The problem of access to food today is acute. Since the food crisis exploded in Spring 2008, all States, all UN agencies and most social movements have issued declarations on the causes of the crisis and on solutions to resolve it. Paradoxically, efforts to end hunger and malnutrition, based on the right to food, and promoted by States, the FAO and civil society since 1996, seem to be losing ground just at the point where they might be most useful. This is the point of departure of this critical report which aims to put the food crisis in context – structural hunger – and to place the approach based on the right to food at the centre of reflections on the current crisis and on possible ways to overcome chronic hunger and malnutrition.
In 2005, CETIM published a brochure on the right to food which began with following observation: millions of people are victims of violations of their right to food, on a daily basis, but none of them ever bring a complaint nor see themselves as victims of the violation of the most fundamental human rights, with a right to compensation. To remedy this situation, the brochure had two main objectives: to contribute to the diffusion of information on the right to food, to victims, social movements and States; to describe available mechanisms of redress in case of violations, usable by victims to obtain compensation. This analysis remains valid today.
Since 2004, when the CETIM brochure was produced, there have been important developments in the promotion and protection of the right to food. In November 2004, guidelines on the right to food were unanimously adopted by States, with the explicit aim of providing practical guidelines to overcome hunger. These guidelines were implemented by several states between 2005 and 2008. Today, they should be central to the response to the global food crisis. More recently, in May 2008, a new UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food was appointed to succeed Jean Ziegler. The new Rapporteur, Olivier De Schutter, has been asked by the Human Rights Council to present recommendations on the best way to respond to the food crisis. His analyses and recommendations, based on the right to food are extremely pertinent. However, they have not been followed with any effect, because States and the UN have chosen to favour other approaches, which might even worsen the food crisis instead of alleviating it.
The analyses and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, along with the guidelines adopted by States in 2004, are presented in this critical report, in order to strengthen the links between the struggle to overcome hunger, the responses to the food crisis and the approach based on the right to food. This report is in three parts: Part I, the global food crisis, in the context of structural hunger; Part II, the responses of States and the UN to the food crisis; and Part III, the need to stress the promotion and protection of the right to food in order to respond effectively to the global food crisis and to structural hunger.