Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 30 - July 2024 عربى
International Developments

Food Justice from the Human Rights Perspective

The International Conference on Food Justice from a Human Rights Perspective convened in Doha, Qatar on 6–7 February 2024 under the theme Challenges of Reality and Future Stakes. The two-day conference, organized by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), the Office of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Arab League, aimed to provide a global dialogue platform for exchanging knowledge and experiences, building capacities and reviewing legislation, policies, plans, and programs related to food justice from a human rights perspective, and developing frameworks and foundations from which those working in the field of food justice and human rights can proceed.

Qatar has presented itself as a responsible global actor in the field of food security, not least by launching the Global Drylands Alliance initiative to achieve food security in countries with drylands, and the Doha Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the decade 2022–2031, in cooperation with the United Nations, to create sustainable livelihoods that enable the people of these countries to enjoy their human rights, including the right to food. The conference’s outcome Doha Declaration on Food Justice called on states and other relevant stakeholders to work together to use the right to food as a transformative framework for the transition to sustainable, people-centered food systems by utilizing comprehensive and integrated approaches such as agroecology and regenerative agriculture as an essential means of adaptation at the same time with climate change and the realization of the right to food. Coinciding with Israel’s use of starvation as a weapon of war, the conference also urgently called for an end to the practice and for a resumption of funding to the UN Palestine Refugee Works Agency (UNRWA).

HIC-HLRN participated in the conference, commissioned to make a plenary presentation on the applicable instruments that frame and guide the pursuit of food justice. HIC-HLRN Coordinator Joseph Schechla’s intervention, entitled “The Use and Disuse of International Instruments for Food Justice,” emphasized the importance of the body of both binding obligations and voluntary commitments of states to respect, protect and fulfil the human right to food within policies and programs that promote social justice. The contradiction arising from such a review was, on the one hand, ample normative instruments that define what the organs of the state must do, and how to do it, while too few public servants apply them.

The presentation stressed the deliberated instruments from the processes of FAO and the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), with their ample specificity and alignment with existing treaty obligations. These include, in particular, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guarantee of the human right to adequate food, and the authoritative interpretation of those corresponding obligations in the Treaty Body’s General Comments and its periodic review of states’ performance of the treaty. Schechla also explored the gaps in performance of the three chartered purposes of the UN—(1) peace and security, (2) development and (3) human rights—on the part of states and UN implementation agencies, especially under the current direction of the FAO.

Schechla covered the efforts within the CFS and its Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism (CSIPM) for relations with CFS as prolific contributors to the body of instruments, their development and the much-needed evaluative monitoring of their implementation.

The HIC-HLRN presentation called for alignment of the management of UN implementation agencies with the UN Charter to achieve the intended unitary UN System, rather than fragmented vision and false dichotomies proffered by FAO leadership to isolate human rights from development operations, despite the normative standards.

In the current context of genocide in Palestine, the gap between norms and behavior are clearer. The presentation concluded that popular demonstrations around the world, calling for ceasefire and fundamental change of the international system enabling the crime of weaponizing food, the Global South has awakened to the hypocrisy of leadership. However, we now risk losing the constituency in the Global North as well. The HIC-HLRN intervention urged reconciling the contradiction between the norms and practice as a core challenge of great urgency at this moment.

Download “Use and Disuse of International Instruments for Food Justice”
See Aljazeera coverage of the Food Justice conference


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