Magazine article UN Chronicle

Time to Move from Generalities. (Rights Watch)

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Time to Move from Generalities. (Rights Watch)

Article excerpt

The persistent hunger suffered by hundreds of millions in a world of plenty is widely recognized to be an affront to humanity. The leaders of the world assembled in Rome in 1996 for the World Food Summit declared it intolerable and unacceptable that more than 800 million people, most of them in developing countries, do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. They therefore pledged their commitment and political will to eradicate hunger. When they meet five years later to follow up the World Food Summit, they should move from generalities to adoption of concrete steps conducive to the implementation of the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger. That right is set out in core human rights instruments, notably in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Each State party to that Covenant is obliged to ensure that everyone under its jurisdiction has access to the minimum essential food.

This is sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food to ensure freedom from hunger. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has pointed out that this right imposes three levels of obligations on States parties: to respect, protect and fulfil. The obligation to respect existing access to adequate food requires States parties not to take any measures that result in preventing such access. The obligation to protect requires measures by the State to ensure that enterprises or individuals do not deprive individuals of their access to adequate food. The obligation to fulfil, or facilitate, means the State must engage in activities intended to strengthen people's access to and utilization of resources and means to ensure their livelihood, including food security. Whenever an individual or group is unable, for reasons beyond control, to enjoy the right to adequate food by the means at their disposal, States have the obligation to fulfil (provide) that right directly. This obligation a lso applies for persons who are victims of natural or other disasters. Steps to ensure everyone's freedom from hunger requires proper mapping and monitoring to find out which groups are food insecure, the factors causing their insecurity, and whether the steps taken to redress this have the intended effect. The cause of hunger is generally not to be found in a lack of sufficient food on the world market, but in the inability of food-insecure groups to produce or procure food. Many living in the rural areas of developing countries are either landless or unable to produce enough, including food, to make a decent living. Their sources of livelihood are sometimes destroyed. The land rights of indigenous peoples have sometimes remained unrecognized and their land encroached upon by others.

Part of the problem of hunger arises from discrimination against women. In sub-Saharan Africa, a large part of the small farmers are women. Their rights to land or their inheritance rights are precarious or non-existing. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has further weakened their possibility to make a living for themselves and their families, and made the lack of inheritance rights an even greater obstacle for widows. In South Asia, another factor underlying serious malnutrition is discrimination of women within the household, with particularly serious consequences for malnutrition in the poorer sections. Undernourished mothers give birth to undernourished children, whose learning capacities are thereby often weakened. These children are likely to fail in the educational institutions and live a new generation of poverty, causing an intergenerational cycle of poverty and malnutrition. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.