Generally understood as the right to feed oneself in dignity, the right to adequate food is a long-standing international human right to which many countries are committed. Over the last decades, a number of countries have developed and implemented constitutional amendments, national laws, strategies, policies and programmes that aim at the fulfilment for all of the right to food.
Despite the substantial progress made in reducing hunger and undernutrition in the past 25 years, malnutrition in all its forms currently affects one in three people worldwide, and more than 820 million people experience hunger on a daily basis.
The realization of the right to adequate food is not merely a promise to be met through charity. It is a human right of every woman, man and child that is to be fulfilled through appropriate actions by governments and non-state actors. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development prioritizes scaled up, transformational action to eradicate poverty and end hunger and all forms of malnutrition, recognizing that permanent eradication of hunger and the realization of the right to adequate food for all are achievable goals.
But business as usual will not be good enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, despite recent advancements, on the current trajectory under a “business-as-usual” scenario, SDG 2 will not be achieved and large segments of the world’s population will remain undernourished by 2030 and even by 2050.
The right to adequate food can contribute to the transformational change by creating synergies within the existing policy environment, in each context, to enhance coherence across relevant sectors. For example, by sharpening the focus of national policy, legal and programme frameworks on the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition (SDG2), and contributing also to the elimination of extreme poverty and the reduction of overall poverty (SDG1), and to ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls (SDG5).
A long way
Over the years, important advances have been made at various levels. Globally, the right to adequate food has been a legally binding human right in international law for more than 35 years while since then additional legal guarantees have been afforded to specific groups, such as women, children and persons living with disabilities.
In 2004, FAO Member Nations adopted by consensus the Voluntary guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security (Right to Food Guidelines), which provide practical guidance on ways to implement the right to adequate food in a wide range of policy and programme areas.
More recently, whether as a result of consensual international documents with the fulfilment of the right to food as an objective, such as the Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security, or as a goal reiterated by the United Nations Secretary-General in light of the Zero Hunger Challenge, fulfilment of the right to food is increasingly becoming a priority on the international agenda.
From principles to practice
FAO plays an increasingly decisive role in the advancement of the right to adequate food at global, regional and national levels. FAO also develops methodologies and analytical tools for different stakeholders. A variety of actors at country, regional and headquarters levels are carrying out a range of actions related to promoting the right to food. FAO work on the right to food focuses on supporting countries and stakeholders in the:
Formulation and implementation of policies and programmes
Through these seven aforementioned areas, FAO proactively contributes to the increasing number of countries that have included the right to adequate food in their national constitutions, laws, strategies, policies and programmes that aim to fulfil the right to adequate food for all.