Droit à l'alimentation

The right to adequate food, core to food systems transformation

On the ground - 20.05.2021

20 May 2021, Madrid- The importance of the right to food to transform food systems was the starting point of a seminar organized today in Spain as part of the National Dialogues leading up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit.

We need a food system that offers adequate and affordable food to all, and promotes people’s well-being if we are to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), explained Juan Carlos García y Cebolla, FAO Right to Food Team Leader, in his key note speech.

World food production has comfortably kept pace with vast population growth, with increased globalization maintaining food supply stability and offering greater food diversity to many countries. However, this has come at a high cost both to the planet and to peoples’ human rights. The food system as a whole is responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions and associated with 80% of the loss of biodiversity and deforestation. Since the planet's resources are finite, the current rate of food production is unsustainable. "We have reached the limit, and humanity is at stake," he warned.

Furthermore, between 2015 and 2019, more than 1000 human rights defenders were killed and two thirds of these were connected with the defense of the rights to land, of indigenous peoples or the environment, frequently related to access to food and natural resources.

The FAO expert called for bold changes rooted in political will. He urged to bring food chains closer to territories, to consider environmental and social costs of the economic flows and to redefine governance and its related aspects (such as the use of the genome or intellectual property).

In this transformation, it is also essential to respect and promote human rights, for the implementation of actions that incorporate the interests and needs of all people, including groups in the most vulnerable situations. "We need concrete agreements that allow all parties to have a future perspective and a sense of justice," he said. Likewise, monitoring must progress, through easy to understand indicators that address the root causes of the challenges, as well as ensuring the availability of new technologies for everyone.

Gender equality and care work

Transforming food systems is a gender issue too. Women and girls are not only over represented among the poorly paid in the food chain, for example as agricultural workers, or in supply and retail, but also provide 75% of unpaid work as caregivers. They are responsible for preparing domestic meals 85% of the time, and dedicate two and a half times more than men to unpaid domestic work. However, they represent only 15% of landowners or landholders.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how essential caregiving is to the functioning of food systems. Adequate responses to both the crisis and the transformation of food systems must foster gender equality and inclusion. “We cannot have two menus, but rather a single agenda, if we want access to sustainable diets to be more than just a slogan", García y Cebolla stressed.

National dialogues in Spain

The event was organized by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAUC), as part of the National Dialogues of the UN Food Systems Summit. About 30 key actors from academia, civil society, public administration and international organizations spoke about how what happens in small and apparently unconnected territories can have great global impacts.

Gabriel Ferrero, MAUC Ambassador at Large for Global Food Security, highlighted that healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems, due to their multisectoral nature, are a “lever” for the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Senator Elena Diego, member of the Spanish Parliamentary Alliance for the Right to Food, stressed that this human right is "the first step in the fight against hunger", which must be recognized in legislation and the constitutions of countries.

"Family farming is an accelerator of progress towards the 2030 Agenda," remarked Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO's Partnerships and UN Collaboration Division. The Global Action Plan and national action plans can help to reach solutions, she concluded.

Pathways to the Food Systems Summit

In 2021, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a Food Systems Summit as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the SDGs. Guided by five Action Tracks, the right to food is a cross-cutting issue of importance.

The process of the Summit is open to everyone. The Dialogues are central to achieving this wide participation. They can be organized by individuals or national governments, or align with global events on major issues like climate change. They seek to share experiences, evidence and new ideas to transform the way the world produces, consumes and disposes of food.