In November 1996 the world's leaders gathered in Rome for the World Food Summit. They considered it intolerable that more than 800 million people in the world do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs and pledged their political will and their commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half its 1996 level no later than 2015.
The World Food Summit Plan of Action spells out the various objectives and actions to guide countries in achieving the aims of the Summit. One of these objectives is to improve the definition and implementation of the rights related to food. The High Commissioner for Human Rights was given special responsibility for this objective, and has already made considerable progress.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the cornerstone document for all those aspiring to establish human rights and human dignity, is on 10 December 1998. It is my pleasure to present this special publication by FAO in commemoration of that anniversary.
One of the rights spelled out in the Universal Declaration is the right to an adequate standard of living, including food. The Preamble to the FAO Constitution sets "ensuring humanity's freedom from hunger" as one of the basic purposes of the Organization. The rights related to food are therefore of special concern to FAO and other agencies involved in food, agriculture and rural development.
In this publication, the rights related to food are examined from both the human rights and the operational points of view. Distinguished human rights expert A. Eide provides an insight into the meaning of the right to adequate food; FoodFirst International Action Network, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that specializes in the right to food, presents an overview of NGO action in the field; the World Food Programme discusses the right to food in emergencies, with special emphasis on the plight of internally displaced persons; P. Spitz of the International Fund for Agricultural Development explains the visions of his organization for the rural poor; and FAO itself has contributed various articles about women's right to food, hunger mapping, follow-up action to the World Food Summit, the Special Programme for Food Security, and the importance of national legislation in implementing the rights related to food.