Right to Food in law

Countries tackling hunger with a right to food approach



OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER (UN special rapporteur on the Right to Food)



The right to food is not primarily the right to be fed after an emergency. It is the right, for all, to have legal frameworks and strategies in place that further the realization of the right to adequate food, as a human right recognized under international law. By directing the adoption of these policies, the right to food is a compass to ensure that policies are geared towards alleviating hunger and malnutrition.

This briefing note highlights the implementation of the right to food at national scale in Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

Various countries gave concrete meaning to the right to food principles in their constitutions, laws, courts, institutions, policies and programmes, and for various food security topics, such as fishing, land, focus on vulnerable groups, and access to resources. These progresses, while much less visible than plain increase in food production, are key steps for lasting progress.


To read the document: http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/otherdocuments/20100805_briefing_note_01_en_ok.pdf



People are not hungry because we produce too little:

they are hungry because they can’t afford the food that is available on the markets or because they lack the

necessary resources to produce food themselves; they are thus hungry because they lack economic access to adequate food. It is for this reason that the recognition of food as a human right can be vital to achieving

sustainable, long-term food security.


Some African National progress in the Right to Food:

1996 - South Africa includes the right to food in its Constitution


2006 – Mali adopts its Agricultural Policy Act


2007 – South Africa: the Equality Court demands an alteration of the fishery policy to comply with the right to food


2009 – Malawi finalises its draft Right to Food Bill (adoption is scheduled for 2010)


2009 – Mozambique sets up a drafting Committee to elaborate a Right to Food Framework Law, which will submit a draft bill on the Right to Adequate Food to the government before the end of 2010


Malawi is in the process of adopting a right to food framework law through the close cooperation of the government, civil society and international organisations. This wide engagement with all stakeholders is crucial as it promotes ownership of the Bill at each level of society, takes into account all interests, and therefore facilitates its ownership and implementation.



International progress in the Right to Food:

1948 – Universal Declaration on Human Rights Art.25


1974 – UN World Food Conference – Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition


1976 – Entry into force of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, Cultural Rights, including Art.11 on the right to adequate food


1987 – Establishment of the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights – beginning of a more precise legal interpretation of ESC rights


1988 – Adoption of the Right to Food (Art.12) in the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the “Protocol of San Salvador”)


1996 – FAO Food World Summit – Rome Declaration on World Food Security - first coherent plan to make the right to food a reality


1999 - Adoption of General Comment N.12 ‘The Right to Adequate Food’ by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural describing the various State obligations derived from the ICESCR regarding the right to food


2000 – Establishment of a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the former Commission on Human Rights


2000 – Adoption of the Millenium Development Goals, including Goal 1 to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015


2002 – Rome Declaration at the World Food Summit calling for the establishment of a intergovernmental working group to develop voluntary guidelines to achieve the progressive realization of the right to food


2004 – Adoption of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food which offer guidance to States on how to implement their obligations on the right to food


2009 – Adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, making the right to food justiciable at the international level







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