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.

Accountability must be ensured. Our response to such violations could include imposing targeted sanctions, where relevant and appropriate. We urge States parties to the ICC Statute to ratify or accept the recent amendment concerning the war crime of starvation in non-international armed conflicts without delay.

Those with influence over parties to armed conflict must demand that the parties abide by International Humanitarian Law. Most hunger stems from politics. We need political will and political solutions.

The Council and its members must follow up more firmly and consistently when the Secretary-General activates the early-warning mechanism in situations of risk of famine and widespread food insecurity. We welcome further discussions on how to achieve this.

The task force suggested by the Secretary General earlier today seems like a good way to proceed.

The word famine should be enough to trigger alarm bells. Yet, millions of people live under famine-like conditions or in areas where the lack of food over time is bringing devastation and death.

But declaration of famine does not tell the whole story. As we all know, famine has never officially been declared in countries like Yemen, yet hunger is causing enormous humanitarian suffering.

Protecting civilians must be at the core of all our interventions, with priority given to the most vulnerable. Lack of protection fuels conflict, displacement and mistrust.


The Security Council has a Charter-based mandate to prevent conflict by peaceful means. We must pursue all possible avenues – both in preventing conflicts and bringing them to an end. The importance of the entire UN system, including the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, cannot be overstated in this context.

We must build resilience in local communities so that they can better withstand crises.

We must take a more strategic approach as donors and test out smarter means of funding, making wider use of multi-year and multi-sector funding.

We must act immediately when we hear early warnings. While at the same time - continuing to work to remove the reasons for early warnings.


700 million people depend on us - turning our words into action.

The children in Yemen are crying out - crying for peace and food security.

If we don't act now, it will be too late.