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GNSI Policy Dialogues: Hunger as a Weapon Programs

GNSI Policy Dialogues: Hunger as a Weapon Recap

On May 24, the first-ever GNSI Policy Dialogues convened at the University of South Florida in Tampa. This new platform, created by the Global and National Security Institute (GNSI), is specifically designed to tackle often overlooked challenges that are, nonetheless, deeply connected to global and national security.
General (Ret) Frank McKenzie

This first event focused on the theme “Hunger as a Weapon.” You can view the full video here. The concept of hunger as a weapon dates to the beginning of written history with Homer’s Iliad describing the siege of Troy. In war, military leaders often consider foodstuffs as it relates to their war effort while analyzing ways to use this basic need against their foe. Sherman’s March to the Sea in the American Civil War followed a “scorched earth” policy, destroying everything in its path, including crops and food stores. Despite recent attempts to reduce the use of hunger against populations, the practice continues.

Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme  showed that hunger is frequently caused by and contributes to instability and conflict.
Cindy McCain, Executive Director, World Food Programme

McCain’s full remarks here.

The new Provost and Executive Vice President for USF, Dr. Prasant Mohapatra, delivered welcome remarks to the crowd attending at the Patel Center for Global Solutions, along with virtual attendees from as far away as the UK. Despite beginning his new role only a few weeks before the conference, Mohapatra already knows the vital role USF plays in the everyday lives of so many.
Dr. Prasant Mohapatra

Highlighting the opening session of the conference, General (Ret) Frank McKenzie delivered the morning keynote address. McKenzie is the Executive Director of GNSI, as well as Cyber Florida and is the former commander of the United States Central Command, whose Area of Responsibility (AOR) includes 21 countries, encompassing the Greater Middle East.

McKenzie’s career took him to all corners of the world. He has seen violence and cruelty at nearly every post, but this topic – Hunger as a Weapon – is a special one, for all the wrong reasons.
General (Ret) Frank McKenzie

McKenzie’s full keynote remarks here.

The morning session featured the first Panel Discussion of the Day: Global Hunger: Generator of Social, Economic and Political Instability. Aiming to answer these questions:

  • 1) How does hunger and food insecurity affect economic development and political stability across the globe?
  • 2) Since the end of World War I, how has hunger been used as a weapon in conflict and war (e.g., Ukraine, Ethiopia and Syria)?
  • 3) How have countries (like China) competed for food security through land purchases, increased food production and infrastructure development (e.g., China’s investments in Africa)?

Full Panel Discussion here.

Featured panel members and speakers:

The afternoon session for Hunger as a Weapon kicked off with a keynote address from Laurie Beyranevand, a Professor Law at the Vermon Law and Graduate School, where she is also the Director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems. 

Beyranevand focused on the lack of action by the United States government, pointing out that the White House convened a conference on food nutrition and health for the first time in 50 years.
Laurie Beyranevand, Vermont Law and Graduate School

Beyranevand’s full keynote remarks here.

The second Panel Discussion of the conference picked up from Beyranevand’s keynote address: Food Security in the United States: A Domestic Policy. The panel attacked these questions:

  • 1)    What role would hunger and food insecurity play on education and workforce readiness during time sof peach and conflict?
  • 2)    How has the military readiness been affected by hunger in the United States and its allies?
  • 3)    Given what the world has seen with the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine, how secure are food supply chains at the local/regional level across the United States?

Full Panel Discussion here.

Featured panel members and speakers:

The day concluded with three breakout sessions:

  • 1)    Fireside Chat with Peter Cloutier and Dr. David Himmelgreen. The USF professor spoke with the Professor of Development Security and USAID Chair for the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU)
  • 2)    Dangerously Hungry: The Link Between Food Insecurity and Conflict: Dr. Chase Sova, the lead author of the report, conducted a deep dive into the findings of the latest watershed report from the World Food Programme
  • 3)    Finding Solutions to Weaponized Hunger: A Multidimensional Approach: moderated by Patrick Hamilton, International Committee of the Red Cross.

Videos of the breakout sessions will be available in the near future.

SAVE THE DATE: Our next big event will be the 2nd GNSI Tampa Summit on September 27-28 at the Marshall Student Center on the Tampa campus of USF. It will feature the signature event, the 8th Great Power Competition Conference and the title of the conference is: The Future and Ethics of Uncrewed and Autonomous Warfare.

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The GNSI Newsroom is dedicated to highlighting news and ideas from the world of global and national security, as well as stories that focus on the Global and National Security Institute at USF. We want to emphasize the many ways GNSI leads the university's strategic focus on global and national security.