Since 2008 – a year in which rapid increases in the global prices for major grains helped to trigger outbreaks of civil unrest in more than 40 countries – scholars and policymakers have paid increased attention to the potential influence of global food prices on social and political instability. Since that time, spiking prices have periodically sparked public protests and governments have struggled to respond.
In September 2010, citizens in Maputo, Mozambique, rioted over a government decision to raise the price of bread. Efforts to control the crowds resulted in deaths and injuries. In 2011, governments in the Middle East reduced subsidies for bread, a critical staple for the majority of the population. This decision was blamed, at least in part, for the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring.
But the compelling headlines associating rising food prices, hunger, political instability, and conflict are likely to be only part of the story. People reacting to unexpected food price increases may use these opportunities to give voice to other grievances – unemployment, inadequate incomes, or government policies more broadly. When national governance fails, as in Somalia, recurrent food scarcity and famine become part of a vicious cycle of instability. Food insecurity both results from and contributes to repeated rounds of armed conflict in that country. In other countries, such as Sudan, food shortages and hunger have been intended outcomes of confrontation and armed conflict.
For more on this story, visit: Harvesting Peace: Food Security, Conflict, and Cooperation | New Security Beat.