Committee on World Food Security adopts Right to Food Guidelines
Breakthrough in negotiations
24 September 2004, Rome -- The FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS) yesterday evening adopted Voluntary Guidelines to "support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security." Seen by many as a breakthrough, the adoption of the Right to Food Guidelines comes after two years of often difficult, but constructive negotiations.
The objective of the Guidelines, says FAO, is "to provide practical guidance" to states in implementing their obligations relating to the right to adequate food. This should improve the chances of reaching the hunger reduction target of the World Food Summit.
Wide range of principles involved
The Voluntary Guidelines take into account a wide range of important principles, including equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, accountability and the rule of law, and the principle that all human rights are universal, indivisible, inter-related and interdependent.
According to FAO, various non-governmental stakeholders and intergovernmental organizations contributed significantly to the preparation of the Guidelines. These included the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the North-South Alliance, which is a coalition of a large number of NGOs.
Human rights-based tool
FAO says the Guidelines are a "human rights-based practical tool addressed to all states." They cover the full range of actions that need to be taken at the national level to build an enabling environment for people to feed themselves in dignity and to establish appropriate safety nets for those who are unable to do so.
"The adoption of these Voluntary Guidelines constitutes a major breakthrough. This is the first time that an intergovernmental body agrees on what the right to food really means," said Giuliano Pucci, FAO Legal Counsel.
FAO bodies have not discussed human rights issues in any detail before. Negotiations successfully overcame various obstacles, as Ambassador Saeed Noori Naeini of Iran, said: "The Guidelines can serve to empower the poor and hungry to claim their rights. We now have an additional instrument to better address the needs of the hungry and malnourished.
Hartwig de Haen, FAO Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department said that the challenge now is to make the Guidelines more widely known and used. "It is now time for action".
Summit declaration called on FAO to develop Guidelines
In the declaration adopted at the World Food Summit: five years later in June 2002, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed "the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food."
The declaration invited the FAO Council to establish an Intergovernmental Working Group to develop a set of voluntary guidelines to support Member States' efforts to achieve the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security. This has now been achieved and the Committee on World Food Security has adopted the Guidelines, which will be submitted to the FAO Council in November. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization provided the Secretariat for the Intergovernmental Working Group that negotiated the Guidelines.
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