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Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative

Right to food

To conceive of the food insecurity problem and hunger beyond a nutritional or socio-economic problem, centered on human dignity within the framework of human rights, has been the main pillar of the Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative.

The right to food is a universal human right that allows people having access to adequate food and the resources needed to have sustainable food security. This right not only represents a moral commitment or a policy option, but in most countries it is a duty of legally compulsory human rights in agreement with the international human rights norms that have been ratified. Recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, it is part of the right to an adequate life style (art. 25) and it is dedicated to being further developed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  of 1966 as the right of each person to an adequate level of life (art. 11) and as the right of each person to be protected from hunger (art. 12). Likewise, it is protected by regional treaties such as the San Salvador Protocol from 1988.

The States are the guarantors and responsible parties to immediately and gradually carry out and watch over the right to food for the whole population, according to the need of the affected population and the maximum available resources. In agreement with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, there are four levels of obligations for the States with regard to the right to food:

  • To respect the existing access to adequate food requires that the States do not adopt any measures that could have as result that this access is impeded.
  • To protect requires the State to adopt measures to safeguard that no social actor deprives people from having access to adequate food.
  • To provide implies that the State must try to initiate activities in order to strengthen the access to and use of the resources and means that ensure the population’s means of life, including food security.
  • To comply with the right to food directly if there are individuals or groups who are incapable, for reasons beyond their control, of enjoying the right to adequate food by means within their reach. This obligation also applies to people who are the victim of natural catastrophes or other kinds.

To fulfill their human rights obligations, the States must have sufficient abilities. This means the availability of maximum available resources through pertaining fiscal pacts and the establishment of adequate legal and institutional mechanisms. Carrying out the human right to adequate food requires the implementation of a democratically anchored and economically sustainable guarantee system, as the result of the commitment by the States to permanently eradicate hunger and higher levels of social cohesion.

In 2004, FAO Council approved the Voluntary Guidelines in support of the progressive execution of the right to adequate food within the context of national food security. This important tool, elaborated by an intergovernmental work group together with the support of the civil society and international organizations, represents the first attempt of the governments to interpret the right to food and to recommend adopting measures to carry it out. The goal of the Guidelines is to provide the States with practical orientation with regard to their efforts to achieve the progressive realization of the right to adequate food within the context of national food security. Likewise, they can also be used to strengthen and improve the existing development frameworks, especially with regard to the social and human dimensions of the right to food, placing a right’s focus at the center of development policies and strategies.