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The Geopolitics of Food Security: Barriers to the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger

Zero Hunger cover
Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm:
November, 2020

Assessing the prospects for Zero Hunger—Sustainable Development Goal 2—requires an understanding of food security that goes beyond developmental or humanitarian issues, to include linkages with geopolitics. Geopolitical challenges cut across areas such as natural resources, trade, armed conflict and climate change where unilateralism and zero-sum approaches to security directly hamper efforts to eradicate hunger and undermine the frameworks that govern those efforts.

The report provides an overview of how geopolitics interacts with these areas. Competition for agricultural resources can be both a cause and a consequence of geopolitical rivalry. International trade, while essential for food security, also creates vulnerabilities through supply disruptions—sometimes politically motivated. Armed conflict is a driver of food insecurity, which can itself feed into social unrest and violence. Climate change interacts with all three phenomena, reshaping both the physical landscape and political calculus. These overlapping linkages require further integrated policy engagement and analysis.


I. Introduction

II. Between governance and geopolitics: Room for analysis

III. The competition for natural resources

IV. The necessity of trade

V. The interactions with armed conflict

VI. The impact of climate change

VII. Conclusions: Beyond the return of geopolitics


Dr Jiayi Zhou is a Researcher in the SIPRI Conflict, Peace and Security Programme.
Lisa Maria Dellmuth is Professor of International Relations at the Department of Economic History and International Relations at Stockholm University.
Kevin M. Adams <p>(United States/Italy) is a Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute and a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Geography and Environment.&nbsp;His work is focused on international climate policy, including transboundary climate risks in trade and supply chains.</p>
Tina-Simone Neset <p>(Germany) is an Associate Professor at the Department of Thematic Studies–Environmental Change and the Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research at Linköping University. Her research focuses on the visualization of climate change and resource flows, resource management as well as vulnerability assessments related to agriculture and food security.</p>
Nina von Uexkull <p>(Germany/Sweden) is Assistant Professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University. Her research concerns the security implications of climate change, the link between food security and armed conflict, as well as rural armed conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa.</p>