World Food Program USA’s President and CEO Rick Leach introduced former U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley as the honored guest for this year’s lecture, which was held at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C.
The two discussed the link between national security and food security—an especially timely topic given that conflict is driving displacement and widespread hunger in places like Syria, South Sudan and Yemen.
“As we meet here today, the world is facing unprecedented challenges: For the first time in a decade, the number of hungry people is on the rise,” Leach said during the event’s introduction.
“For the first time in history, the world faces the prospect of four simultaneous famines in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.”
Leach noted that each of these four hunger crises is the result of conflict. In fact, 80 percent of all humanitarian emergencies is being driven by violence.
As the former Assistant for National Security Affairs under President George W. Bush, Hadley understands the complicated factors that can lead to instability. During yesterday’s lecture, he noted that military might alone can’t solve the problem of fragile states and prolonged violence.
“We need an integrated approach that includes both hard and soft power,” Hadley said.
This soft power includes humanitarian assistance and development efforts that protect and provide for the most basic needs of a population: Food, water, energy and the environment.
“If you worry about extremism, as a practical matter, you have to address the issue of food,” Hadley said.
Hadley called for a “whole-of-society” approach that unites the public and private sectors in the fight against food insecurity. He also noted that just a dozen or so “fragile states”—low-income countries with poor governance—are responsible for the bulk of the world’s refugees. “If we can raise the visibility of the overall idea of fragile states, we can move forward,” he said.