Tom Friedman is no stranger to the connection between political stability and the price of food. Having just returned from probing that relationship in depth in the Middle East, his insights were on full display at this summer's Aspen Ideas Festival.
In a discussion titled, "Without Water, Revolution," Friedman drew a clear link between the issues of food and water security on the one hand, and the Arab Revolutions on the other. Droughts and bread price volatility didn't cause the Arab revolutions, but they were undoubtedly contributing factors. In countries where food and water resources are under threat, the stage is set for civil and political unrest.
It's clear that the political, environmental, and health implications of food insecurity are stark. What's not yet clear is whether we have the leadership framework at a global level to confront the complex challenge of sustainably and equitably feeding a growing world population.
So while Friedman was in the region last month to paint the big picture on the threat posed by food insecurity, the Aspen Institute was on the ground working to address the global leadership gap through convening the inaugural dialogue of the Food Security Strategy Group (FSSG) in Marrakech, Morocco. The FSSG is a group of nearly 40 preeminent thought-leaders on hunger, global food markets, climate change, and population who are committed to addressing the challenge of food security through cross-sector dialogue.
As a stepping-off point, the FSSG agreed on the definition of food security as introduced by The World Food Summit of 1996--that food security exists "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life." The Strategy Group further examines food security from multiple perspectives: population, poverty and health; science and innovation; energy and the environment; and investments, markets and trade. As the FSSG convenes, it aims to ensure food security by approaching the issue from these perspectives to encourage a distinctive, practical, and durable solution.
The Aspen Institute is uniquely positioned to foster values-based leadership on the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the realm of food security. By drawing on a diverse and global network of thought leaders, Aspen's convening power sets the FSSG's capabilities and potential apart from many other organizations trying to tackle the same vexing issue. The Strategy Group will continue to convene its influential and innovative group of nearly forty experts from diverse field who have agreed to find viable solutions to this increasingly critical issue.
These thought leaders have the ability to secure our food and water supplies, ensuring that these vital human essentials are met in our increasingly global landscape. And it was clear from the dialogue and the optimism around the table in Morocco that the only solution will be a collaborative solution. From Aspen and Marrakech, that's our Big Idea.
Dede Heldfond, a summer research fellow at the Aspen Institute, contributed to this piece