What about the Right to Food?

Death from hunger is still a major killer, yet the right to food is barely recognised

Rome, 7 May 2007- On the eve of the commemoration of 60 years since the United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some rights, like the Right to Food, are overshadowed by those that have received more political and public support, yet severe food insecurity affects at least one-seventh of the world's human population.

On 16 October 2007, FAO will celebrate World Food Day with the theme The Right to Food. The Right to Food is the right of every person to have regular access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and culturally acceptable food for an active, healthy life. It is the right to feed oneself in dignity, rather than the right to be fed. With more than 850 million people still deprived of enough food, the Right to Food is not just economically, morally and politically imperative - it is also a legal obligation.

Since 1996, following the World Food Summit, FAO has been working with governments and communities worldwide to gain recognition for this basic human right.

World Food Day activities involving over 150 countries to promote the Right to Food theme, include the 27th World Food Day ceremony at FAO headquarters on 16 October, a Run-for-Food race on 21 October in Rome, a special ceremony at the UN in New York on 18 October, a TeleConference in Washington D.C. and national-level activities including a gala in Spain and musical and sports events in various countries.

Right to Food guidelines

Given the persistent high numbers of undernourished people, in June 2002, the World Food Summit: five years later decided to develop guidelines to support Members' efforts to realize the right of everyone to adequate food. In 2004, after intensive negotiations, The Right to Food Guidelines were adopted unanimously by FAO members. FAO set up a Right to Food Unit to support Member countries in the implementation of the Guidelines.

The Right to Food Guidelines are a practical tool to assist countries in their efforts to eradicate hunger. The guidelines are a set of coherent recommendations on, among others, labour, land, water, genetic resources, sustainability, safety nets, education, and the international dimension. They also encourage the allocation of budgetary resources to anti-hunger and poverty programmes, such as those currently being undertaken in Braziland Mozambique.

By recognizing the Right to Food, governments have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil this right. In order to achieve the World Food Summit objective and Millennium Development Goal number one of reducing hunger by half by 2015, efforts are needed to give a voice to the hungry and to strengthen governments'capacity to meet their obligations.

"The right to food is not a utopia. It can be realized for all. Some countries are on the way to doing this, but everyone should contribute to make this happen", says Barbara Ekwall, Coordinator of the Right to Food Unit.