Decade-old FAO guidelines still the way ahead for food security, says report

No consensus at forums like WTO dangerous for international food security, it adds
Decade-old FAO guidelines still the way ahead for food security, says report

“The path towards full realisation of the right to food security still has a long way to go,” says a recently-released report. Released by the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch, a consortium of 17 non profits from across the world, the report marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Right to Food guidelines by FAO council in November 2004.

Titled as “Ten Years of the Right to Food guidelines: Gains, Concern and Struggles, 2014”, the document talks about progress that has been made in the last 10 years as well as the challenges that lie ahead in providing the right of food security to people across the globe. “The world has come a long way in providing food security in the last 10 years,” it says.

The anniversary report of the adoption of guidelines clearly states that agribusiness and financial investors are taking control of natural resources and undermining the food security of the food producers. The multinational food and beverages corporations have increased, in participation and in decision making, and are aggressively gaining from it. Their gains, however, are leaving the food producer’s plate empty.  

However, countries like India, Zanzibar, Philippines, Belgium, Guatemala, Colombia, Alaska and others have made progress in providing food security to their people, says the report. It has collectively been published by Germany-based Bread for the World-Protestant Development Service (BROt), FIAN International and Netherland based Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO-Cooperation) and was released on Thursday at Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome.

Why is the report important?

Ten years ago, in November 2004, the FAO Council had adopted the Voluntary Guidelines to support progressive realisation of the right to adequate food (RtAF), in the context of national food security.

The Right to Food Guidelines was also the first consensus document of inter-governmental agreement on implementation of right to adequate food and nutrition. The adoption was also considered a substantial progress after the 1996 World Food Summit and its Plan of Action.

The writers of the report comprise of people associated with social movements, indigenous people, smallholder farmers, pastoralists and rural women, human rights defenders, policy advisers and academics.

Status and challenges

Since the adoption of the guidelines, the world has come a long way in providing food security to people. The issues of food security are centre stage of the politics in different regions. While some countries provided the rights in full spirit, some acted partly on them.

According to the report, the guidelines have helped to increase visibility and understanding of food as a human right on the global level. They place obligation on states to provide adequate nutritious food to people. The situation was not the same 20 to 30 years ago. Only few aware people used to know about food as a right and directly related it to human rights.

The report states that since the adoption of guidelines, a global process has been started to introduce RtAF under national and policy frameworks. For this, the initiatives of countries like Zanzibar, Philippines, Belgium, Guatemala, and Alaska have been highlighted.

Stating that the guidelines are a cornerstone for social and political movements, the report cites example of India, Colombia and Sweden which achieved their rights through long and persistent movements. Different articles in this report show that RtAF has become an essential element of local, national and global alternatives where the people are at the centre of decision on food and nutrition.

The document also explains that the guidelines have been reaffirmed in many global-consensus documents related to small-scale food producers, agricultural and food workers, artisanal fisher folk, pastoralists, indigenous people, the landless, and women and youth.

Among the challenges that have been underlined in the report, the foremost is strengthening of self-organisation of right-holders—in particular peasant farmers, pastoralists, fisher folks, landless, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, urban poor, consumers, women and youth—and supporting them in defending their rights and calling for accountability, self-determination and food sovereignty.

Another challenge that has been highlighted is that the human rights movement should not be seen in isolation but in interdependence. There is a need for full understanding and effectively addressing of links between women’s, girls’ and children’s rights—including their sexual and reproductive rights, and human rights to adequate food and nutrition. These links can clearly be shown by looking at two outcomes of human rights violation: child marriage and adolescent pregnancies.

Lack of a binding international treaty is another issue brought up in the report. It has been mentioned in context of recent disagreement that took place between developing countries and developed countries over providing subsidies to small landholders, in the World Trade Organization forum. “Trade and investment regimes, for example, can force state parties to amend national legislation accordingly, often undermining basic democratic principles,” cites report.

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