The Right to Food

FAO at the 14th Policies against Hunger Conference

News - 20.09.2023

Rome- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) took part in the 14th Policies against Hunger Conference, held in Berlin on 27 and 28 June 2023, together with representatives from government, civil society, international organizations and activists.

Organized by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), this year´s theme revolved around human rights-based approaches to food systems transformation.

The conference emphasized the importance of human rights, in particular the right to food, for food security, nutrition and agriculture, and the adoption of a human rights-based approach towards more inclusive and sustainable agrifood systems.

In the opening remarks, Cem Özdemir, German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, said that the transformation of food systems will be a reality “only if we take into account human rights-based approaches”.

The Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio, underlined in his keynote speech that “the right to food remains the DNA of the CFS and the basis for its work”.

The conference's opening also saw interventions from Michael Fakhri, UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Windfuhr, member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Elisabetta Recine, President of the National Council for Food and Nutrition Security in Brazil (CONSEA).

The FAO delegation was led by the Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol. “Every person has the fundamental right to have enough safe, nutritious, and adequate food to lead a healthy and active life,” Bechdol said in the opening panel discussion. “Unfortunately, too many of those who cannot afford to feed themselves or their families are the very people expected to feed the world - they are farmers. This is why we must collectively focus on longer-term solutions to the root causes of vulnerabilities and put resources directly in the hands of farmers,” she added.

Intervening in the working group on the role of smallholder farmers in agrifood systems transformation, Alejandro Grinspun, FAO Right to Food Team Leader, noted the urgency to end gender inequalities in agrifood systems, referring to the latest The status of women in agrifood systems report. He also recommended strengthening the systems of social provisioning and increasing global climate financing, which “now falls well short of the amount needed for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries and is mostly devoted to mitigation rather than adaptation efforts”.

Sarah Brand, FAO Associate Professional Officer, and Francesca Romano, FAO Land Tenure Officer, gave a presentation in the working group on the role of the CFS in advancing the right to adequate food, with a focus on the practical application of the Right to Food and the Governance of Tenure Guidelines. The experts underlined that, while those Guidelines are voluntary instruments, they are based on binding legal obligations. “The human right to adequate food is firmly rooted in international law, and States have the duty to respect, protect, and fulfil this right,” Sarah Brand said.

The event confirmed the relevance of the CFS as the foremost inclusive, multi-stakeholder, international and intergovernmental platform for ensuring food security and nutrition.

Over two-days discussions, participants agreed on using the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Right to Food Guidelines in 2024 to assess progress in realizing the right to food, to renew the commitment and to shape the future agenda of the right to food, taking into account the intertwined multiple crises.

They also appealed for greater inclusion of human rights into the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) process, including the UNFSS +2 Stocktaking Moment, held in July 2023. In the words of Michael Fakhri: “The political energy that is happening this year is incredibly important and I am looking forward to this year to be a transformative year on the international level”.

Amplifying the voices from the field

Over 250 participants from all over the world, many of them representing , young people, women and smallholder farmers and Indigenous Peoples, came together in Berlin.

Saima Zia, member of the CFS Civil Society and Indigenous People's Mechanism (CSIPM), underscored that strengthening the agency of small-scale producers is key. “By providing smallholders with the resources and support they need, we can create more sustainable, equitable and resilient food system for all,” she said.

In the face of the negative impact of conflict and shocks on food systems, Masresha Andarge, programme advisor at Action for Integrated Sustainable Development Association (AISDA), a non-governmental organization from Ethiopia, recommended building skills and capacities at local level to build resilience. This can contribute to ensure that interventions reach the most vulnerable and respect their right to food.

Among other issues, the critical role of price control as well as public food supply were mentioned as instruments to secure access to food and nutrition.

About Policies against Hunger XIV

Organized by BMEL, the Policies against Hunger Conference provides a platform for moving hunger and malnutrition into the spotlight of international discussions on food security. This year’s conference dealt with human rights-based approaches to food systems transformation. The program was structured along four working groups: crises resilience of food systems, the role of smallholder farmers in food systems transformation, better governance to transform our food systems and the role of CFS in advancing the right to adequate food.

Germany and FAO: a longstanding partnership

Germany has been a member of FAO since 1950, and it has been firmly committed to promoting the right food.

The country also supported the negotiations of the Right to Food Guidelines and facilitated their implementation. Its continued support has allowed FAO to help governments and civil society to integrate the right to food in national plans and strategies.

More recently, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture has established a stand-alone division dedicated to the right to food, with the aim to advance and politically strengthen the realization of the right to food worldwide, as well as at national level and within the European Union.

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