This e-discussion will explore efforts to ensure food security and nutritional needs through human rights-based approaches in protracted crises. It will seek to identify suggestions for the Agenda for Action for Addressing Food Insecurity in Protracted Crises, to be considered by the CFS in 2014.
What distinguishes this topic from previous e-discussions, is that it already benefits from a well-developed normative framework of treaties, general principles and norms of international law, and provides an opportunity to “operationalize” those binding and bonding standards of universal application to policies, programs, projects and relationships, both within institutions as well as in the field.
The global community, faced with the suffering that accompanies food insecurity, is challenged also to address its causes rooted in violations of human rights as defined in international law. A further challenge lies in ensuring human rights through the harmonization of humanitarian and development aid processes with human rights norms.
For every human right, states bear corresponding obligations to respect, protect and fulfill that specific human right. These include, but are not limited to the human right to adequate food. In order to operationalize that right, the exercise of several “process” human rights also must be upheld at once, including the human rights to participation, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of (access to and imparting) information. Indispensable, too, may be the exercise of the human right to education.
Rights to property, both as a human right and as specific rights enshrined in local law, include the “right to own property individually and in association with others.” Given the context of food security in protracted crises, the rights to equitable access to land and natural resources can make the same life-and-death difference for persons and communities, even entire peoples. Both the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights emphasize among their over-riding implementation principles that “In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence” (common Article 1.2).
All states bear the obligation not to recognize, support, cooperate or transact with, or benefit from an illegal situation resulting in gross violations of human rights or breaching a peremptory norm of international law. That means that all states bear self-executing domestic and extraterritorial obligations to prevent, end and remedy such illegal situations.
The customary-law standard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes, in its preamble, that human rights constitute “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society…secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.” Therefore, while the formula of respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights is the primary obligation of all states, they also bear the obligation to ensure those human rights are upheld by those parties operating within and from their territory of jurisdiction and effective control.
The international principle of humanitarian intervention has become an emerging standard, within the limits of state sovereignty. In certain crises affecting food security, a state may be required first to declare a famine, in order to engage the mechanisms of international food assistance. A state’s duty to do so forms one example of how the implementation principle of international cooperation—also enshrined in both human rights Covenants—complements the extraterritorial obligation specific to the human right to food.
The delivery of such aid may positively affect the human right to food in the immediate term, but derogate other human rights in the longer term. The prolonged nature of food aid without sufficient other remedial measures, in addition to the great drain on aid resources, actually may tend to have corrosive effects on several human rights. Prolonged food aid in isolation of development and human rights interventions may displace further the capacities and opportunities of local people to rise from the crisis, while local land and natural resources, institutional capacities, policy-making authority and other local assets are degraded, leaving little with which communities can sustain resilience and/or rebuild livelihoods in a self-determined future.
With the entire bundle of human rights in mind, this discussion allows you to raise these and other dilemmas in addressing food security in protracted crises. It also seeks to identify ways that concerned parties can go beyond building in resilience to cope with crises toward actually resolving crises to the extent possible. That would make the difference between working “in” protracted crises and working “on” protracted crises.
This is your opportunity to tell us about challenges, actions, principles, adjustments, recommendations and good practices.
Based on your knowledge and experiences, consider the following questions: