Speaking on the topic titled “Developing New Forms of Security Cooperation” at the plenary session of the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday (11 June), Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said food insecurity is one of the four common challenges that also necessitates security cooperation.
According to Bernama, he said that food insecurity can threaten societies and lead to conflicts.
“Indeed, no country is immune to this. Covid-19 has already seen supply chain disruptions globally where national lockdowns have halted the flow of food supplies and raw goods. Now, the Ukraine-Russia conflict is making the situation much worse,” he said.
Hishammuddin added that the prices of commodities have surged recently, with food prices reaching levels not seen since the 2007-08 price spikes.
“But some of you may wonder why I am highlighting food security in the Shangri-La Dialogue – how does it link to security and defence?” he told the audience.
“Let’s look back just 10 years ago when people took to the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Arab world, protesters were not only crying out for freedom and social justice but they were also crying out for bread.”
“The cost of pantry staples had jumped because of the skyrocketing price of commodities like wheat, stoking fury, warranted or otherwise, against governments,” he said.
Hishammuddin then explained that the combination of unhappiness from 2 years of the pandemic and rising food prices may push “our people over the edge, generating a wave of political instability, with potential riots and protests affecting the security environments in our nations.”
He then made relevance to the protests that have erupted in Sri Lanka over shortages of gas and other basic goods, and the double-digit inflation in Pakistan had also arguably contributed to the recent change of government there.
“Peru has likewise been rocked by anti-government demonstrations sparked by rising fuel prices, which have sadly resulted in a number of deaths. Unrest in certain parts of the world could lead to security threats to us all.”
“It’s now obvious that threats are no longer confined to political factors, but also economic considerations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hishammuddin believes that the worst had yet to come.
“The damage in Ukraine, a major exporter of many basic commodities, as well as harsh sanctions on Russia, is expected to spur further price increases in the coming months.
“The conflict is in Europe, but the implications and damage are global. Like it or not, food security is critical to peace and stability, there are no two ways about it,” he said.
Apart from food insecurity, Hishammuddin said the other 3 common challenges include an increase in transboundary crime from border reopenings, an upsurge in online disinformation arising from terror groups and extremists, and the continued threat of biological warfare.