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In a crisis, diplomacy has typically been concerned with how to make or avoid war. But crises are diverse. Humanitarian crises like the flow of refugees from Syria’s civil war, or economic ones like the Global Financial Crisis are testament to that. Craig Robinson was one of only 27 students selected as a ‘Next Generation Delegate’ to an international symposium in Washington DC. He was selected for his work which seeks to add an additional item to the crisis diplomacy agenda - food security. “Hunger is something that no person, in particular children, should have to suffer,” he says.
The second-year PhD student at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy was chosen from more than 800 applicants to attend the Global Food Security Symposium in March. Discussions at the symposium largely revolved around the importance of agricultural product to meet 2050 food demand - undoubtedly a crucial concern. “But in one of the sessions I moderated, I emphasised that the international community still appears unprepared if another food price crisis emerges,” Robinson says. While food price shocks are relatively rare, they also appear to occur on a regular, cyclical basis.
Robinson was the only Australian representative at the event and makes the point that food insecurity could cause regional instability in the Asia-Pacific region if not addressed. “That type of instability is not in Australia’s interest, for businesses, individuals or our government,” Robinson says. He claims that when Asian governments feel pressured to ensure domestic food security, they often intervene in the market via a range of trade-distorting measures. That’s not good for the world’s poor, with such measures pushing 130 million people back into poverty in 2007-08. To that end, Robinson’s thesis will develop a crisis diplomacy framework to promote international cooperation during agricultural market uncertainty.
He has a professional stake in this topic, too. As part of a G20 initiative in 2012, he was responsible for preparing advice on how Australia and the international community should respond to surging food prices. Robinson will use that experience when he embarks on fieldwork later this year – to see how food security plays out in the realm of crisis diplomacy.