The Right to Food

Achievements of FAO: From freedom from hunger to the human right to adequate food

News - 09.08.2019

9 August 2019, Rome- The eradication of hunger and malnutrition cannot be achieved solely by producing more food. The way “business” is done needs to turn into a different direction. Under this view, several transformations have taken place in the last decades to address this problem.

A recently launched FAO Publication highlights the adoption by consensus of the FAO Council of the Right to Food Guidelines in 2004, which represent a milestones in the realization of the human right to adequate food, among the greatest achievements in the history of the Organization. Still today, these Guidelines set the steps needed to reach food security and nutritional objectives, while mainstreaming a set of human rights principles in policy processes.

FAO has encouraged countries to implement the Voluntary Guidelines by developing methodologies and analytical tools; assisting in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies and programmes; promoting global and regional governance of food security and nutrition; and facilitating partnerships.

Essential to tackle root causes of hunger and malnutrition

The right to food (RTF) implies, among other, access to the resources that enable production, earning or purchase of enough food to not only prevent hunger, but also to ensure sustainable and life-long health and well-being. In other words, it entitles every person to an economic, political and socio-cultural environment that allows them to feed themselves in dignity through their own means. 

Over the years, the progressive realization of the RTF has acted as a game-changer in many countries where, once implemented, measures and initiatives towards food security for all have been significantly amplified. For instance, the Parliamentary Front against Hunger (PFH) in Latin America and the Caribbean, since its formation in 2009, has directly or indirectly supported the approval of more than 20 laws in areas related to the RTF, contributing towards efforts that ensure Zero Hunger in the region.

Yet, today more than 820 million people experience hunger on a daily basis, which requires immediate attention. Current scenario cannot answer to today ´s global challenges. Instead, the fulfilment of the RTF for every woman and man is a powerful catalyst of the Agenda 2030 and should be an overarching goal to this roadmap. 

A pathway to become a long-standing international human right 

Since the turn of the century, a significant progress has been made at different levels and through the actions of a wide range of stakeholders to respect, protect and fulfil the RTF. Globally, the starting point was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which was subsequently developed into legally binding agreements such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1966. Since then, additional international legal guarantees have been afforded to specific groups, such as women, children and persons living with disabilities.

After the adoption of the Right to Food Guidelines, more countries have been taking concrete actions in order to recognize and ensure the RTF to their people. It has been done through their constitutions, laws, policies, programmes, strategies and more generally, in national contexts of food security. In this process, human rights principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination, transparency, human dignity, empowerment and equality, and the rule of law have played a crucial role. 

At regional level, important commitments have also been taken, for instance: the Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative, the Malabo Declaration signed by members of the African Union, as well as the Plan of Action and the Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition approved by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Community of Portuguese Language Speaking Countries (CPLP), respectively.


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