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Hunger, Discourse and the Policy Process: How do Conceptualizations of the Problem of ‘Hunger’ Affect its Measurement and Solution?


  • Ian MacAuslan

    (Consultant, Social Policy, Oxford Policy Management)


This paper applies ‘policy processes’ literature to constructions of hunger. Problem conceptualization and associated solutions are understood as shaped by discourse, rhetoric and interests. Two constructions of the problem of ‘hunger’ are analysed: hunger as lack of food, associated with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and hunger as malnutrition, associated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). While both conceptualizations agree hunger is a vital problem, the FAO's construction reflects its mandate on agricultural production, and the WHO's and UNICEF's construction supports their mandates on health and children. Although both conceptualizations are used to measure progress towards the ‘hunger’ Millennium Development Goal, the different conceptions, and associated measurements, have diverging implications for the direction of resources.Cet article applique la littérature ‘des processus politiques’ à des interprétations du problème de la faim. La question de la conceptualisation et les solutions associées sont formées par le discours, la rhétorique et les intérêts. Deux interprétations du problèmes de la faim sont analysées: la faim comme manque de nourriture, appliquée par l'Organisation pour l'Alimentation et l'Agriculture (FAO), et la faim perçue comme malnutrition, mise en œuvre par l'Organisation mondiale de la Santé (OMS) et l'UNICEF. Alors que ces deux conceptualisations s’accordent sur le caractère vital du problème, l'interprétation de la FAO reflète son mandat relatif à la production agricole, pendant que celle de l'OMS et de l'UNICEF s’appuie sur leurs mandats concernant la santé et les enfants. Bien que ces conceptualisations soient toutes deux utilisées pour mesurer les progrès par rapport à l'objectif du millénaire portant sur la lutte contre la faim, les interprétations différentes et les mesures associées ont des effets divergents concernant l'utilisation des ressources.European Journal of Development Research (2009) 21, 397–418. doi:10.1057/ejdr.2009.13; published online 14 May 2009

Suggested Citation

  • Ian MacAuslan, 2009. "Hunger, Discourse and the Policy Process: How do Conceptualizations of the Problem of ‘Hunger’ Affect its Measurement and Solution?," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 21(3), pages 397-418, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:21:y:2009:i:3:p:397-418

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