This paper considers the political contexts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, how these affected the response to the 2011 Horn of Africa emergency, and the implications for future response. Although the Horn of Africa is often seen as a security-challenged region, for good reason, the level of insecurity varies significantly between and within countries. Moreover, the political systems in terms of governance (and its impact on social and economic mobility and human rights) and of government capacity in place in the three countries bear little resemblance to each other. What the countries do share, however, is a common climatic zone. The first section of the paper deals with some important implications of this regions perennial climatic challenges for approaches to improving food security. The following sections deal with the political contexts, how these affected the response to the 2011 crisis, and the implications for future response. The final section offers recommendations.