FAO Liaison Director Sharon Brennen-Haylock
October 25: FAO, working in tandem with the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), has made considerable progress in recent years integrating “right to food” legal strategies into its anti-hunger work, reported Sharon Brennen-Haylock, FAO Liaison Director to the United Nations, to the General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Affairs (3rd) Committee .
“Over the past decade, the progressive realization of the right to adequate food has become an increasingly prominent feature of FAO’s corporate commitments, as well as central to the vision of the CFS,” said Ms. Brennen-Haylock to assembled Member States and UN human rights Special Rapporteurs.
In 2004, explained the FAO Liaison Director, the FAO Council adopted Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security (VGRtF) — a milestone accord.
“Once hardly more than a symbol, the right to food has today become a significant operational tool, capable of guiding food-security strategies,” remarked Olivier Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. “The institutionalization of food policies is transforming benefits into legal entitlements, allowing those previously denied access to pursue formal mechanisms to complain.”
The opportunity for legal redress boosts accountability and sparks better policymaking too, he added. “Faced with persistent violations of the human right to food, courts are now beginning to step in, parliamentarians are mobilizing for change, and citizens are using their enhanced powers to demand action.”
Indeed the VGRtF’s success, noted FAO’s Sharon Brennen-Haylock, has inspired similar rights-based reforms, including during the CFS’s own 2009 restructuring and, more recently, in the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (2012).
International law has long recognized the right to food. “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical care,” asserts the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What distinguishes the present from earlier eras, observed Norway’s representative, thus lies less in new legislation and more in changing attitudes. “Laws mean little if societies lack the collective will to enforce them.”