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Why food diplomacy should be embraced globally

By Shadrack Agaki
Tuesday, June 15th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security. Photo/PD/file

Development of any economy is predicated on the harmonious relations of sectors and actors. 

Diplomacy on its part seeks to produce the enormous advantage obtainable for the cooperative pursuit of common interests, and prevent violence from being employed to settle conflicts. 

Traditionally, diplomacy was understood in the context of war; but the changing nature of global issues such as the prevailing debacle in the food systems, permit a new understanding of various forms of diplomacy.

The current and future threat posed by the defective food system demands establishment of a framework, to guide the world out of the quagmire. 

Food occupies a central part in the human and economic development cycle. And this is why food insecurity is the ever-lurking shadow that stalks humanity at individual, household, national, regional and global levels.

Consequently, all United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its precursor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) either directly or indirectly revolve around food insecurity.

They seek to create awareness and galvanise resources to overcome this insidious enemy; and thus the urgency of the debate on transforming the food systems.

Unfortunately, this conversation is yet to crystallise convergence by State and non-State actors to embrace food security as a critical tool in gauging the human development index.

For instance, globally, food sovereignty movements are up in arms against national and transnational corporations for trying to hijack the transformation agenda, with an eye for profits and undermine progress on healthy, safe and nutritious food for all agenda.

Though the neo-liberal paradigm which informs the current global system acknowledges the importance of business enterprises and profit making, there is a need for a realignment of strategies to ensure that all people have access to safe and nutritious food for healthy and sustainable livelihoods.

And this calls on all stakeholders, to work in harmony and embrace the new mantra of food diplomacy.

Food diplomats among them the United Nation Secretary General special envoy for the global food systems; Agnes Kalibata, must shine more light on access to safe and healthy food for all.

Though Kalibata’s appointment has been mired in controversy, the recognition for food diplomats by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is laudable.

Taking cue from the global stage therefore, regions and countries must embrace the idea of food diplomacy.

As the foundation of human and economic development, countries must put concerted effort to institute policies that promote sustainable production, distribution and consumption of safe and nutritious food.

This will require proper management and coordination of actors and relations, a function that will be better performed by food diplomats.

With globalisation and the attendant devolvement of actors and issues such as food insecurity, that have adverse implications on the stability of global systems; states and regional governments must be compelled to introduce diplomatic offices concerned with issues of food.

Food diplomats through dialogue and negotiation, will facilitate better working and democratic engagement among all actors; from states, multinational corporations to local communities in policy formulation and implementation in order to avoid conflicts that might derail economic development. —The writer is an international food policy analyst

Shadrack Agaki

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