The right to food and indigenous peoples

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Author: FAO Right to Food Team

Joint Brief, 2009.

Indigenous peoples, like everyone else, have a right to adequate food and a fundamental right to be free from hunger. This was stipulated in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and constitutes binding international law. In addition, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in September 2007, addresses the human rights of indigenous peoples. This declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to live in dignity, to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their self-determined development, in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.

Indeed, states have particular obligations concerning the right to food of indigenous peoples. These include respecting indigenous peoples’ traditional ways of living, strengthening traditional food systems and protecting subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering.

Under the right to food, states are also responsible for ensuring the application of general human rights principles to indigenous peoples, both in their food and nutrition security policies and other policies that may affect their access to food. The right to food does not only address the final outcome of eliminating hunger and ensuring food security, but provides a holistic tool and approach for indigenous peoples to improve their food security situation.

This joint brief “Right to Food and Indigenous Peoples” explains the legal foundation of the indigenous peoples’ right to food, the right to food as a collective right including the cultural dimension as well as how the right to food can benefit indigenous peoples. Furthermore, it also clarifies the difference between the two related concepts The Right to Food and Food Sovereignty.


Available only in English.


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