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The Right to Food An Illustration of Poverty and Human Rights in Action Daniel Gustafson FAO Representative in India and Bhutan Importance of the RtF in relation to themes of the Conference Specific application within the concept of poverty and HR– concrete operational implications. Complex issues, ideological disputes -- the RtF is an exciting arena of current action (globally and in India). Example of how the law can support implementation of abstract rights. Poverty and Hunger Amartya Sen: “Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there not being enough food to eat.” Hunger is both an effect and a cause of poverty. Anti-hunger programme requires both improved production and improved access. Econ. growth contributes to progressive realization of the RtF and vice versa. The efficiency cost of hunger : a quantitative assessment (Undernourishment and Economic Growth – Jean-Louis Arcand) Why Use a Human Rights Approach? UDHR and ICESCR: right to adequate standard of living. Secretary-General’s call in 1997 for integration of HR in all of areas of UN. Most important: Shift from basic human needs and view of quantitative deficit to “next frontier” where burden of proof shifts and “beneficiaries” become active subjects and claim holders. World Food Summit Leaders considered levels of hunger intolerable; hunger seen as morally unacceptable. Problem not quantity of food but lack of political will and insufficient resources mobilised. HR approach builds on this conviction, introducing accountability dimension and implementation concerns. Normative Content General Comment 12 of CESCR: “The right to adequate food is realised when every man, women and child, alone or in community with others, have physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.” Obligation of state is to take steps to achieve progressively the full realisation of the right to adequate food. Contention/Confusion/Complexity Common misunderstanding that RtF means state needs to provide food: i.e., right to be fed. Food is a private good, unlike other rights. Depends on myriad actors: production, distribution, safety, etc. Complex set of transactions between impersonal market and free individual. Multiple levels of government involved. Areas of Consensus State has obligations and responsibilities regarding food, which HR approach helps spell out. Right to be fed is recognized when necessary to save lives—as last resort. Judgements about policy measures and effectiveness of programmes are necessary. Poverty reduction requires more productive households + social safety nets. Roles for government, private sector, civil society and partnerships amongst them. Levels of State Obligations To respect: limits on state power (e.g., not to interfere in livelihoods). To protect: regulate conduct of non-state actors (e.g., food safety, environment, land tenure). To fulfil: positive actions by state to identify vulnerable groups, facilitate access, provide safety net (e.g., India Supreme Court case, KBK districts). Utility of a Framework Law on the Right to Food Constitutional guarantees in some countries (e.g., South Africa, India), but little on who has responsibility for what. Legal/Regulatory framework could be useful to: • Set principles, targets and benchmarks; • Assign responsibility to various levels; • Improve accountability through more precise responsibility and information; • Formalise participation and roles of NGOs and civil society in general. Inter-Governmental Working Group 1996 WFS request to OHCHR for better definition of Right to Food. 2002 request to FAO to set up IGWG to “elaborate voluntary guidelines to achieve progressive realisation of the right to adequate food in context of national food security.” March 2003 first session; workshop in Oct. Case studies—including India. Guidelines to be completed within two years, based on best practice, consultations. Conclusions Human rights and poverty approach provides critical value • Perspective: Active subjects with claims • Need to consider obligations + perfor- mance of government programmes Right to Food is a human right that can be realised and implemented. Legal/judicial perspective adds value. India is among those at the forefront.
"Gustavson Right to Food"