20 February 2023. The Coordination Committee of the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) expresses their full solidarity with the entire population of Turkey and Syria affected by the recent devastating earthquake. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families of victims, we extend our wishes for the fast recovery of the wounded, and we salute all relief workers who have been on the ground in the affected areas since the very first moments and for many days now both from inside Syria and Turkey, and from abroad, providing emergency and life-saving aid.

As the CFS debates its future priorities, it is essential to remember the commitments made in 2015 with the Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crisis (CFS-FFA). In particular, the theme of conflicts and the fragility of food systems has been recognized by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE- FSN) in its Note on Critical, emerging and enduring issues for food security and nutrition published in 2022.

In Turkey and Syria, up until 16 February, more than 41,000 lives were lost while tens of thousands were wounded and millions displaced and affected. All these numbers are likely to increase given that search and rescue operations are still ongoing.

We urge CFS Members to take the necessary efforts to ensure that rights are guaranteed in the affected areas hit by the natural disaster, in particular the human right to adequate food, social assistance and protection, and the health of individuals and communities, paying special attention to the needs of children and women.

As it is also recommended in the CFS-FFA, unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to the population should be guaranteed, aid should be sent to both countries while communicating with the relevant actors on the ground to be able to match aid to what is most necessary and needed for those affected, without discrimination. This includes food, medicines, medical equipment, oil, and construction material, among others, as well as unimpeded financial flows to support such assistance.

Moreover, the HLPE notes that peace is a prerequisite for achieving the goal of zero hunger, as conflict disrupts all six dimensions of food security, resulting in severe hunger and malnutrition, especially for those who are already vulnerable such as smallholder farmers, pastoralists, women, children, Indigenous Peoples, the landless, caste-discriminated communities, and racial or ethnic minorities. In addition, it emphasizes the need for a long-term, holistic approach to solving the structural problems of food insecurity, such as political and economic shocks, depleted natural resources, and socioeconomic exclusion caused by conflict.

However, efforts to address the aftermath of the natural disaster have been hindered by sanctions on aid delivery and other restrictions to Syria. This has resulted in increased loss of life that could have been prevented if aid had been able to reach the affected areas immediately.

On 10 February 2023, ten United Nations experts, including Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, issued a statement following the earthquake saying: “even during natural disasters, when hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake, it is gravely concerning that humanitarian actors face persisting challenges due to sanctions. […] We call for the lifting of all economic and financial restrictions caused by unilateral sanctions against Syria, during this time of sorrow and human suffering.”

The HLPE also recommends implementing social protection systems to care for the poor and vulnerable, and building functioning food systems in post-conflict situations. In addition, it highlights the significant impact of export restrictions and economic sanctions on net food-importing countries and regions that are already food insecure.

Among the questions that should be addressed in future work, the HLPE suggests looking at the consequences of economic sanctions on human rights, food security, and nutrition in conflict and post-conflict societies, and the main challenges for humanitarian action in ensuring access to food for vulnerable populations in situations of conflict, including the relationship between conflict and other multiple crises such as climate change and the pandemic.

We call on the CFS Members to increase their efforts to respect and implement the CFS Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises, which recommends refraining from unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, and which endanger food security and nutrition, as stated in the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security; and not using food as an instrument for political or economic pressure. Food should not be used as a weapon nor as a form of collective punishment. Food is a human right, and as such, it should not be denied to any human being.

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