Policy Dialogue on G20 response to adequately tackle the impact of COVID-19 on hunger and food insecurity

Civil 20 (C20) and Oxfam organised the event “Ahead of the G20 Foreign and Development Joint Ministerial Session. “Policy Dialogue on G20 response to adequately tackle the impact of COVID-19 on hunger and food insecurity” held on 15th of June 2021. The agenda of the webinar is here.

Johanna Wagman participated on behalf of the Global Coalition. Her notes are here.

Concept Note

‘This virus will starve us before it makes us sick.’ these words are from Micah Olywangu, a taxi driver in Nairobi, father of three children, the youngest one born in December 2019. The closure of the airport and collapse in tourism have hit his business hard. Micah’s experience is that of millions of people around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has added fuel to the fire of an already growing hunger crisis.

Hunger was already on the rise prior to COVID-19: FAO estimates that the number of undernourished (including those with chronic and acute hunger) increased from 624 million people in 2014 to 688 million in 2019. The drivers underlying this trend include extreme climate events, conflict, and other shocks to economic opportunities. COVID-19 is estimated to have dramatically increased the number of people facing acute food insecurity in 2020-2021, with impacts expected to continue through 2021 and into 2022. According to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report, the pandemic may have added between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world in 2020.

The current pandemic creates a vicious cycle that affects the food security of the poorest people more heavily than that of people who are better off or live in wealthier countries: people living on low incomes often rely on work in the informal sector, day-labour, or remittances. They spend a greater proportion of their income on food, and are less likely to have access to formal safety nets.

The dramatic slowdown in the global economy, coupled with severe restrictions on movement, has resulted in mass job losses over the last year. Governments have responded to the unprecedented disruption in economic activity by instituting ad hoc social protection policies that vary considerably in terms of their reach and scale. Many wealthy nations have introduced multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus packages to support business and workers, but most lower-income nations lack the financial firepower to follow suit.

Worsening hunger levels and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic require a strong coordinated global response. In this challenging context what role should the G20 play under the leadership of the Italian Presidency? This question will be addressed at the first session which will also offer opportunity to get an overview of the Food Coalition, a global alliance established by FAO in November 2020 on the proposal of the Italian Government in response to the pandemic. The second session will stimulate the debate around two main topics that are pivotal in setting up an effective and sustainable policy response to such a dramatic food crisis. The first one is the need to support robust and inclusive social protection systems in low and middle income countries as a key requirement to ensure food security for chronically food-insecure. The second one is to recognize the key role of women and young small scale farmers, to address their specific needs, to counter discriminations they suffer and to promote, instead, the transformative role they can play in reducing poverty and hunger.