Discussion Paper
No. 2018-10 | January 26, 2018
Katherine Marshall, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Cole Durham, Manoj Kurian, Ulrich Nitschke, Arnhild Spence and Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp
Engaging religious actors in addressing famine emergencies
(Published in Global Solutions Paper)


The United Nations in February 2017 declared a famine emergency in light of the imminent danger of starvation facing an estimated 20 million people in four countries, and appealed urgently for US$4 billion to meet immediate needs. Other countries face grave food shortages that present urgent humanitarian needs and undermine long term prospects for peace and development. A feature of contemporary hunger crises is their tight links to conflicts. Religious institutions and leaders are actively involved in the immediate and specific famine situation affecting African nations and Yemen and in efforts to end the conflicts that are the primary cause of famine. More broadly, religious leaders are acting to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, Zero Hunger, by 2030. The imperative to act on hunger is shared across religious divides, and the common purpose that binds different religious communities portends well for peacebuilding and progress in the affected areas. Religious actors should thus be an integral part of the international response to famine emergencies as well as to the Zero Hunger challenge. The urgent crises are pertinent for G20 members and should be prominent on G20 agendas. G20 attention and support to religious roles could enhance responses to the famine and peacebuilding in affected areas and thus contribute to unlocking the potential of the affected countries. Interfaith and intrafaith action on SDG 2, highlighted as part of the global agenda, can speed progress towards Zero Hunger.

JEL Classification:


Cite As

Katherine Marshall, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Cole Durham, Manoj Kurian, Ulrich Nitschke, Arnhild Spence, and Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp (2018). Engaging religious actors in addressing famine emergencies. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2018-10, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2018-10

Comments and Questions

Anonymous - Referee report
February 19, 2018 - 08:12
With their strong record of successful involvement in projects and programs aimed at reducing hunger and improving food security, religious groups are already a major actor in the field. This paper argues in favor of engaging them more systematically and making them an integral part of international responses to famine emergencies and more generally of efforts to achieve the ambitious SDG 2 (Zero Hunger). While this may well be a reasonable claim, the argument needs to be strengthened in several ways: First, as it currently stands, a large part of the “challenge” section does not really outline a challenge but rather provides examples of ongoing activities in which religious groups are involved. A more concise description of the challenge could be on the second to fourth paragraph of the current “challenge” section. Second, the authors would have to come up with a set of more concrete and implementable proposals. These proposals could be backed up by examples now included in the “challenge” part of the paper. Third, given that there is already a well-established framework within the UN system for addressing famine emergencies, the authors should spell out in more detail through which mechanisms religious actors could help improve the situation and how they would interact with the established institutions.