Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)
Site map|Contact us  

 


Analysis of the world food crisis by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food
2 May 2008
Olivier de Schutter
United Nations (UN)


Background note

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food has been requested by the UN Human Rights Council to ‘examine ways and means of overcoming existing and emerging obstacles to the realization of the right to food’.1 The Special Rapporteur steps into his mandate in a situation in which the right to adequate food is threatened to be violated on an unprecedented scale. Natural disasters do not constitute violations of human rights, unless the States in a position to assist the victims stand by and do nothing. The disaster which results from the increase of international prices of food commodities is of a different kind. It is a man-made disaster. The causes are identifiable. Both immediate and medium-term solutions can be agreed upon. This imposes on all States an obligation to act, and to act without delay. It is estimated that over 100 million more people will be food insecure, as a result of the current crisis on the international commodities market. These individuals should be given the same degree of attention as if they were arbitrarily detained by an authoritarian government, or if they were beaten by the police. The Special Rapporteur calls upon the Human Rights Council to convene in a special session, in order to explore the steps which should be taken to respond the current situation, consistent with the right to adequate food.

The Human Rights Council has been set up by the United Nations General Assembly in order to ‘contribute, through dialogue and cooperation, towards the prevention of human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies’.2 In its mandate, economic, social and cultural rights, should be treated on an equal footing with civil and political rights, consistent with the indivisibility and interdependency of all human rights. As the new Special Rapporteur on the right to food inaugurates his mandate, the right to adequate food is threatened to be violated on an unprecedented scale by the combination of a series of actions, by uncoordinated actors. None of these actors seeks to violate the right to adequate food. But none should be allowed to ignore the impact of its conduct on the right to food. The Human Rights Council should, as a matter of urgency, identify the solutions which a full respect for the right to adequate food calls for. The Human Rights Council has been established as a standing body in order to be in a position to respond to emergencies. This is one, and it should not remain silent.

This background note details why the Human Rights Council should have a reaction commensurate with the seriousness of the threat to the right to adequate food which the current crisis represents. It then identifies what consequences follow, in the current context, from the recognition of the right to adequate food as an internationally recognized human right, both at the international (1.1.) and at the national levels (1.2.). It then turns to the current crisis (2.), highlighting its impacts (2.1.), its main causes (2.2.), and the policy responses we have seen so far to the crisis (2.3.). It ends with a brief conclusion (3.).


Footnotes:
  1. See Human Rights Council resolution 6/2, 27 September 2007, para. 2 (b).
  2. See General Assembly Resolution 60/251, para. 5 (f).

Top of page   -   Home   -   Contact us   -   Disclaimer
Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network
FANRPAN Remote Access FANRPAN Webmail
Octoplus Information Solutions