Legal developments in the progressive realization of right to adequate food

01.07.2014 - 16.07.2014

2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security (Right to Food Guidelines). At its 41st Session from 13-17 October 2014 the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) will undertake a retrospective of the progress made in the implementation of the Right to Food Guidelines. FAO is preparing a number of working papers on different aspects of the Right to Food Guidelines as a contribution to the retrospective, and a number of these will be discussed in the Right to Food Forum for their enrichments. The legal developments paper is the subject of this first online consultation.

We will shortly be launching a closed consultation in the near future on legal developments in Central America, focusing on El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua targeting stakeholders from that region in particular, in order to get inputs to improve the regional legal study.

There have been significant legislative and judicial developments in many FAO member countries since the adoption of the Right to Food Guidelines in 2004. While not legally binding, the RtFG, particularly Guideline 7, provide guidance on strengthening legal frameworks for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food.

The working paper explores legal advances of the right to food in constitutions, framework laws, and sectoral laws of different countries. As the constitution is the supreme law of the land, the explicit or implicit recognition of the right to food is a significant development towards the progressive realization of the right within that country. Yet, constitutional provisions alone are insufficient and thus, the adoption of framework laws and sectoral legislation is necessary. Framework laws provide an institutional structure to develop a normative content of the right to food in a coherent and coordinated manner. Adoption of sectoral legislation enables countries to address various sectors that ultimately shape levels of food security. In this regard, the paper illustrates the significant impact of sectoral legislation through three key examples: school feeding, subsidies and transfers in cash or in kind for food security and food safety and consumer protection.

With the overview of the various developments at the legislative level, the working paper proceeds to examine the justiciability of the right to food, based on the 2014 report on “Realizing the Right to Food: Legal Strategies and Approaches" to be published by the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). The cases demonstrate how governments can be held accountable to uphold the right to food and how courts can play a significant role in reinforcing the right to food.

We would like to invite participants to comment on this working paper, and would particularly welcome contributions around the following focus questions:

  • Are there some specific examples (court cases, government position papers, academic research) that effectively illustrate an implicit constitutional of the right to food in a broader human right?
  • Are there any FSN framework laws that we missed in this working paper or sectoral laws you know of where the right to food is an important element? These include the areas listed in the paper, but could also be in the areas of natural resource management, social protection or others.

Justiciability is an important element of the legal developments. However, as this paper provides only a few examples from a larger, forthcoming study by IDLO, we are not at this stage asking for particular comments on this aspect.

Margret Vidar and Luisa Cruz, FAO Legal Office


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