Earlier this week in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden delivered remarks, honoring critical partners in and highlighting critical issues of national security: Bill Gates and Howard G. Buffett of the Gates and Buffett Foundations, and their foundation's work to improve global food security. Gates and Buffett share the 2011 George McGovern Award for Leadership in Food Security.
Although "national security" often conjures up images of missiles and militaries, it should also prompt images of maize and millet. The availability of and access to food is inextricably linked to prosperity and stability. As Vice President Biden explained on Monday, "Investments made to ward off food insecurity and prevent its recurrence can prevent the vicious cycles of rising extremism, armed conflict, and state failure that can require far larger commitments of resources down the road."
Secretary Clinton followed, noting that "ending hunger is not only possible, but it is both a moral and strategic imperative." Renewed investment in food security is a centerpiece of the Obama Administration's foreign policy. Secretary Clinton's leadership in Feed the Future (FTF), the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, earned her the George McGovern Award last year. FTF invests along the entire agricultural chain -- focusing on smallholder farmers, to improve their access to credit, technology, and markets so that agricultural productivity increases. As Secretary Clinton said on Monday, "this is the central pillar of our commitment to finding sustainable, long-term solutions to the hunger crisis."
We can see the challenge starkly in the Horn of Africa. During his keynote remarks, Vice President Biden spoke passionately about the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa and the over 13 million people who are at risk of starvation and malnutrition there. He noted U.S. efforts to promote recovery, economic growth and stability in the region, “despite the risks posed by al-Shabaab, a terrorist group that has brutalized the Somali population and placed deadly restrictions on humanitarian access to southern Somalia…Al Shabaab has disrupted agricultural practices and the free flow of goods, and willfully denied the hundreds of thousands of starving people access to food, water and medicine.”
Later, Secretary Clinton announced that the United States will provide an “additional $100 million, primarily in food assistance, for drought-affected areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.” This is in addition to the almost $650 million in food and humanitarian assistance already committed by the United States.
Even as we are working hard to feed the hungry in the present, we also have to redouble our commitment to Feed the Future, so that we can ultimately make famine a thing of the past.