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Food and security in Syria: Searching for pathways to stability



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Food has occupied a central place in the Syria conflict, in both its genesis and evolution; its effects have been complex and paradoxical. The shape and state of Syria’s food systems will have a profound bearing on the future course of the conflict and its eventual resolution. For these reasons, food should be at the centre of planning for a future beyond conflict.

The Oxford Martin School last week hosted a high-level dialogue examining food and security in Syria, convened to explore these issues further in order to develop policy proposals and identify research gaps. The School organised the event in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) which, in more than six years of conflict in Syria, has seen first-hand how food can fuel, shape and mitigate violence.

Chaired by Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and former Director of the Oxford Martin School, the event provided a unique opportunity to bring together some 50 senior representatives from governments, UN agencies, international NGOs, the military, and academia. Discussions were grouped into three sessions, examining the role played by food insecurity in the outbreak of the Syrian war; food challenges in the ongoing conflict; and the future building of resilient food systems in Syria. Although using the Syrian conflict as a reference point, delegates also discussed broader themes, notably identifying the need for closer collaboration between humanitarian and development agencies.

This event was part of a broader collaboration between the School and WFP, intended to explore the link between food security and ‘traditional’ security, with particular reference to the Syria conflict.