RE: Legal developments in the progressive realization of right to adequate food


One of the most dehumanizing aspects of living in the modern world is experiencing chronic hunger. Some eight hundred and forty two million (one in eight of the world's population) go to bed hungry every night[1]. Many of them are children, for whom early hunger leaves a lifelong legacy of cognitive and physical impairment[2].  Such hunger is not due to a shortage of food – globally there is enough food to feed seven billion plus citizens if we as a human race, adopt the right decisions now. Ending hunger is entirely feasible but requires concerted action at different levels. At a national level, progressive governments in Brazil and Ghana have shown how to cut hunger sharply, through cash transfers to poor people, raising the minimum wage and investing in smallholder farmers. At an international level, Europe and America's push to reduce their dependence on imported oil and gas has led them to introduce targets and subsidies for biofuels, which inter alia pushed up prices of cereals (main food for poor people).Moreover, developed country greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate changes leading to catastrophic temperature rises that will particularly harm tropical agriculture. We urgently need an international effort to find a way to feed the planet's growing population without destroying its ecosystems. Even after the technological breakthrough in food production, hunger still exists, shows the urgency of redistributing income and assets globally to achieve a fairer world where there will be no hungry person. Providing the minimum calories for the 13% of the world's population facing hunger would require just 1% of the current global food supply[3].  Every human being has a right to be free from hunger and to have access to safe and nutritious food. As a matter of law, the Right to Food has, at least in formal terms, been accorded universal recognition as a human right. It is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and several other international instruments. The States and governments that are parties to these instruments have obligations and commitments to assure the realization of the right. Under the Rome Declaration of World Food Security 1996, Heads of States reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger[4].   


[1] FAO (2013)

[2]  See Bryze et al  (2008)

[4] For details of these rights and related legal aspects, see Ahluwalia, Pooja (2004) The implementation of the Right to Food at the National Level, Working Paper No 8 , New York University. However, as Segundo (Latin American liberation theologian) lamented in the late 1970s,”no court, national or international will entertain a complaint of hunger”   (Reproduced in Editorial, Social Action, January-march 2014).