SINGAPORE: Food insecurity is one of the four common challenges that make security cooperation necessary, says Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

He said food insecurity threatened societies and exacerbated conflicts.

“Indeed, no country is immune to this. Covid-19 has already seen supply chain disruptions globally, where national lockdowns have halted the flow of food supplies and raw goods. Now, the Ukraine-Russia conflict is making the situation much worse.”

Commodity price volatility has surged, with food prices reaching levels not seen since the 2007-08 price spikes, he said in a talk on “Developing New Forms of Security Cooperation” at a plenary session of the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue here yesterday.

Explaining the link between food security and defence, he said: “Let’s look back just 10 years ago when people took to the streets of Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. Protesters were not only crying out for freedom and social justice, but they were also crying out for bread.

“The cost of pantry staples had jumped because of the skyrocketing price of commodities like wheat, stoking fury, warranted or otherwise, against governments.”

Hishammuddin said the combination of unhappiness from two years of the pandemic and rising food prices may push “our people over the edge, generating a wave of political instability, with potential riots and protests affecting the security environments in our nations.

“In Sri Lanka, protests have erupted over shortages of gas and other basic goods. Double-digit inflation in Pakistan also arguably contributed to the recent change of government there.

“Peru has likewise been rocked by anti-government demonstrations sparked by rising fuel prices, which have sadly resulted in a number of deaths. Unrest in certain parts of the world could lead to security threats to us all.

“It’s now obvious that threats are no longer confined to political factors, but also economic considerations,” he said.

He said he believes the worst is yet to come.

“The damage in Ukraine, a major exporter of many basic commodities, as well as harsh sanctions on Russia, are expected to spur further price increases in the coming months.

“The conflict is in Europe, but the implications and damage are global. Like it or not, food security is critical to peace and stability, there are no two ways about it,” he added.

Besides food insecurity, the other three common challenges that necessitate security cooperation highlighted by Hishammuddin are an increase in transboundary crime from border reopenings, an upsurge in online disinformation arising from terror groups and extremists, and the continued threat of biological warfare.

Meanwhile, the member states of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) have reaffirmed their nations’ commitment to the Arrangement, following the commemoration of its 50th anniversary last year, said Singapore’s Defence Ministry (Mindef).

According to the ministry, its Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen hosted a breakfast yesterday for Hishammuddin, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, New Zealand’s Defence Minister Peeni Henare, and the British High Commissioner to Singapore Kara Owen on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue. — Bernama