“The Return of Famine” was a conference sponsored by the World Peace FoundationFeinstein International Center, and Tufts University, and held at Tufts’ campus on Friday, May 4, 2018. It was hosted in recognition that between 2000 and 2011 there were no famines, and deaths in humanitarian emergencies had been much reduced. Yet today famine has returned to the world stage. In 2017, the United Nations identified four situations of acute food insecurity that threatened famine or breached that threshold—in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Drawing on Tufts University’s distinguished record of scholarship and public engagement on the subject of famine, this conference will bring together faculty and researchers from across the University, in conversation with outside experts. Panels addressed why famine has returned, today’s humanitarian challenges, legal and political issues related to criminalizing famine, and the most pressing famine of today, Yemen.


Conference Overview and links to videos of presentations

Welcome and introductions: Greg Gottlieb, Feinstein International Center and Alex de Waal, World Peace Foundation at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Panel One: Why has Famine Returned?
Panelists addressed the multi-causal nature of famine, including looking at climatic, food production, economic and political causes of famine, and how these contributed both to the spectacular decline in famines and to new and emergent famine risks.

Chair: Diana Chigas
Panelists: Dan Maxwell, Bill Moomaw, and Luka Kuol
Videos of panelists’ presentations

Panel Two: Challenges of Humanitarian Action
Panelists address the way in which humanitarian action has become more extensive, ambitious, complex and professional than ever before, with a wider than ever number of actors. They examine the nutritional, public health, logistical, informational, coordination and security challenges of mounting humanitarian responses.

Chair: Dan Maxwell
Panelists: Erin Boyd, Patrick Webb, and Jennifer Leaning
Videos of panelists’ presentations

Panel Three: The Politics and Law of Starvation
Panelists address the question of starvation as a war crime or crime against humanity, and as a political failure, and the measures that could be undertaken to enhance political will to prevent famine and legal and political actions to ensure accountability for starvation crimes.

Chair: Bridget Conley
Panelists: Alex de Waal, Rhoda E. Howard–Hassmann and Tom Dannenbaum
Video of panelists’ presentations.

Panel Four: The Crisis in Yemen
The humanitarian crisis is the biggest disaster of food crisis, health crisis and the massive destruction of livelihoods of our time. It is largely a man-made disaster, perpetrated on a civilian population as a byproduct of the conduct of war—a war in close western allies have a leading role. Panelists discuss the Yemen crisis and what should be the international response.

Chair: Greg Gottlieb
Panelists: Monica Toft, Martha Mundy, and Dyan Mazurana
Video of panelists’ presentations.

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