Re: Rights-based approaches to Food Security in Protracted Crises

UG2014 Group 8 University, Guyana

“For too long the development debate has ignored the fact that poverty tends to be characterized not only by material insufficiency but also by denial of rights. What is needed is a rights-based approach to development. Ensuring essential political, economic and social entitlements and human dignity for all people provides the rationale for policy. These are not a luxury affordable only to the rich and powerful but an indispensable component of national development efforts.” - Kofi Annan

We are a group of five University of Guyana Students who are currently in our final year of studies of a Bachelor of Social Science Degree in Economics. We are currently working on a thesis for our Agricultural Economics 2 Course (To investigate Guyana’s participation in the MDG’s initiative of the collaborative efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2015”) and offer below our humble contribution to this discussion. We have tried to relate it to our country’s situation (Guyana, South America) as much as possible and drawn from the knowledge we have gleaned thus far in our studies and research.

·         Rights-based approaches to Food Security in Protracted Crises.

A number of Third World countries experience protracted crises especially those that are faced with droughts and earthquakes. In Third World counties, people can hardly afford the basic necessities to survive; this is usually an effect of a weak or inefficient government. As mentioned in the opening quote, these developing countries may be in their current state due to a human rights violation. Going forward in our response we are holding all other variables constant and looking at the issue of food security solely as a human rights problem.

A new dimension to pursue food security is the Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA), which seeks to reduce the level of inequality and discrimination. This approach takes human rights into consideration when making policies and allows the public to participate to help make the decisions that will determine their standard of living in the future. The fact that HRBA allows the public to hold those that are responsible to fulfil their rights accountable; gives the public a greater opportunity to take part. However the application of HRBA to areas that have a weak or no central government control, can help ensure that the citizens suffering due to the protracted crisis can have their basic human rights fulfilled and can level the playing field thus reducing the problem of food insecurity.

One way we suggest that HRBA can be implemented in areas with weak or no central government is for the other sectors of the golden quadrant to step up (civil society, private sector and knowledge sectors).  For example, in most cases we find that when individuals are not properly informed about something they have no cause to fight for it. This is where we suggest the knowledge sector can play its part. Citizens suffering in the protracted crisis areas should be informed about their rights to basic needs (food, clothing and shelter). Once they are properly informed they can now call out to the civil and private sectors for help in attaining these rights.

The civil society being more in touch with these individuals can coordinate with the private sector in ensuring these individuals get their basic human rights. Our suggestions are that these individuals not be given aid but rather given a chance to support themselves. In other words civil society can coordinate with the private sector for training and jobs for these individuals. This gives them a source of income in which they can now attempt to sustain themselves. This will also lead to investment initiatives and higher productivity level for the country. This will give the Government better resources and they are now in a better position to strengthen central government and ensure human rights are granted to the citizens.

In this way we see how three of the four sectors of the golden quadrant can work to strengthen the last sector and how they can all work together maximising their strengths and covering their weaknesses. This may seem like a very simple solution in black and white to a very serious problem, it however requires a lot of on the ground work. A major problem of developing countries is a term in development economics known as the coordination failure. It is this inefficiency of major players (such as the golden quadrant) to efficiently and effectively coordinate their activities to attain a common goal that often finds developing countries with the ability to greatly reduce poverty still in a poverty trap.

In our country Guyana, we have managed to meet the target of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger and made great strides in reducing poverty levels.[1] This is mainly due to government initiatives. Perhaps more active support along with efficient coordination from other sectors in the golden quadrant will lead to us achieving this MDG by the 2015 deadline.

Group Members:

Alexander Defraitas

Ricardo Deokie

Jamiyla Morian

Suraiya Ramkissoon

Veronica Sukhai


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "Countries in protracted crisis: what are they and why do they deserve special attention?" The State of Food Security in the World, 2010: 12-26.

United Nations Development Group. Human rights-based approach to development programming (HRBA). 2006. (accessed November 11, 2013).

United Nations Development Program. Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger. 2012. (accessed October 28, 2013).

Universal Peace Federation. Human Rights Quotes. 2006-2013. (accessed November 11, 2013).

[1] (United Nations Development Program 2012)