Food sovereignty & Right to food

What is Food sovereignty?
“Food sovereignty” as a concept was presented for the first time by Via Campesina when FAO organized its meeting in Rome in 1996. Since then, the concept has been highlighted again and specified by various organizations. Well developed, food sovereignty was brought to public discussion by Via Campesina as an alternative proposal to neo-liberal policies. Since then, this concept has become a major topic in the debates of agricultural and commercial policy at international level, including in certain departments of the United Nations. It was one of the major topics of the parallel forum of NGOs which ran during the world forum on food at the FAO in June 2002.

Thus food sovereignty was defined by Via Campesina as "the right for a State or a union of States to define their own agricultural and food policy without temptation to destabilize the domestic markets of the other countries in particular by exports at low prices of subsidized foodstuffs".

Claims of Food Sovereignty:

1. To do every thing to develop the agricultural production, local and (or) national, to nourish the population in the country;µ
2. To give the most vulnerable people access to land, water, seeds and credit. This thus induces land reform where the distribution of land is inequitable;
3. The right of the people to produce firstly what they eat;
4. The right of the consumers to choose what they eat (Practices and food cultures of the people).
5. The right of the States to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives, to determine the extent to which they want to be self reliant; to restrict the dumping of products on their markets; and to provide local fisheries-based communities the priority to manage the use of and the rights to aquatic resources;
6. To allow the people to receive an honest remuneration for their efforts. To impose a tax on the food imported at low prices to create a more equitable price between the national production which is set with real costs of production, and the imported products which are almost always sold at a lower price than the production cost (subvention);
7. To ensure a supply management in national production, in order to avoid surpluses of production and therefore eliminate the need for the excess to be sold at very low prices; this is the guarantee for a sustainable production sustained by the national agricultural policy;
8. The participation of the populations in the choices of agricultural policy;
9. To recognize the rights of the people who are the important actors in agricultural and food production.



What about the Human Right to Food?

Generally, access to food is considered as a fundamental need. However, from the point of view of Human Rights, it is more then a need: Right to food is a basic Human Right.

The mean reason why it is the poor that is more affected by natural disasters is that they lack reserve, they have no power, no alternatives and they don’t control the resources.


What are the international treaties in reference?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
International Treaty on economical, social and cultural rights (1966)
In this international treaty: Standards on the responsibility as regards human Rights for international companies and other companies.

Law in country?
The national laws are held to promote, to respect, to make respect and to protect the human rights recognized as well in international law as in national law, and to ensure their realization and, particularly, to guarantee that international companies and others respect these rights.

Thus, governments are held to:
1. Protect the right to food
2. Guarantee and promote the access to food
3. Respect the access existing to food

These obligations are also available for the States in their relation with citizens of another country and with the intergovernmental organizations.



Why hunger persists despite these obligations?

The first reason is that international law is a 'voluntary' commitment and it contains, to date, no penalty for non-comers.

This gives free way for policy that does not respect or protect the right to food and even encourages the law that promotes a market and an economic system that give, in the short term, benefits to a small number of liberal companies. Lastly, these deprived a large amount of people of their rights and even made them poorer whereas until recently, they still lived decently; moreover these exhausted the resources of the earth.

As you know, if a person is poor, she cannot provide adequate food, healthcare or shelter etc.

The main reason why poor people are the most affected by natural disasters is that they lack reserve, power and alternative and they have no control over resources.

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