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Budget analysis

The budget is a concrete and objective way to measure a government´s commitment to and national consensus on the realization of the right to food. Budget analysis is crucial in evaluating government decisions about allocation and distribution of scarce resources among competing priorities, and whether adequate resources are allocated to human rights. The analysis includes how funds are allocated and how revenue (e.g. tax) is obtained. Reliable data is vital to identify gaps between theory and practice and to bring about the necessary changes required to fill these gaps. Finally, improved budget transparency can increase public engagement in the budget process. This can in turn enhance pro-poor budget policies, allocations and outcomes.

To ensure the concrete implementation of the right to food, governments (in collaboration with civil society) need to develop policies, plans and programmes that are effective in addressing food issues and advancing the right to food, contributing to the eradication of extreme poverty and reduction of overall poverty (SDG1) and to the end of hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG2). This is where a government’s budget comes in, because policies, plans and programmes cannot be implemented without funding. One tool that is available to government institutions, legislators and civil society organizations (CSOs) is analysis of and other work on government budgets.

Budget decisions are shaped by internal and external actors, looking at their specific goals and interests, and this can give rise to competing interests to obtain budget resources to realize the right to food.

Analysis of the public budget

Budget analysis enables both government and civil society to assess whether the government’s resources are being utilized in the most efficient and effective ways possible. Governments, NGOs, and civil society organizations can monitor, evaluate and influence realization of this human right by:

  • identifying elements that are measurable in budgetary terms;
  • examining fiscal revenue and expenditures as they relate to poverty, gender equality and the realization of the right to food;
  • presenting good practices to adequately inform citizens on planning and budget issues (transparency), facilitating meaningful participation of civil society (participation), and good and timely reporting (accountability);
  • explaining techniques to monitor budget trends and evaluate whether a national budget complies with the ICESCR.

For instance, if an organization or institution has decided that the government’s budget is a significant factor in a given right to food issue, and that a change in the budget is likely to result in a significant improvement, the four next steps are:

  1. Articulating the organization’s or government institutions’ hypothesis.
  2. Deciding on the focuses of the budget work, as well as the methodologies to be used.
  3. Matching the budget issue with relevant budget documents.
  4. Performing the budget analysis. The first step of the analysis will be different depending on the dimension of the budget involved in the case: public revenues, budget allocations or expenditures. Impact assessment requires “controlling” other factors that could be affecting the situation, which in some cases is very difficult or even impossible. However, approximations are always an alternative if the right techniques are used.

The Right to Food Guidelines, especially Guideline 12 on national financial resources to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food, advocate that states should allocate resources for anti-hunger and food security purposes in their respective budgets and ensure transparency and accountability in the use of public resources. Guideline 12 also encourages states to “promote basic social programmes and expenditures, in particular those affecting the poor and the vulnerable segments of society, and protect them from budget reductions”, and to “strive to ensure that budget cuts do not negatively affect access to adequate food among the poorest sections of society”. Depending on the issue, many other provisions of the Right to Food Guidelines can be of relevance. Among these, Guidelines 1 (“Democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law”), 5 (“Institutions”) and 14 (“Safety nets”) are potentially pertinent to this topic.

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