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The geopolitics of food security: barriers to the sustainable development goal of zero hunger

This paper outlines food security’s impact across areas such as natural resources, trade, violent conflict and climate change, and its implications for achieving SDG 2: Zero Hunger. It also seeks to give geopolitics a more prominent place in the food security debate.

Kevin M. Adams / Published on 12 November 2020

Zhou, J., Dellmuth, L. M., Adams, K. M., Neset, T. and von Uexkull, N. (2020). The Geopolitics of Food Security: Barriers to the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Stockholm.

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.

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