RE: 10 Year Anniversary of the Right to Food Guidelines

Flavio Valente FIAN International - Co-facilitator of the discussion
09.05.2014
Thank you very much to everyone who took the time to contribute such valuable input. It is incredibly important to the process to have as many viewpoints represented as possible. For the sake of furthering the discussion, I’d like to respond directly to some of the comments. 
 
1. A few contributors to this forum have highlighted the need to strengthen the important connection between infant/young child feeding and food security, through the articulation of protections for mothers and children in international treaties, as well as local and national level legislation. The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, while achieving some successes, should indeed be supplemented by further monitoring and regulation. The Code has allowed civil society to hold corporations accountable for the (mis)marketing of infant food products, but has been weaker as a tool by which governments can hold corporations accountable. 
 
States should fully implement the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, to position breastfeeding as a norm, to respect and promote community-based food sovereignty approaches to complementary feeding, and to address the unwelcomed incursion of medicalized, processed, and globalized ready-to-use commercial foods into young child feeding, thus protecting children’s and their mothers’ rights to adequate food and nutrition. 
 
2. Many respondents have made further reference to malnutrition, a core element of the human right to adequate food and corresponding state obligations to respect, protect and fulfill this right. The upcoming Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) provides an opportunity for civil society to ensure that the final political outcome document is explicitly based on human rights, and recognizes that many of the causes of malnutrition are often a result of human rights violations, including violations of women’s rights, child rights, and people’s access to natural resources. 
 
People are at the heart of food systems and smallholder farmers - despite producing most of the food consumed by humans - are also among those most affected by malnutrition. People, in particular smallholder farmers (including fisherfolk and livestock farmers) and other small-scale food producers, as well as other groups affected by malnutrition, must be placed at the center of international and national efforts aimed at reshaping food systems - as beneficiaries as well as designers and implementers of such systems. States must reorient their policies and decisively support sustainable agricultural and food systems that are fully grounded in respect for human rights. 
 
3. Another shortcoming addressed here, which has also come up in other discussions, is the view that the voluntary nature of the Guidelines renders them ineffectual. I would tend to disagree with this characterization. The Guidelines outline what governments could do in order to comply with their obligations under the ICESCR, which is itself binding. It is not the use of the word “voluntary” that is at issue here. It is rather due to the fact that governments do not feel compelled to meet their obligations, as there is no accountability. 
 
What we need to do is strengthen the demand from civil society, so that these governments can be held accountable. We may do so by using the Guidelines to monitor governments, and present monitoring reports to the relevant treaty bodies and demand accountability and compliance. We must increase people’s awareness about the importance of human rights, and at the same time support the struggle of those who are being excluded, exploited, and discriminated against. 
 
These are the people that are the sources of human rights in the world. The states will only regulate power if we pressure them; this pressure comes from the struggles on the ground. Real transformation involves strengthening the entire human rights system as a whole, and requires much more than a name change. 
 
I am looking forward to the upcoming weeks of discussion and invite you to keep sharing your comments and experiences.
 
Best regards,
 
Flavio