Many countries around the world are engaged in a process of decentralization, relying on local governments to implement national policies and strategies. This is particularly true for policy issues related to food security and nutrition, with direct implications for the realization and enjoyment of the right to food by all. The participatory planning and implementation of local level actions offers the opportunity to fully address the priorities of families and communities through an empowering development process. However, three conditions are essential.
First, an enabling policy, legislative and institutional environment needs to be in place for grass roots participation in actions aimed at furthering the realization of the right to food. There is usually a long political and social distance between national policy and legislative intent and what is actually put in place in villages for and by the most vulnerable segments of the population. But in spite of this distance, policy and legislative provisions with a strong equity orientation and emphasis on good governance can contribute to prioritizing the most food insecure and vulnerable in allocating resources, creating political and social awareness about conditions in poor villages, and mobilizing non-governmental actors including grass roots groups.
Secondly, local governmental institutions, and non-governmental and community-based organizations need to have adequate capacity and resources to support local level actions. And with specific reference to right to food principles, they should have adequate mandates and capacity to apply good governance practices in supporting local level actions. The third necessary condition is an empowered local population who: (a) sees itself as subjects of human rights, (b) who have a clear understanding of right to food principles and good governance as these should apply to them in practice, and (c) have real spaces to establish their own priorities, and to determine real options for their development and for seeking redress in cases of rights violations.
The Right to Food Team’s work to date at country level has focused on strengthening the first two conditions outlined above. Through policy assistance we aim to strengthen the right to food and good governance underpinnings of national food security and nutrition policies and legislative acts. Institutional capacity strengthening and creating understanding among national governmental and non-governmental actors of what the right to food means in practice is very much embedded in the policy assistance and support. At the same time, a second focus has been on institutional capacity strengthening at district and sub-district level through support to participatory food security and nutrition planning and action implementation. These processes are very much demonstrated in the case of Zanzibar where we have supported the formulation of national food security and nutrition policy and legislation as well as the formulation of district and sub-district action plans. Our work has furthermore contributed to strengthening local level capacity to put right to food and good governance principles into practice. We will now begin making real contributions to the third condition in close collaboration with institutions and organizations that partner directly with grass roots groups, specifically with the most food insecure, malnourished and vulnerable segments of the population.
For more information on district level implementation in Zanzibar, go to the Resources above.