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Book Sections Year : 2022

Governance matters ... but is it what you think?


Since the 1970s, food security has been framed as a technical problem to be solved mainly through technical solutions like green revolution technologies or market information systems (Fouilleux et al., 2017). In the 2010s, when nutrition began to be coupled with food security in international forums, the technology focus shifted to nutrient deficiencies and fortification technologies (Loconto, 2021). Overall, analysis of the successive definitions of food security – from the one focused on food availability to the one emphasizing also the access to food and the nutritional dimension – shows that they have not explicitly addressed issues such as inequity or power imbalances within food systems nor their governance. Non-state actors have developed alternative framings of hunger and malnutrition around norms of justice, rights and sovereignty. For example, in opposition to the food security concept, which some view as restricting political debate, many social movements around the world have emerged to defend the concept of food sovereignty. The transnational peasant organization La Via Campesina advocates for food sovereignty as a way to re-politicize the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The food sovereignty movement is part of wider social mobilizations that developed across the globe in the mid-1990s as a critique of neoliberalism (Trauger, 2015). In the 2000s, this stance was most apparent in the resistance to World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment conditionalities that required market liberalization, which led to the strengthening of food sovereignty movements in many developing countries. The 2008 economic and food crises marked an important turning point in the way the international food security agenda was governed. Starting with the reform of the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security and the establishment of its Civil Society Mechanism and High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, a number of UN and G8/G20 initiatives on food security and nutrition also emerged, thus changing the contours of food security governance and its analysis. Diverging from a normative approach that judges whether policies are good for achieving food security, governance is used in this chapter as an analytical framework. This framework highlights the power struggles among actors as they propose different visions of food insecurity and solutions to this social problem (cf. Constance et al., 2018). This approach to governance not only concerns ‘hard law’ (regulatory frameworks, subsidies, taxes, etc.) but also metrics, models, standards, and the instruments that govern actors’ conduct and represent different forms of ‘soft law’ (Bernard de Raymond and Thivet, 2021). Following an explanation of this governance framework, we illustrate its usefulness in three different cases: a national food programme in Nicaragua, the resilience agenda and its operationalization in the Sahel, and land-use modelling. We conclude by explaining why such an approach is essential when analysing food security, since ostensibly neutral instruments have the power to influence the possibilities for action, which in turn shape actors’ behaviours.


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hal-04078396 , version 1 (23-04-2023)


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Arlène Alpha, Antoine Bernard De Raymond, Sandrine Fréguin-Gresh, Allison M. Loconto. Governance matters ... but is it what you think?. Editions Quae. Sustainable food systems for food security. Need for combination of local and global approaches, Editions Quae, pp.19-31, 2022, 978-2-7592-3576-6. ⟨10.35690/978-2-7592-3576-6⟩. ⟨hal-04078396⟩
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