The Right to Food

Policy and programme

FAO policy support on the right to food is provided to enable countries to design and make adjustments to their national food security and nutrition strategies with a particular focus on governance and the incorporation of the human right to food.

Well formulated food and nutrition security policies and programmes that address key right to food issues, have broad political and social support, and enjoy smooth implementation, are more conducive to reducing hunger and malnutrition (SDG2), eradicating poverty (SDG1) and contributing to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls (SDG5).

National policies and programmes should be formulated and implemented in respect of international, legally binding agreements relevant to the human right to adequate food that have been ratified by the country, or to which the country is a party of. Besides  the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), in which State Parties recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, another important framework is provided by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which protects women’s equal access to land, credit, income and social security or safety nets, all essential elements for the full realization of the right to food.

The five bullet points below summarize the key elements that indicate at what extend policy documents are oriented towards the protection and realization of the right to food, and to adherence to practices in respect of human rights principles:

  • Food insecure and vulnerable groups are identified, their livelihood strategies and activities are described, and a causality analysis has been performed to understand the reasons why each group suffers from food insecurity and/or is vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • Policy priorities:  policy implementation strategies and specific actions target each vulnerable group and address the multiple underlying causes for food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • Food security and nutrition goals, and time-bound targets and benchmarks have been established;
  • Protection and the realization of the right to food are included as part of overall policy objectives.
  • Policy implementation principles are explicitly stated in the policy, and point to a clear commitment to respect and protect the human rights of all when implementing the policy.

Policy formulation, design and implementation at regional and national levels

The process of formulating a policy should conform to governance practices with strong links to human rights principles, as this raises the probability that the policy in actuality will be implemented in ways that contribute to the right to food. The policy statement itself, and the objectives and priorities that the policy establishes, constitute the government’s commitment to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition. This commitment is further quantified when time-bound targets and benchmarks are established in the policy, against which actual progress can be measured over time.

Policy statements need to be transformed into concrete actions to be meaningful and to have an impact. Policy documents normally outline broad and strategic areas of action to achieve policy goals and objectives, but require complementary operational plans for the implementation of the policy. See:

Programme design and implementation at national levels

Human rights-based governance practices and the right to food should be at the core of programme design implementation and monitoring. At the design level the focus should be on the relevance, responsiveness to local diversity, targeting, interventions and activities, management and programme institutional linkages. Programme implementation and monitoring should also apply the aforementioned practices by putting in place a redress mechanisms; ensuring a wide inter-sectoral collaboration and coordination, and be sustainable in terms of human resources and financial commitments.

For more information, please see the dedicated section on:

The Right to Food Guidelines address the issue of policy and programme throughout. In particular, Guidelines 2 (“Economic Development Policies”) and 3 (“Strategies”) are explicit about the obligations of the state to formulate policies and strategies that contribute to the progressive realization of the right to adequate food. Inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms should be established to facilitate the implementation of policies and programmes (Guideline 5 – “Institutions”), while applying a multi-stakeholder approach to policy formulation and implementation (Guideline 6 – “Stakeholders”). Policies should accord the highest priority to providing adequate access to food to the most vulnerable and marginalized households and individuals (Guideline 13 – “Support for vulnerable groups”).

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