The threat posed by disasters casts shadows on the three fundamental pillars of sustainable development: social, environmental and economic. This finding extends across different geographic regions, sectors, dimensions and scales. The range of examples is rich, ranging from prolonged periods of droughts and floods, with the potential to affect vast territorial extensions and regions, to the global emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. The latter highlighted the ability to overload intricate supply networks on a global scale, including those responsible for food supply.
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As we approach the deadline of less than a decade to achieve both the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (DRR) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), economics, science, law, health, communication, politics, education, among other domains, must be adequately prepared to confront not only different types of risks, but more losses and damages. In this context, it is essential to develop resilience and adaptability in the face of calamitous circumstances, including security and sufficiency in food production and supply.
In the Brazilian context, a diversity of disasters has occurred, demonstrating the country’s susceptibility to different events. Drought and drought occupy the leading position in the list of disasters, representing almost 50% of recorded events (Diagnosis of municipal capabilities and needs in protection and civil defense – 2021). Soon after, storms, floods and floods are observed, events that occur recurrently in different regions of the country, directly impacting the production and availability of food intended for human and animal consumption.
Faced with this reality, in some cases of unprecedented magnitude, it is imperative to rethink and reformulate current risk and disaster management systems. This reformulation must include the construction of robust structures, capable of anticipating and dealing with systemic risks. In addition, it is necessary to develop an improved provisioning, response and recovery capacity. To achieve these objectives, it is essential to develop diversified plans and adaptable modalities, which take into account climate variability and change, the specific needs of groups of victims, and can be implemented in short, medium and long term planning, and in a effective, regardless of the type of disaster that may occur.
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Although it is not a recent phenomenon, food insecurity takes on a new dimension in the current historical context. Associated with the “cost of living crisis”, it was classified as the main “global risk in terms of severity in the short term (two years)”, according to the latest report The Global Risks Report (2022-2023). This document also highlights the need for special attention to this issue because it is directly linked to the first four most serious global risks for the next decade, namely: failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change; disasters and extreme weather conditions, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem collapse. Therefore, food insecurity, in addition to being a problem in itself, is also an indicator of broader and more complex global risks – which requires and reinforces the need for integrated and strategic approaches.
Hunger affects almost 10% of the global population
The UN State of Food and Nutrition Security report (2022) reveals a worrying trend: global progress in eradicating hunger and malnutrition is regressing. After a decade of steady decline, the prevalence of world hunger is on the rise, affecting nearly 10% of the global population. In the period from 2019 to 2022, there was an alarming increase in malnourished people, with an increase of up to 150 million individuals. This crisis was mainly driven by sociocultural conflicts, climate change and the covid-19 pandemic. These data highlight the urgency of coordinated and effective actions to combat food and nutritional insecurity, a measure that becomes even more challenging given the current scenario of international conflict (war) and disasters.
Brazil, in turn, moves between poles of a worrying paradox. Despite its recognized sovereignty in food production, it returned to the list of countries mapped in the hunger index. According to the Second National Survey on Food Insecurity in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic (2022), it is estimated that 33.1 million Brazilians do not have guaranteed access to sufficient food. This represents an increase of 14 million people facing hunger compared to data from two previous decades. Furthermore, the study reveals that more than half of the Brazilian population (58.7%) faces some degree of food insecurity, whether mild, moderate or severe.
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This reality communicates the urgency of effective public policies and intersectoral intervention strategies to combat food insecurity, including in extreme contexts. The implementation of effective and integrated public policies, with budget reinforcement and political will to work with the private sector and civil society, at all levels of government, is one of the democratic ways to do so.
In the scope of public policies, the relevance of synergy between social assistance and civil protection and defense policies stands out. As the II Ten-Year Social Assistance Plan (2016-2026) clearly shows, drought situations, such as those historically experienced by the population of the semiarid northeastern region, lead to economic stagnation, a water crisis and even more severe extreme poverty, therefore requiring attention and priority and focused provisions. Although traditionally studied in isolation, both policies share a common focus on social protection. They provide valuable input not only for the development of a national food and nutrition security policy, but also provide space in their regulations to incorporate food security into their structures. This movement can be achieved in several ways, but mainly through defining roles, structures and those responsible in the face of a potential disaster or even in the event of its occurrence.
The obligation to promote the realization of the Human Right to Adequate Food is provided for in several international treaties and documents and in several legal instruments in force in the Brazilian State, and has also been incorporated into provisions and principles of the 1988 Federal Constitution, more specifically, in article 6. of the Federal Constitution, along with other social rights.
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Although the Constitution represents a landmark, the history of normative evolution of food security in Brazil dates back at least to the Presidency of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) by Josué de Castro from Pernambuco, still in 1951, announcing the conditions and sufficient numbers of hunger to launch a global campaign to combat it.
In this context, it is worth remembering a focus of civil society mobilization, led by Consea (National Council for Food and Nutritional Security), which represented an important advance towards the enforcement of this right. Extinct in 2019 and resumed in February this year by Decree 11,422/2023, the Council, on this 30th anniversary, reaffirms a participatory hope after four years without a Food and Nutritional Security Plan so important for the lives of millions of fellow citizens.
Constitution guarantees the right to adequate human food
In addition to having several important actors and instruments, such as the first National Food and Nutritional Security Plan (2012 to 2015), it also represented a fundamental step towards the implementation of the National Food and Nutritional Security System (Sisan), which established the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy, with the publication of Law No. 11,346/2006 and its regulatory Decree No. 7,272. In this sense, we have in the 1988 Constitution a sufficient instrument to affirm the assumption of an obligation by the Brazilian State in relation to the right to adequate human food, the non-effectiveness of which is, in itself, a disaster!
Currently, the challenge is greater because several other factors influence or compromise the effectiveness of the aforementioned right. Conflicts, persistent droughts, floods, climate change, economic crises, rising prices resulting from wars and pandemics contribute to the difficulty of accessing food, in addition to discretionary political and economic interests. This is the reason why we resume and approach the theme at this moment in history with this perspective.
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As it is a social problem that impacts everyone, even to a greater or lesser extent, it is essential that food (in)security, including that which emerges in the context of risks and disasters, is debated and addressed in a participatory and democratic way. . The search for solutions in this context cannot wait and must be based on: i) the foundations of the Democratic Rule of Law, with a view to meeting its objectives; ii) as well as the opportunity for debate and contribution from representative and science-oriented bodies such as universities, research centers, civil society organizations, aimed at improving and composing instruments in progress in the country, such as the design of the new National Protection Plan and Civil Defense, Review of the National Climate Change Plan, new directions for Consea, among others, receptive to the issue.
In this sense, open public consultations constitute an urgent and legitimate strategy for the exercise of citizenship and expression of what we point out as one of the biggest social issues, if not the priority, as food (in)security compromises the direction of sustainable development, the which worsens the crisis of dignity and security that has been exposed for decades, especially the most vulnerable part of the Brazilian population.
If the arguments presented are still not sufficient, the question remains: are we prepared in normative, governance and structural terms to face a context of food insecurity resulting from a disaster? If the answer is no, which is what we are betting on, then there is a lot to do. And the time is now.
* Lawyer, specialist consultant in Environmental Law and Disaster Law, with post-doctorate in Socio-environmental Law and Sustainability, member of the Unifesp Social Disaster Risk Reduction Study Group.
** Social Worker, with post-doctorate in Public Policy, professor at the Federal University of São Paulo. Produtividade PQ2 Scholarship – CNPq., member of the Unifesp Social Disaster Risk Reduction Study Group
*** Sociologist, post-doctoral consultant in Social Service, member of the Unifesp Social Disaster Risk Reduction Study Group.
**** This is an opinion article. The authors’ vision does not necessarily express the editorial line of the Brasil de Fato newspaper.
Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul
Editing: Katia Marko