Fighting Hunger with Peace

“There is no food security without peace and no peace without food,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin told graduate students gathered at Georgetown University on 12 April. The event, Zero Hunger: A Foundation for Global Stability and Prosperity, was part of the university’s Global Futures initiative that engages the public sector, business and civil society in international affairs.   

“There is no food security without peace and no peace without food.”

“More than 1.5 billion people are affected by violence and conflict every day. Conflict is widely recognized as a cause of hunger. Syria today is an example of that,” Cousin said.

Graduate students studying diplomacy, conflict resolution and human development listened intently as Cousin spoke of conflict and its link to hunger. Conflicts around the globe today fuel hunger by forcing migration, uprooting societies and reversing economic gains. Six years of war has destroyed Syria’s once stable economy and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, in which WFP is reaching more than 6 million vulnerable Syrians and Syrian refugees each month.

WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Professor Mark Giordano

For students in the nation’s capital who aspire to have careers in peacekeeping, diplomacy and policy, Cousin’s emphasis on the link between global insecurity and hunger hit home. She called on the students as the next generation of leaders to enact change – and many already are on that path.

Jihane Bergaoui, a graduate student at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, has seen firsthand the victims of food insecurity in Syria. As part of her coursework, Jihane is designing a program that would help internally displaced Syrian children access nutritious food. After graduation, Jihane, a native of Morocco, plans to work in the Middle East. “There is so much conflict in the region. I think we need more people on the ground who are invested in the long term,” she said.

Mayo Floro, a graduate student in Georgetown’s global human development program, hopes to work at the intersection of food security, climate and policy. Born and raised in the Philippines, he witnessed how environmental shocks such as Typhoon Haiyan set back development of the country. “We’ve heard here today that helping communities build resilience to climate change is part of the foundation for stability. That’s what I hope to do for the Philippines and beyond,” he said.

Mayo Floro researching seaweed crops in Palawan, Philippines

Before coming to Georgetown, Mayo helped farmers in the Philippines with research and market access and will embark on a similar project this summer in Cali, Colombia.

Mirjam Kalle, a conflict resolution graduate student, says growing up in Germany and working with asylum seekers in the country shaped her experience as a child and was a driver for studying conflict and migration. “With Germany being a host country for refugees around the world, I want to work at the heart of the conflicts that drive people from their homes,” she said. Mirjam is learning Arabic and will work with refugees and host communities in Beirut this summer.