The Right to Food

A conversation with Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food

Experts' corner - 29.10.2019

Hilal Elver, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, talks about global challengues, learning experiences during her mandate and the Committee on World Food Security.


In a complex world that is revealing a deteriorating food security and nutrition outlook, what is the relevance of the Right to Food Guidelines to current global challenges?

Hilal Elver: It is important to look back at what happened in 2004 and what it happening right now in our world. We can see that our today´s  and future challenges were already relevant to the Voluntary Guidelines. It is a very forward-looking document. After 15 years we can still use it, interpret it and also implement it for issues such as that climate change, conflicts or sustainable food systems. Access to resources markets and all kinds of productive resources, especially for smallholder farmers, are included in the Voluntary Guidelines.

Based on your experience during your mandate, which are your takeaways for countries that aim to implement the right to adequate food?

HE: As United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, when I visited countries in my mission trips, almost the first question I asked is whether the right to food is included in their constitutions, or if there are framework laws or sectoral laws. That is very important for the availability, accessibility and adequacy of food for citizens.

What I found out is that countries have enough regulatory system. But depending on the developing level, implementation can be an issue. Some countries are able to manage well, by establishing an institutional structure and providing financial means for their implementation. But not all of them have reached that status. So we need to work harder and further to implement these principles and disseminate their knowledge to all states.

Could you please highlight to which extend the right to adequate food is important to the upcoming Multi-Year Programme of Work of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)?

HE: Now, the CSA is still working to finalize the Voluntary Guidelines on Food System and Nutrition. It is an ongoing project, which should include the principles of the Right to Food Guidelines.

The Committee will focus on women empowerment, youth and data protection. I am hoping that inequalities are also taken as a priority.

I believe that all together will become a comprehensive future work that will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. I am expecting a good result on that.


About Hilal Elver

Hilal Elver has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food since 2014. Hlal is an international law professor and a Global Distinguished Fellow at the UCLA Law School Resnick Food Law and Policy Center; she is also as a research professor at the UC Santa Barbara, where she has been Distinguished Visiting Professor since 2002. Previously she was the UNEP Chair on Environmental Diplomacy at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies in Malta; and taught at the University of Ankara, Faculty of Law. Hilal has also served to the Turkish government as the founding legal adviser of the Ministry of Environment, and to the General Director of the Women Status in the office of the Prime Minister. Until recently, she was also a member of the Turkish team at the Climate Change negotiations. She is the author of a number of publications focusing on environmental law, climate change, food security, human rights and women rights

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