Human Rights and World Trade: Hunger in International Society

By Ana Gonzalez-Pelaez | Go to book overview
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Series editor's preface

The persistence of mass starvation and chronic hunger is one of the most shocking and shameful features of the modern world. It is shocking because of the sheer volume of people who are every day either hungry or actually dying from starvation and it is shameful because it should be possible for the international society of states to make very substantial reductions in the number of people in the world who are hungry or starving. Although there are disagreements about how best to tackle the problem, it is beyond dispute that there is simply too little being done at this juncture to eliminate the hunger and starvation that exists around the world.

This book assesses the theory and practice of how international society has responded to the global problem of hunger. The focus is not on crisis or emergency situations caused, for example, by drought or civil war, when special circumstances make it difficult to feed people, but on situations where hunger is a routine problem that arises and persists primarily because of poverty. Ana Gonzalez-Pelaez investigates whether the international society of states considers that there is an international responsibility or duty to alleviate hunger and if so, what is being done to fulfil this duty and what can, in theory, be done to eliminate hunger.

This investigation into the problem of hunger builds on the work of John Vincent who is closely identified with the English school of international relations theorists who presuppose the existence of an international society of sovereign states where order is promoted by the existence of a complex set of international institutions. In his early work, Vincent focused on the problem of intervention and he strongly endorsed the norm of non-intervention that is intended to reinforce the sovereignty of the state. Vincent accepted the prevailing view within the English school, at that time, that the virtues of sovereignty and non-intervention are their capacity to preserve the distinctiveness or plurality of the states that constitute international society. Later, however, when Vincent's research focus turned to human rights, he began to question an undiluted pluralist perspective. He argued that there are some basic human rights that every state has a duty to observe. The emerging international consensus about the existence of


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