The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.
The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Food riots and food rights: the moral and political economy of accountability for hunger

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Principal Investigator: Naomi Therese Hossain. Lead Organisation: Institute of Development Studies

Co-investigators: Patta Scott-Villiers; Ferdous Jahan; Celestine Musembi; Biraj Patnaik; Luis Brito; Alexander Shankland; Anuradha Joshi

The challenge of world hunger is not only about growing more food but about ensuring access to it. How can governments be made more accountable for ensuring access to food?

The research addresses this question by comparing two approaches people have been taking to making governments more accountable for food security. Focusing on the ‘food crisis’ since 2007, it will examine right-to-food movements and riots over food prices in Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Mozambique. The research asks:

  • How well do officials and policymakers understand how food price rises affect people?
  • How do people view government responsibilities to protect access to food?
  • Under what conditions do riots and right-to-food campaigns make governments more accountable for hunger?

The research will involve interviews with activists, protestors, affected groups (particularly women on low incomes), key officials and policymakers, and secondary analyses of media accounts of protests and activism, and official policy changes and statements. It will improve understanding of how to hold governments to account over hunger, enable policymakers to better anticipate and monitor the effects of food price volatility, and create opportunities for activists to engage with policymakers and government officials.

Further resources:

The project aims for impact on policy and practice among civil society organisations and social movements focused on accountability and rights to food (e.g. the Indian Right to Food Campaign, Oxfam GB's Grow Campaign); officials and policymakers in Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Mozambique, specifically food security units and social protection agencies; and sections of bilateral donor and multilateral agencies (e.g. FAO and World Bank) responsible for food security and social protection.

The project will also engage researchers interested in the politics of accountability for hunger. The research aims to contribute to strengthening accountability for food security by i) improving understanding of the grievances people have for mobilising around food, to help activists and civil society groups link with popular concerns, provide officials and aid donors with more sensitive indicators of food crisis, and enable donors to promote 'politically-optimal' social protection responses; ii) generating knowledge of how governments respond to mobilisation, to enable more informed political risk analyses, set more realistic parameters for donor technical advice and policy conditions during crises, and inform food security accountability initiatives (e.g. the Hunger Reduction Commitment Index); and iii) amplifying voice for right-to-food activism, by creating new platforms and spaces for constructive policy engagement by activists. Potential political sensitivity around food security suggests the need for close and sustained engagement with key actors rather than a more public engagement.

The strategy will be delivered in two ways. First, by creating a Reference Group comprising representatives of the audience groups identified above, to be invited to engage at key stages: the inception stage workshop (Phase 2), findings workshop (Phase 5), and final international and/or national workshops (Phase 6). The Reference Group will create a receptive environment for the research findings and a space for open engagement between activists and policymakers. It aims to ensure the relevance of the research, provide feedback, and facilitate connections to aid data collection and policy influence.

The second element of the Impact Strategy involves communicating with a wider set of key stakeholders and opinion leaders on food security and economic crisis, rights, civil society and protest. A database will be constructed from the teams' in-country networks and the IDS contact management system. This group will be contacted through regular brief email updates on progress throughout the project, and policy briefing notes when results are available. Research outputs will include individual country case studies, to be disseminated to a national audience, and a comparative synthesis report, to be disseminated at an international workshop in Phase 6.

To ensure the research remains connected to the concerns of food insecure people, findings will also be disseminated through at least one local level workshop to which participants from the communities in which focus group discussions were undertaken will be invited. The Impact Strategy will be managed by a dedicated team member with extensive international expertise in facilitation of multi-stakeholder engagement processes in policy and civil society networks. The costs will include staff time, travel and subsistence costs for five Reference Group members to participate in three stakeholder research workshops; and the costs of national and local research workshops.

The impact of the research will be monitored quantitatively by tracking communications and interactions with key stakeholder groups, and qualitatively, through discussions with the Reference Group members, feedback from community level workshops, scrutinising statements, documents, media coverage and public discourse, and evaluating changes in the policy space for civil society engagement over the right to food.

Primary theme: 
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Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Research Department
Fund Start Date: 
October 1st, 2012
Fund End Date: 
October 31st, 2014
Fund Currency Code: 
Fund Value: