The problem of hunger
This chapter examines the size and shape of the problem of hunger and provides the empirical evidence used in the subsequent chapters to assess the right to food in international society. The first section defines key terms involved in the hunger discourse. The second presents the global statistics on 'hunger' from the 1990s (with highlights from the 1980s and 1970s) and reveals the dynamics of the problem. The third section investigates the disputed causes of the problem, highlighting the debate that occurs on both national and international levels. Section four concentrates on how international trade can cause hunger, paying special attention to agricultural trade.The analysis in this chapter provides the necessary background to assess John Vincent's claim that routine starvation arises from the existing structure of the international economic system and constitutes the 'resident emergency' of international society. His theory of basic rights develops on the basis of this claim, examined here in Chapter 2. A critical assessment both of the phenomenon of hunger and of Vincent's theory is made later in the book (Chapters 3, 4 and 5).
There are several key concepts that are used in the language of food-related problems. These terms set out different analytical perspectives in the process of collecting statistics and organising the data obtained (definitions from FAO, 1999b: 11 and Parker, 2003:1):
|• Food security refers to people's ability to have economic and physical access to food that can be properly utilised to ensure adequate nutrition. 'Food security' suggests that people have enough to eat but it does not address who produces it or how.|
|• Food insecurity is characterised by a low level of food intake, which can be transitory (when it occurs in times of crisis), seasonal or chronic (when it occurs on a continuing basis).|