|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Special Rapporteur 0n Right to Food
Food security was a duty that Governments not only owed their populations, but for which they needed be held accountable, said the Special Rapporteur on the right to food today at a Headquarters press conference.
Introducing his report to be presented to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), Olivier De Schutter stressed that enacting “right to food” benefits into law would safeguard against corruption and the misuse of funds, while ensuring those in need had access to life-supporting nutrition. (See Press Release GA/SHC/4078.)
For years, hunger and malnutrition had been seen as technical problems to be solved through improved economic and trade policies. However, in recent times, the right to food had become a political issue, with a critical focus on the most marginalized and most vulnerable groups of society. Accountability in food distribution and food security strategies was crucial in that regard. Legal entitlement benefits, that otherwise would only be seen as emergency measures, needed to be adopted by States to protect their populations from food crisis.
Establishing food security must be the key sustainable development goal, he said, one which had been emphasized at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. The Committee on World Food Security had also underlined the importance of the right to food in food security strategies, as well as the need to equip legislations to hold Governments accountable for sure violations.
He noted that States had already adopted laws, policies and strategies to realize the right to food, a movement that was being driven forward by activists and civil society. Governments must give the right to food legal grounding by writing it into constitutions and into law. Over the past decade, countries in Latin America and Africa had blazed a trail that other countries could now follow.
Mr. De Schutter went on to summarize several Government initiatives, including a high court ruling in Uganda that would protect citizens from land-grabbing, and a Supreme Court decision in Nepal that called for food distribution in all districts. In India, a right-to-food case claimed that the State of Rajasthan was not delivering food to the needy despite available food banks. Although that case was still pending, the Supreme Court had adopted provisions, such as the National Food Security Act, which declared that the right to food must be extended to all.
He also pointed to the establishment of a food security body in Brazil, which was now mandated to provide recommendations to the Government towards implementing food security strategies. As well, Guatemala had adopted a law creating a national system that would ensure food and nutrition security for all of its citizens. That trend was not only making swift progress in Latin America, but also in other regions around the world.
Responding to a question on the role of civil society, he highlighted the work of the Committee on World Food Security, saying it brought accountability to the international level, and improved the possibility of civil society holding Governments responsible to their commitments. He also pointed out the importance of differentiating between the real traders who were hedging against risk of market fluctuations and the pure speculators who were not interested in trading commodities, but focused on profit.
When asked about the responsibility of food waste on a systemic level, he stated it was “nothing short of scandalous”. Every year 30 per cent of the food produced — 1.3 billion tons — was wasted. With food production double the amount needed to feed the world’s population, more than 1 billion people still went hungry.
It was crucial, he underscored, to raise awareness among agriculture businesses, food manufacturers, and retailers, and to improve storage facilities where much of the food rots before getting to market. The solution in the past had been to increase production to meet growing demand, but that was the wrong approach. The focus now must be on reducing waste and taming markets.
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