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Human Rights Council discusses reports from Experts on Right to Food and Adequate Housing

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MIDDAY 5 March 2010

The Human Rights Council at a midday meeting discussed reports presented by Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food and Raquel Rolnik, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context.

Mr. De Schutter, presenting his annual report, said the world was confronted with a challenge on three levels: increasing demand for primary agricultural goods in a context of limited resources; the need to ensure access to food for poorer populations, in particular for small farmers in the least developed countries; and the situation of the environment, and especially the erosion and impoverishment of the land and challenges imposed by climate change. The current food system was based on technology that had increased yields, but that had also increased inequality by marginalizing small farmers by killing soil and creating the conditions for a major ecological catastrophe in the future. More than two thirds of those who were too poor to feed themselves adequately were at the first links of the chain of food production and were relegated to subsistence agriculture. That was not inevitable. Governments should reinforce labour rights for agricultural workers and support should be provided so that farmers could organize into cooperatives. A public enterprise could be in charge of buying at reasonable prices from farmers and selling food at prices that could be afforded by the poorest. Governments could and should better regulate the behaviour of all of those in the chain of agricultural production and distribution.

In her annual report, Ms. Rolnik noted that mega-events could be an opportunity to enhance the right to adequate housing, but that their impact of the enjoyment of that right was less clear. The creation of a new international image for the cities hosting such events often implied removal of signs of poverty and underdevelopment through re-urbanization projects that prioritized city beautification over the needs of local residents. As the two major sporting events in the world, the Olympic Games and the FIFA Football World Cup had the power to influence and set examples for other events. The bidding and selection process was a key moment to introduce the necessary standards to ensure that the protection of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing, would be endorsed by all relevant stakeholders and guaranteed throughout the organization of the event. The Special Rapporteur also presented some conclusions on her mission to the United States, where she said a new face of homelessness was appearing, with increasing numbers of working families and individuals finding themselves on the streets or living in shelters. In her report on a mission to the Maldives, she called on the international community to urgently support adaptation strategies for climate-change related impacts there.