By: Diletta Cosco.
The right to adequate food was firstly recognized in article 25 of the Universal Declaration of human rights in 1948, as well in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man the same year; It then became a “legal entitlement”, “codified in article 11” of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Currently, 163 countries have ratified this convention, yet the right to food needs further practice both nationally and internationally. Since the 1948, especially after the recognition of the right to food into the two declarations mentioned above, the importance of this human right has captured further attention and it has been recognized in other several declarations and treaties.
The right to food is a basic human right protected under international human rights and humanitarian law and is recognized directly or indirectly by virtually all countries in the world through article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Food is considered as part of the right to health and well-being and an important need for a proper “standard of living, health and well-being of people”. The right to food is interconnected with other human rights as well; in fact, the lack of enjoyment of this right excludes the proper enjoyment of “life, dignity or the enjoyment of other human rights”.
The Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural rights adopted a document which defines the definition of the right to food. According to the meaning given, the right to food involves a quantity and quality that should be good enough to allow an individual to fulfil the necessary dietary needs. The right to food implies also a nutrition that is aligned according the culture of a certain individual. The Committee also established a violation of human rights whether a state does not fulfil the right to food to its citizens. The interest to adopt a human right based approach towards the end of hunger constitutes now a core mission in the United Nations (UN) policies which focus in parallel towards the development and fulfilment of human rights. The UN Millennium Development Goals, precisely in the sustainable Goal number 2, encourage states to commit to the guarantee of food to its citizenships and the end of hunger by 2030. The right to food usually requires government’s accountability mainly, but also other international and national actors such as the inter-governmental organizations are doing their parts towards the fulfilment of right to food; although, states play the most crucial role in the fulfilment of right to food. In fact, “states are duty-bearers, while people are right-holders”.Specifically, states are responsible to ensure this right is fulfilled when an agreement, treaties or declaration is signed; this means that states have signed to take part to the compliment of the right to food and consequently adequate legislations are required as well. In fact, states have the primary role to “respect, protect and fulfil” the right to food; conventions, declarations and treaties are necessary but additional instruments are fundamental to facilitate its implementation. Integrating this right into a country’s constitution is the first and most important step to ensure its fulfilment and it represents the greatest commitment that a country can have. Embedding this right into the Constitution would give long-term protection to the right itself and any law found in contrast with the right to food would be submitted for review, as laws that are in contradiction with the right to food are considered unconstitutional. In the case of South America and the Caribbean region, 15 countries have officially included the right to food into their constitution. Even though, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba and Mexico are the only countries which recognize the right to food for all people, indistinctively. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbeans are a good example of commitment of ending hunger through the manifestation of various declarations about the right to food. A practical commitment should take place through the implementation of this basic human rights into their legislation as well. However, the recognition in constitutions itself is not enough but can be considered as a fair starting point towards the achievement of this objective; laws and legal framework are likewise necessary, cooperation between several actors at national and international level is fundamental as well.