The Right to Food

Supreme Court of Nepal ruling on the Right to Food

News - 30.05.2011

In April 2011 the Supreme Court of Nepal published a key decision regarding the right to food in the country. Included in the Interim Constitution of 2007 and clarified by a Supreme Court interim order in September of 2008, the right of everyone to adequate food has been reinforced by this decision and some vital specifications have been made. Aside from the availability of food, the Court puts emphasis on the role of the authorities in ensuring that food is accessible and affordable for the people. This is a significant step forward taken to ensure the respect, protection and fulfilment of the right to food. Moreover, the Court draws attention to the links between the right to food and other human rights, such as the right to employment, and social security, and basic necessities, to which it holds the government responsible for ensuring its progressive realization.

Presented on behalf of Pro Public, a public interest NGO founded by environmental lawyers, journalists, economists, engineers, consumers and women rights activists in Nepal, the petition was based on the constitutional provisions on the fundamental right to food sovereignty and to live a dignified life where the right to food is fully enjoyed.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court analyzed and cited all the relevant international human rights instruments (ICESCR, UDHR, CEDAW, CRC, etc.) to which Nepal is a state party, thus reinforcing the responsibility and duty of the Nepalese government to fully ensure the achievement of the right to food for every individual. As the case was filed to redress food supply in food insecure districts, the Supreme Court has issued specific directives which clearly recall the Right to Food Guideline 16.6-16.8 where States are encouraged to take every possible step to protect their citizens from food scarcity caused by natural disaster. The decision encourages the government of Nepal to comply with the constitutional obligation to supply food in a timely manner by any means of transportation including air and save people from hunger and malnutrition. Lastly, the Supreme Court cites Article 1 and 2 of the Universal Declaration on the eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition from 1974 stating that as a member state of the United Nations, Nepal has a duty to implement these provisions.

This historic decision is of paramount important in a country like Nepal, where recent reports say that about 17 districts are food insecure and 2 extremely vulnerable in terms of food security. In light of this, FAO would like to use this momentum in order to pursue and reinforce some of its initiatives already underway in Nepal. FAO’s current work on the right to food in Nepal is focused on strengthening national institutions and coordination mechanisms in their efforts to formulate policies and support the legislative process on food security and the right to food. FAO’s work and support to Nepal includes providing technical expertise and capacity development, collaborating with international NGOs and increasing awareness on the right to food. Noteworthy are: a) the Constitutional Process, which represents an opportunity to include the right to food into permanent legislation; and b) the National Agriculture Sector Development Priority, an opportunity for FAO to support the integration of food security and the right to food in Government’s national agriculture sector policies, programmes and legislations.

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