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Right to Food - International Perspective

Hunger, starvation, mal-nutrition, lack of adequate food facilities are often one of the major problems faced by the world. Despite, being flourishing in various segments to strive and become a developed nation this problem pull it back. Right To Food, has become a goal and a major criteria to be seen as a nation which is developed and also helping in development of an individual. The UN on adoption of Right To Development, declaration emphasised on the very fact that a person should be able to develop in all the fields, that is socially, economically, culturally, politically then it would be viewed that the fundamental rights guaranteed to him has been exercised fully.

This led to ample opportunities to the individuals to have access to resources which shall benefit him. Right To Food is a human right specified under Article 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Article states that every person has a prerogative to have a standard of living which shall include a proper health of himself an his family. This shall constitute adequate provisions for food, clothing, medical care and social services. Right To Food is also evident in ICESCR under Article 11 which was enforced in 1976.

Though, this can be differentiated from food security & food sovereignty, as the former refers to a period when everyone has access to safe and nutritious food that meet health requirement. Whereas, the other term originated in 1996 which refers to community deciding their own food policies. In other words, the sustainable methods adopted to provide adequate amount of food and nutrition level is food sovereignty.

To monitor that the right is universally given to all a large number of developments took place within the United Nations. Starting, from 1979 ECOSOC began looking in it and in 1983 they started to prepare a report on which added scope to improvisations and giving clarity on this human right. Economic, Social & Cultural Rights are seen as a support system which helps in the foundation of human dignity, it is an inherent right, which can't be taken away and has to be mandatorily given to everyone.

Treaties were drafted when the UDHR was adopted which had sets of rights and in further process the Commission on Human rights decided to draft separate covenants but in the end a single covenant was drafted which led to more confusion. The two covenants which are being talked about over here are; Economic, Social & Cultural Rights and Civil & Political Rights. Thus it was difficult to manage both of them in a single draft.

Finally, two separate covenant were made which aimed at achieving socio economic equality and security before the law for all. Despite, being distinguished and set apart there are certain conventions which showcase both the rights such as; Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women & Convention on the Rights of the Child. Both of them can be seen

as a complementary tool to each other which has the same motive and agenda to be achieved. Hence, denial of one right will lead to denial of the other right and in whole it shall violate the human rights.

International Humanitarian Law

Under, this there are many provisions relating to right to food mainly in those countries where there is outbreak of war. International Humanitarian Law, itself relates to the conduct and regulation of war between countries. The major agenda of them is to protect the civilians. It has being emphasised under Article 14 of Fourth Geneva Convention that any method which results in starvation of the civilian by removal, destruction or attacking any crops, agricultural produce etc, shall be prohibited.

The usage of this method to destroy one country's population is held to be illegal. Removal of food produce can't be used as a weapon against the civilians in any war. International Humanitarian Law makes an effective contribution in eradication of hunger.

Impact of Economic, Social & Cultural Rights

Right To Food is often categorised under this, which means if there is violation of that it has a remedy. In many countries, this category is often adopted as just guidelines or directives which support the fundamental rights, but are considered as non - enforceable. Usually, political and civil rights are being talked about by making it fundamental rights. But, in countries like South Africa economic, social and cultural rights are being equally recognised and are seen as independent rights for the welfare of the people. Therefore, Right To Food is given the same status.

International Instruments on Right To Food

Apart, from UDHR there are several other instruments which recognises right to food as a human right. Article 11(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, Cultural Rights provides for standard of living which should mandatorily include right to food. The obligation imposed on the state is to ensure that no person is left to die out of starvation because it's interlinked with the right to live with dignity.

To achieve this the states should also contribute in providing employment so that it doesn't become an obstacle in getting adequate food. Food is an essential part of one's living, which is why it is necessary to produce it in a way where it is sustainable. Lastly, as mentioned above all the rights whether civil, political or cultural, economic are interlinked therefore, in achievement of one right the other can't be neglected. Or in another words, procurement of adequate food should not mean that the employment provided violates the guidelines which

has to be followed. In addition, to this any right should not be made as a choice or a condition for any person. Meaning that a person shouldn't be provided a right as a bait or on a set condition. Example, if a certain thing would be completed only then Right To Food would be guaranteed to him. The above Covenant speaks about Right To Life falling under economic, social and cultural rights but is also backed up by Article 6 of International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, which highlights the importance of life and in shouldn't be deprived of it by any means.

Declaration on Eradication of Hunger & Mal Nutrition

This declaration was adopted in Rome in the year 1947, with other 22 resolutions. The declaration lays stress on three major things:
  1. Right to Food is an alienable right for every individual, which means man, woman and child to not obstruct their development both physically and mentally,
  2. The resources already available in the society should be used fully and efficiently to achieve this goal and objective,
  3. The developed countries who are in power to help should do their best to eradicate hunger as it is a persistent problem which is common in all the countries. The Declaration also put the Governments under a duty and asks them work in unity for better and higher production of food which will lead to efficient distribution between and within countries.
In 1983 two prominent things with regard to Right To Food happened, first it was made an universal human right by the United Nations. And, second Food and Agricultural Organisation Conference, (FAO) is an specialised agency under the UN that tries to overcome the problem of hunger and starvation stressed upon certain guidelines relating to adequate food, these were: a) Improvisation of methods for making food accessible especially for people who can't have proper access to it b) To see availability of food and c) To have a stable supply for food. The change to adopt this as a human right was evident when in 1986 Food First Information and Action Network was seen working for this right.

Rome Declaration, 1996

This is one of the major instrument on adequacy of food, as it stated to adopt a proper Plan of Action to prevent individuals dying of starvation or not getting proper food. According, to it every person should be able to reach a point where he has the ability to have food security. The Article under ICESCR, 1966 should be realised in it's full sense which means that every individual should be in a state to get proper food and shouldn't be left hungry.

The United Nations with consultation with it's specialised bodies reached a conclusion of making Right To Food as a priority for everyone. As, a result FIAN came forward and drafted a code of conduct to be followed in order to achieve this right. It was welcomed by many NGO's and High Commission of UN. ECOSOC & UN in 1999 were the major bodies which supervised the covenant on ICESCR and defined the need of this right in General Comment 12 which highlights the problem of poverty in the world population that leads to problem of hunger and malnutrition. There message which was conveyed through this is that access and availability to food is difficult when a person is not able to have sufficient funds for it. When there is no procurement of food through a correct medium which should be accessible to all.

It defines adequacy of food where in every crisis or situation or any circumstance, the food should reach the people in an adequate amount. Right To Food is not only for the people living at present but the future generations should also be considered equally. Also, the food provided should be according to a person's diet which shall vary from person to person. Giving one individual a proper diet should not mean compromising on the diet of the other person.

This also highlights the importance of National Governments coming into picture for implementation of remedies and enforcement of legislation to provide a person his right. Even when a person is not in the capacity to feed himself the Government is under obligation to provide him something by which he is not left hungry. The General Comment also tells that Article 11 of ICESCR, should be recognised even when their is natural disaster or calamity.

Any person should be free from hunger and the state shall see that the person under it's jurisdiction is getting enough sufficient amount of food to not starve. In 200, UN appointed a special rapporteur for right to food who is an expert who monitor the condition on adequacy of food and the implementation in countries and gives the report to the UN. He is responsible for communicating with the state on cases of violation and also for promoting full usage of this right.

World Summit, 2002

Another, prominent step towards achieving the goal of providing adequate food to individual was World Food Summit. The pledge in 1996 Food Summit was taken wherein the amount of people who are hungry should be reduced. In 2002, the summit took place in Rome when about 182 nations opposed the idea of right to food.

During, this summit FAO presented the Anti Hunger Programme where it was figured out by them that if money is cut down on subsidies, the same can be used on better products for and food production which shall lead to more production of food and help people at times of need. Although, the Summit was not able to come out with a productive approach towards dealing with the issue of hunger.

The major development was seen when FAO adopted the Voluntary Guidelines on Right To Adequate Food where many countries expressed and negotiated on the implementation of this economic, social and cultural right. It was observed that the problem of hunger shall not be removed because in certain places, a productive land, water and seeds are not accessible therefore production of food drifts down.

Countries like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Somalia majorly from Africa was hit by a famine and food crisis and led to food emergency, because the crops, the land was all destroyed. This situation led to Food emergency and another modification in the achieving goal, which was that Global Emergency Fund moved by the UN should be implemented by all UN member states in order to respond in such situations. Simultaneously, a hope was rising after the adoption of FAO guidelines would help fight hunger. Presently, the rate of hunger has decreased and more and more people are getting aware of this right.

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