By Michelle Sara Gano

The world is suffering from more outbreaks than the Covid-19 pandemic. Another eruption that spreads quickly, affecting many individuals simultaneously, is the pandemic of global hunger. Further is the pandemic of worldwide gender inequality. Both need to end, in order to reach sustainable global security – something the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 strives towards. How can we reach these goals? Let me present a science-based solution, evaluating the significant linkages between hunger and gender equality. 

“If you don’t have food security, you’re not going to have any kind of security”, argues David Beasley, the Executive Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme, WFP. Lack of security can often be found in a state of conflict. “Where there is conflict, there is hunger. And where there is hunger, there is often conflict”, states the WFP’s photo exhibition “Faces of Hunger & Conflict”. The correlation between food insecurity and conflict has previously been examined in multiple studies. Furthermore, additional research has found correlations allying increased levels of female political participation and the de-escalation of conflict. Despite these facts, there are to date no studies examining whether female inclusion in peace processes has an effect on hunger. 

Although the definition of “hunger” is fairly clear, researchers have not managed to reach consensus on how to measure the concept. In light of the measurement problem, this article has decided to look into quantitative data for Food Security Indicators from the Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database, FAOSTAT. These indicators measure food insecurity by e.g. studying the prevalence of undernourishment. While studying the extent of undernourishment, this article has chosen to incorporate statistics on female signatories’ inclusion in peace processes from the Replication Data for Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations and the Durability of Peace. Merging the two datasets enables addressing a relationship between women’s inclusion in peace negotiations, and food (in)security.

Studies claim that food insecurity is a “threat multiplier”, whose improvements can assist in reducing tensions. Food security can, according to researchers, be enhanced when a state of stability is reinforced, which in turn, is dependent on the achievement of peace and security. So, how do we achieve security?

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, CFR, a resulting peace agreement is more durable and better implemented, when women participate in peace processes. There are plenty more sources sharing a consensus in relation to these findings, yet, gender inequality in the field of conflict resolution continues. 

“Evidence shows that peace processes overlook a strategy that could reduce conflict and advance stability: the inclusion of women”, argues CFR. Further documentation presented in this article shows that peace processes overlook another aspect of conflict reduction and stability-advancement: food insecurity and its correlation to the inclusion of women. By its analysis, this article is only scratching the surface of a broad research field that, although Agenda 2030’s entrance to the decade of action, hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. Gender equality in peace processes may, by enhancing durable peace, affect various other aspects of conflict. Therefore, this article suggests that the inclusion of women is beneficial in decreasing food insecurity. Thus, women’s role in peace processes should be advanced in coming studies. 

The findings presented in this article aim to not only inform the reader about the given  relationship, but to demand a call for action, and encourage future research to grow within this field. Based on a regression analysis, this article argues that hunger decreases when women’s inclusion increases. 

As we entered 2020, we also entered the Agenda 2030’s “decade of action”. This is when the 193 UN member states are expected to accelerate the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, in order to promote sustainable global security. It is not a spoiler that this article strongly relates food security and gender equality to sustainable security. The findings bring SDG 2 and SDG 5 forward, where the first mentioned focuses on ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. The second centers the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. Possibly, SDG 2 may improve peace, and therefore, enhance world standards which contribute to a more sustainable future for all human beings. Based on these presented findings, one can assume that SDG 2 is directly impacted by SDG 5. 

Gender equality in peace processes may, by enhancing durable peace, affect other aspects of conflict, such as food insecurity. As the inclusion of women has been shown to be beneficial in decreasing food insecurity, women’s role in peace processes shall be advanced in coming studies. Enhancing women’s inclusion would not only strengthen the work directed by SDG 5, but also improve SDG 2, and thus, leave us with two less pandemics to focus on. Having confirmed that higher presence of female signatories in peace processes decreases the likelihood of food insecurity, the question of why this hasn’t been studied before remains.

By Michelle Sara Gano

Illustration: Michelle Sara Gano

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