No peace, no sustainable development a vicious cycle that we can break.

Author:Bouzar, Khalida
 
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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have an intrinsic relationship to peace and stability. Without peace, all other goals--from focusing on youth and women's needs, to addressing climate change and water, energy and food security--will be impossible to achieve. At the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), we have long been aware of the obstacles to development that are posed by conflict and fragility. Nowhere has this challenge been felt more acutely than in our programmes in the rural areas of the Near East and North Africa (NENA), where we have supported US $5.5 billion of investment in agricultural and rural development over the past four decades.

The causes of conflict vary considerably between countries and between regions within the same country, but the effect on food security is uniformly negative. On the other hand, food insecurity can itself lead to conflict. During the Arab awakening in 2011, for example, high food prices were cited as one of the contributing factors to the unrest.

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In 2015, the number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide reached over 60 million, with 5 million displaced in the first half of the year alone. The majority of the newly displaced, and half the world's IDPs, live in the NENA region. These millions of people have been deprived of their livelihoods and forced to abandon jobs, farms and animals in search of safety and security. Active conflicts, stalled transition processes, and long-term development challenges have severely disrupted people's lives and livelihoods in NENA, resulting in a refugee crisis and increased migration and displacement, which threaten the stability of the region and risk undoing decades of development progress. According to recent data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the conflict in Syria alone has forced more than 11 million people from their homes, with more than 4 million seeking refuge in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The sudden population increase--23.5 per cent in Lebanon and nearly 10 per cent in Jordan--is straining these countries' already limited resources and their food security.

The connection between peace and food security is one of the reasons why investing in rural people is of absolute global relevance today. Development agencies could play a major role in bridging the gap between humanitarian and sustainable development responses, which is critical to addressing protracted crises. Whether we are talking about reducing poverty, improving food security or strengthening resilience to all kinds of shocks, including climate change, the rural dimension cannot be ignored. In fact, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda affirmed that rural development could achieve "rich payoffs across the SDGs." (1)

We also have to ask ourselves, however, how we can aim to achieve the SDGs in countries where peace is the main challenge. For the SDGs to become attainable, development efforts will have to address the spectrum of challenges facing rural people, and be aware of the rural-urban nexus that ties together the fate of cities and the vitality of rural communities. Rural areas, where the majority of people derive their livelihoods from agriculture, account for around three quarters of the world's poorest and most undernourished. Eliminating hunger and poverty is inextricably tied to increasing attention to rural development.

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