Rob Bailey: How to boost resilience to global food challenges

By Eliza Villarino 12 October 2011

Robert Bailey, senior research fellow, Food & Environmental Security at Chatham House. Photo by: Chatham House

Rob Bailey counts among the champions of sustainable development. His research underpinned Oxfam’s global advocacy on food security and climate change, including at the Copenhagen climate summit. Now at Chatham House, he is looking at solutions to improve global resilience to food price shocks.

Bailey is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London. He and his peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Bailey about his leadership and vision for development cooperation in the years to come. Here’s what he said:

What do you see as your main achievement in shaping the global debate on sustainable development?

I honestly can’t claim personal achievements. Everything I’ve done in recent years I’ve done working with incredibly talented and committed people, and without them my contributions would have amounted to nothing.

What has been your main challenge advocating climate change assistance to developing countries since the 2009 Copenhagen summit, and how have you tackled it?

The biggest challenge since Copenhagen has undoubtedly been the continuing economic crisis. This has reduced the resources available for climate finance, and turned populations and governments inward. In this situation, rather than harangue cash-strapped governments for money, it made more sense to focus on getting the climate finance institutions right — in particular ensuring that developing countries are fairly represented in governance and decision-making. At Oxfam, we also encouraged governments to look at innovative ways of raising new finance such as taxes on international aviation and shipping emissions, or a financial transactions tax.

How do you see yourself helping to reduce the volatility of global food prices in the coming years?

There is a lot that governments could do to deal with the volatility of food prices. As is so often the case, the challenges are primarily political. But unless we start to act now, things will only get worse as food markets continue to tighten and climate change gathers pace. At Chatham House, I plan to look at the question of how we can build resilience into the global system today, to prepare for the really big shocks of tomorrow. The solutions need to combine policies, institutions, governance, and crucially, consider the politics.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

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Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


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