Sussex Centre for Conflict and Security Research (SCSR)

Forthcoming events

The Future of Famine

Monday 19 November 17:30 until 19:00
Chowen Lecture Theatre, BSMS
Speaker: Alex DeWaal
Part of the series: SCSR Annual Lecture

A few years ago one could credibly anticipate the definitive eradication of the scourge of famine. In 2017, famines and near-famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, and mass starvation in Syria, indicated that famines were making a comeback, albeit not on the calamitous scale of the mid-20th century. The nature of famines has shifted: from primarily production shock in pre-industrial times; to distribution failure and political decision in modern times; to political indifference today.

This lecture asks, what factors will determine the future of famine? It examines the features that current famines and near-famines have in common, including: armed conflict; the domination of transactional politics; the co-occurrence of simultaneous compound shocks (ecological, economic, political); and overriding priorities by the most powerful states (such as counter-terrorism, national security and incipiently, prevention of immigration) that relegate famine prevention and relief to a secondary concern.

Alex de Waal is Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation and a Research Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Considered one of the foremost experts on Sudan and the Horn of Africa, his scholarship and practice has probed humanitarian crisis and response, human rights, HIV/AIDS and governance in Africa, and conflict and peacebuilding. 

In 1988, de Waal received a DPhil in social anthropology at Nuffield College, Oxford for his thesis on the 1984-5 Darfur famine in Sudan. This research formed the basis of his first book, Famine That Kills: Darfur, Sudan (1989). In 1997, he published the book Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry, described by Foreign Affairs as “a powerful critique of the international humanitarian agencies dominating famine relief in Africa”.  

His most recent book, Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine (2017, Polity Press) provides an authoritative history of modern famines: their causes, dimensions and why they ended. He analyses starvation as a crime, and breaks new ground in examining forced starvation as an instrument of genocide and war.

De Waal also worked for several Africa-focused human rights organizations, focusing on the Horn of Africa, and especially on avenues to peaceful resolution of the second Sudanese Civil War. He researched the intersection of HIV/AIDS, poverty and governance, and initiated the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa. De Waal was a fellow at the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard (2004-2006), and Program Director at the Social Science Research Council. He was a member of the African Union mediation team for Darfur (2005-2006) and senior adviser to the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan (2009-2012). He was on the list of Foreign Policy’s 100 most influential public intellectuals in 2008 and Atlantic Monthly’s 27 “brave thinkers” in 2009.

The SCSR Annual Lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the BSMS foyer.

Please note registration is not required.

Please arrive promptly at 5pm at Chowen Lecture Theatre, BSMS Teaching Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9PX.

There are no parking charges after 5pm.

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By: Katy Joanna Joyce
Last updated: Friday, 16 November 2018

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