The Right to Food

The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021 (9.8 percent of the world population), an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, 3.1 billion people can not afford a healthy diet, and 45 million children under the age of five suffer from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition. Looking forward, projections are that nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030.

The realization of the right to adequate food is more than a moral duty or a policy choice. It is a human right of every person everywhere to be fulfilled through appropriate actions by governments and non-state actors.

Progress on the recognition of the right to food

Over the years, important advances on the right to food have been made at various levels. Globally, the starting point was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which developed into legally binding agreements such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cutural Rights (ICESCR). Additional legal guarantees have been afforded to specific groups, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) or the Convention on the RIghts of the Child (CRC).

In 2004, FAO Member Nations adopted by consensus the Voluntary guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security (Right to Food Guidelines), which provide guidance on ways to implement the right to adequate food. The Right to Food Guidelines is a policy tool endorsed by the Committe of World Food Security (CFS).

The right to food and the SDGs

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is grounded on human rights. It recognizes that the realization of the right to adequate food is both an achievable goal and the way ahead for transformational change.

The right to food cannot be realized with persisting hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition (SDG2). In order to protect it, respect it and fulfil it, an enabling environment must be provided, one which promotes:

Better policy design: Governments focus on the most vulnerable people, emphasize participation of multiple stakeholders and transparent processes, and contribute to achieving the right to adequate food. Countries are supported to legally protect the right to adequate food through constitutional provisions, national legislation and regulations, and to strengthen their policy and programme frameworks to make it happen.

Increased (pro-poor, pro-vulnerable) investments: The effectiveness and efficiency of public expenditure on food and nutrition security is improved due to increased capacity of actors in rights-based budget analysis and expenditure tracking.

Improved governance: Enhanced stakeholder dialogue and multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms break silos and allow for more policy coherence. Empowered civil society members hold government officials  accountable to improve the design and implementation of food and nutrition security action.

Evidence-based support: Periodic assessments and monitoring of human rights standards and principles, policies, programmes and laws are carried out to improve their impact on food-insecure and malnourished people and address the underlying causes of hunger by shedding the light on the most vulnerable.

The right to food in FAO

FAO plays a key role in the advancement of the right to adequate food at global, regional and national level.

The Right to Food Team develops methods and instruments to assist each stakeholder in the implementation of the Right to Food Guidelines, informs and raises awareness and understanding about specific actions that can be taken. Its works underpins a cross-cutting approach, addressing gender through care, climate change, urban food policy, plant health, agroecology, bioeconomy or innovation. The Team partners up with relevant actors, including parliamentarians, consumers, family famers, academia, civil society and private sector, and collaborates with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. It promotes policy coherence between the Right to Food and other CFS and COFI policy documents, such as the VGGT, RAI principles and the SSF Guidelines

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