Working Toward a More Resilient World

It’s a critical time for the Feinstein International Center at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Tufts.

From the COVID pandemic and climate change to rising hunger and ongoing conflict, the world faces a multitude of serious, often interrelated, international challenges. With his 25thth With an anniversary on the horizon, the center – which is also associated with The Fletcher School – is highlighting its role in addressing these challenges and charting a way forward.

New Director Paul Howe, who joined in September 2021, is well qualified for the job, both as a practitioner and as an academic: he worked for the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for 17 years and has conducted influential research on hunger. As the center celebrates a quarter of a century, Howe envisions the team contributing to humanity’s broader effort to achieve a world without hunger and increased human resilience. He also plans to teach a course on world hunger in 2023 (more details to come). It’s a big challenge, but he’s optimistic.

tuft now: What drew you to the Feinstein Center?

Paul Howe: For me, there have always been different approaches to the problem of hunger. I did my PhD on ambiguities in the way famines are conceptualized, examining the very real human toll that the lack of a clear definition took during the response to the 1998 famine in what is now South Sudan. Along with my manager, Stephen Devereux, I proposed a new approach to defining hunger. Many others, including eminent colleagues from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, also worked on this issue and advanced this effort.

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When the United Nations made the first-ever official declaration of a “famine” in Somalia in 2011, I had deeply mixed feelings: it was tragic that another major crisis had erupted, but it was also heartening to see the concerted efforts of Scientists and practitioners could lead to important changes in the system. I then had a long career as a practitioner at WFP, but I was always writing papers and eventually felt it was time for me to put academics back at the center of my endeavours.

There was one place I immediately thought of. The Feinstein International Center has an excellent reputation within the United Nations, with NGOs and in the field in general. I was drawn to the focus on both hunger issues and humanitarian crises and their intersection with famine, and the opportunity to work with incredible people who are at the forefront of thinking and teaching on these issues. In a way, I couldn’t have arrived at a better time. It’s exciting: we’re approaching our 25th anniversary and celebrating a long history of contributions in this field. Now we want to set the course for another 25 years of research, teaching and positive effects.

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With that in mind: What are your hopes for the future and your goals as a director?

My hope is that we continue to make truly meaningful and meaningful contributions to avoid hunger and support human resilience on a global scale. Hunger is a huge problem that is increasing in absolute terms. During my time at WFP, I have learned how a lack of proper nutrition in children can cause irreversible, lifelong damage and prevent them from ever reaching their full physical and mental potential. We also know that hunger slows economic growth and can contribute to political instability. But finding sustainable solutions is a challenge. For example, the way we produce food on a global scale contributes to climate change; We cannot address one problem without considering the impact on the other. It is therefore a multidimensional problem that requires a multidisciplinary and holistic approach to address it.

The Feinstein team, with its network of partners around the world, has great expertise on the issue of hunger and where it intersects with humanitarian crises. I think of Dan Maxwell’s work on famines, Helen Young and Ana Marshak’s studies of arid-land malnutrition, and Erin Coughlan de Perez’s exciting research on climate change and anticipating hunger crises. Being at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy allows us to collaborate and draw on a broader range of faculty and expertise to think through these issues—whether it’s the work of Patrick Webb and Eileen Kennedy on world food systems or the pioneering work by Will Masters studies the cost of a nutritious diet around the world.

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The second goal focuses on the problem of humanitarian crises and how to support human resilience in the context of climate change, new pandemics, conflicts and economic shocks. This is another key challenge that is firmly embedded in the history of the Feinstein International Center. I think of Andy Catley’s leadership on global standards in emergencies and pastoral livelihoods, Liz Stite’s and Kim Howe’s work on child marriage in conflict situations, or Teddy Atim and Dyan Mazuana’s introduction of scientific research as evidence for the first time as part of a redress trial before the International Criminal Court. We are focused on Zero Hunger and Human Resilience as our twin themes, and given our 25 years of experience and our incredible team and partners, we are uniquely positioned to address them.

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