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Food Policy 46 (2014) 106–115

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Food Policy
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/foodpol

Does food security matter for transition in Arab countries?
Jean-François Maystadt a,b,⇑, Jean-François Trinh Tan b, Clemens Breisinger b a
b

Center for Institutions and Economic Performance (LICOS), KU Leuven, Belgium International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Development Strategy and Governance Division, United States

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 25 June 2012
Received in revised form 13 June 2013
Accepted 13 January 2014

Keywords:
Conflict
Food security
Transition
Arab awakening

a b s t r a c t
Expectations are high that transition in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen will bring about more freedom, justice, and economic opportunities. However, experiences from other world regions show that countries in transition are at high risk of entering conflicts, which often come at large economic, social and political costs. In order to identify options on how conflict may be prevented in Arab transition countries, this paper assesses the key global drivers of conflicts based on a dataset from 1960 to 2010 and improved cross-country regression techniques. Results show that unlike in other studies where per capita incomes, inequality, and poor governance, among other factors, emerge as the major determinants of conflict, food security at macro and household-levels emerges as the main cause of conflicts in the Arab World. The high exposure of Arab countries to global food price variations proves to be an important source of vulnerability for a peaceful Arab transition. If history is also a guide to the future, improving food security is not only important for improving the lives of rural and urban people; it is also likely to be the key for a peaceful transition. The paper concludes with a set of policy options on how to improve food security at macro and household-levels, including safeguard mechanisms against excessive price volatility, exportled and pro-poor growth, the creation/expansion of social safety nets and targeted nutrition programs. Ó 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Introduction
Civil conflicts inflict considerable human and economic costs and pose the risk of trapping countries into vicious cycles of violence (World Bank 2011). In order to prevent such conflicts and related negative consequences for development, scholars have long attempted to identify the roots of civil wars (Blattman and Miguel 2010). Such analysis seems particularly relevant in periods of political transition such as in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Experiences from other world regions show that countries in political transition are at high risk of entering prolonged phases of conflict (Hegre et al., 2001; Collier and Rohner, 2008). In Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa power vacuums have often led to a disruption of the transition process, an increase in civil wars, and imposed high costs and losses on countries and people

(Duffield, 2001; Kaldor, 2006; Keen, 1998). Collier (2007) estimates that for each year of conflict, economic growth may fall by 2.3% and that it may take a total of 17 years before the country catches up with its preconflict position. In addition to lost economic output, ⇑ Corresponding author at: Center for Institutions and Economic Performance (LICOS), KU Leuven, Belgium. Tel.: +32 16 3 76213; fax: +32 16 32 65 99. E-mail addresses: J.F.Maystadt@cgiar.org, JeanFrancois.maystadt@kuleuven.be (J.-F. Maystadt), J.F.TrinhTan@cgiar.org (J.-F. Trinh Tan), C.Breisinger@cgiar.org (C. Breisinger).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2014.01.005
0306-9192/Ó 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

conflict has a severe impact on human health, education, and nutrition (Chamarbagwala and Moran, 2011; Akresh and de Walque, 2008; Shemyakina, 2011) and often destroys physical as well as political capital (Collier, 1999). This...
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