UN special rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter urged governments to include nutrition policies in their legal systems, at an event last week marking the release of his report titled “Assessing a decade of right to food progress”.
“Treating food as a human right brings coherence and accountability. It helps to close the gaps by putting food security of all citizens at the top of the decision-making hierarchy, and making these decision-making processes participatory and accountable,” he said.
“What I have seen is that food security laws and policies based on rights and entitlements – to productive resources, to accessing foodstuffs, to social protection – is ‘food security-plus'. It can transcend changes in the political, economic and agricultural landscape and make lasting inroads against hunger.”
In his report, De Schutter said that there has been important progress in recognising food as a human right globally in the past decade, with the issue moving away from being ‘hardly more than an aspiration’ to being widely recognised as a key to the success of food security strategies.
“Often we labour under the misconception that the right to food is not like political rights such as freedom of speech,” he said. “But economic and social rights – to food, water, housing, social protection – are just as real, just as binding, and can be upheld just as legitimately in court.”
According to his report, South Africa, Kenya, Mexico and Niger have all incorporated rights to nutrition into their constitutions, while others also adopted food and nutrition security laws.
The UN’s Committee on World Food Security is due to review its Right to Food Voluntary Guidelines next year, which were adopted in 2004.