The Right to Food

States can now more than ever benefit from implementing the Right to Food Guidelines

News - 15.10.2019

15 October 2019, Rome- The Right to Food Guidelines have greatly influenced the global agenda to end hunger and malnutrition over the past 15 years and are still relevant to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to the report Fifteen years implementing the Right to Food Guidelines launched today.

The Guidelines have called to move away from business as usual and focus policies on the most vulnerable (indigenous, young people, women…), guaranteeing services and human rights to everybody, such as health or social protection.

“Hunger will not be solved unless leaving no one behind ceases to be just a motto. These Guidelines could help to minimize this problem”, underlined Máximo Torero, Assistant Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), who moderated the launch event within this year Committee on World Food Security (CFS 46). “The Guidelines have guided us over the years to put in place better economic and social policies that are truly people-centric and look at how to sustainably safeguard food security and nutrition”, he added.

During his intervention, Gabriel Ferrero, Director General for Sustainable Development Cooperation Policies of the Government of Spain, co-organizer of the event, said that Guidelines “were ahead of their time”, embedding an array of issues interconnected. Therefore, “when we talk about the emergency of the realization of the human right to adequate food, we are also referring to emergencies on climate change, land, biodiversity, oceans and inequalities”, he explained.

Wenche Barth Eide, emerita of University of Oslo and one of the pioneers in advocating for the right to food, indicated that the Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, which are being drafted and will be finalized by October 2020, “should draw more heavily on the Right to Food Guidelines and the experience of the last 15 years”.

The third panelist was Hilal Elver, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who has highlighted the “flexibility” given by the Guidelines when being implemented. “As government and people change, countries have to adopt them according to their own needs”, she said.

Guiding policy making over 15 years

Fifteen years implementing the Right to Food Guidelines highlights  experiences of countries, organizations and groups, at the global, regional and national level, to respect, protect and fulfil the human right to adequate food.

Today, more than 30 countries explicitly recognize the right to food in their constitutions, while an array of sectoral laws on school feeding, family farming, labelling and food loss and waste have promoted this human right.

National human rights institutions have also been created to protect human rights and investigate where human rights have been violated, such as the Human Rights Commission in South Africa.

Based on the lessons learnt in the past, the newly launch report provide policy messages that should help government in ensuring that every child, woman and man can enjoy adequate food at all times. Among them, monitoring results to assess the impact, as followed by the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, the largest commitment in food policy in cities to date.

Dialogue is also key for the progressive realization of the right to food, as showcased by the Pan African Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the Observatory on the Right to Food of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the World Banana Forum. Another clear example is Nepal, where the elaboration of a framework towards the realization of the right to food brought together national institutions, the National Human Rights Commission, parliamentary committees and civil society organizations.

About the Right to Food Guidelines

FAO, as the United Nations specialized agency mandated with the eradication of hunger, has supported Member Countries committed towards this important goal throughout the years.

Among the global tools that FAO uses to ful­l its mandate there are the Right to Food Guidelines, adopted by its Council in 2004.

The Guidelines are a voluntary policy instrument while they make explicit reference to international human rights normative. They aim to support the realization of the human right to adequate food through national policies, legislations and programmes on food security and nutrition. They include policy recommendations on closely related issues, such as access to natural resources, education, nutrition and humanitarian aid.

The Guidelines were the first attempt by states to de­fine what it is meant to progressively realize the right to food for all.


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