Droit à l'alimentation

Human rights: A bridge between research and sustainable food systems

News - 08.07.2022

Rome- Academia not only contributes to generate data to feed legislative and policy processes, but also plays an increased role in monitoring and overseeing actions towards the right to adequate food.

That was the message from Serena Pepino, Policy Expert of the Right to Food Team of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as she set the stage for a side event on the right to food and nutrition at the 7th Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy Week held on 29th June.

Pepino explained that ending hunger and malnutrition requires addressing governance issues in policy and programmes. This is possible through a human rights-based approach, as it fosters the participation of relevant stakeholders in the decision making, including civil society, private sector, parliamentarians and researchers, as well accountability, so that duty-bearers commit to take responsibility.

This framework also enhances mechanisms for assessing and monitoring public policy and legislation, for which the support of academia is crucial. “It is about equipping key people with the right knowledge and skills to ensure agency for all individuals and groups, particularly those who are most vulnerable”, added Pepino. In Latin America and Spain, the Right to Food Observatories, a network of over 50 academic institutions, have helped for over 10 years in the development, implementation and oversight of public policies.

Pepino went on underlining the need to strengthen policy coherence across sectors, taking into consideration the different components that encompasses the right to adequate food, including nutrition. The fundamental human right to adequate food should be understood through its intrinsic nutrition dimension. “Nutrition is a human right”, she stressed.

Several international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), entitled everyone, everywhere, to have access to adequate food. In the last two decades, the journey leading to the recognition of the right to food has been influenced by the establishment of the mandate of the UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food, the adoption of the FAO Right to Food Guidelines and the UN Food Systems Summit. Besides this normative part, Pepino recalled the universality and interdependence of human rights, as “they do not start in big plenaries or international fora but are essential at individual and collective level”.

Academia: A breeding ground for the promotion of the right to food

Pepino ´s intervention was complemented by a panel who shared their reflections based on concrete examples and the experience of countries.

David Kabanda, Director of the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), talked about the COVID-19 and the honey market in Uganda. He flagged that judicial officers do not always have clarity on the right to food and advised to break down its normative content, through monitoring frameworks, public engagement, legal empowerment, data analysis, audit protocols, and policy coherence.

Jody Harris, from World Vegetable Center and Institute of Development Studies, presented a study focused on Zambia that demonstrates that lack of human rights understanding and capacity can hamper action against hunger and malnutrition, despite them being referred by many global organizations and national policies. It also shows that human rights can be interpreted differently and can be used  by stakeholders for more than one purpose (rhetorical by activists, legal by lawyers and practical by policy makers). The analysis recommends understanding human rights holistically and context by context to fully appreciate their power.

Swetha Manohar, from the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program of Johns Hopkins University, gave an overview of the “People-Centered Food Systems”. This project, led by Professor Jessica Fanzo, aims to improve the implementation of rights-based tools, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) and the Right to Food Guidelines.

About the Agriculture, Nutrition and Health (ANH) Academy 

The ANH Academy brings together researchers, practitioners and policymakers working for better nutrition and health through improved agriculture and food systems. It is made of 5,700 members in 145 countries, over 60% of whom are in Africa or Asia.

The ANH Academy Week aims to foster knowledge exchange, innovation and learning around interdisciplinary ANH research.