The Council, the executive governing body of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), yesterday evening adopted Voluntary Guidelines that would "support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security."
The adoption of the Right to Food Guidelines comes two months to the day after the FAO Committee on World Food Security endorsed them following some 20 months of often difficult, but constructive negotiations.
According to FAO, the Guidelines were conceived "to provide practical guidance" to help countries implement their obligations relating to the right to adequate food.
This should improve the chances of reaching the hunger reduction goals set by the 1996 World Food Summit and the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations. Both agreed to cut the number of hungry people in the world by half by 2015.
Unless people are moved off the roles of hungry at a much greater rate than is currently the case, it is very unlikely that the goal will be met, said FAO.
Establishes far reaching universal principles
The Voluntary Guidelines take into account a wide range of important human rights principles, including equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, accountability and the rule of law, as well as the principle that all human rights are universal, indivisible, inter-related and interdependent.
According to FAO, various non-governmental groups and intergovernmental organizations contributed significantly in the preparation of the Guidelines. These included the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the North-South Alliance, which is a coalition of a large number of NGOs.
A practical tool to implement human rights
Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department, said, "The Guidelines are a human rights-based tool addressed to all states to help implement good practices in food security policies. They cover the full range of actions that need to be taken at the national level to construct an enabling environment for people to feed themselves in dignity and to establish appropriate safety nets for those who cannot. This land mark event signifies universal acceptance of what the right to food really means."
Giuliano Pucci, FAO Legal Counsel, said, "Now we face the challenge of putting these Guidelines into everyday practice in a way that will bring an end to the injustice of hunger. The Guidelines provide us with a new instrument to better define the obligation of the state and to address the needs of the hungry and malnourished and we should use them to empower the poor and hungry to claim their rights."
According to FAO, the guidelines must be implemented to have any hope of reducing by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015.
FAO developed Guidelines at request of Summit
At the June 2002 World Food Summit: five years later, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed "the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food."
The declaration invited the FAO Council to establish an Intergovernmental Working Group to develop a set of voluntary guidelines to support Member States' efforts to achieve the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization provided the Secretariat for the Intergovernmental Working Group that negotiated the Guidelines.