Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WORLD: The Global Food Crisis is not over. Our obligations go beyond fixing the financial system," says UN Special Rapporteur

WORLD: The Global Food Crisis is not over. Our obligations go beyond
fixing the financial system," says UN Special Rapporteur

26 June 2009

(GENEVA   NEW YORK) The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
right to food, Mr. Olivier De Schutter, calls on decision-makers
gathering in New York for the UN Conference on World Financial and
Economic Crisis not to forget the global food prices crisis. This
crisis is continuing in many countries. It is connected not only with
the financial and economic crises, but also with the
climatic/environmental crisis.

"Are we waiting for new food riots in order to take swift action?" is
the basic call of Mr. De Schutter, who started his UN mandate last
year amidst the peak of the food prices increases. Since May 2008,
the Human Rights Council has repeatedly asked him to report on the
global food crisis, as the right to adequate food is part of the
international human right law. Today, he asks decision-makers to
seize the momentum.

The food crisis is indeed far from over. The FAO has confirmed that
the total number of food insecure people is now above one billion
people. Food prices on local markets remain higher in May 2009 than
in May 2008 in more than forty developing countries, despite the
price decrease on international markets, as shown in a recent FAO
study. Moreover, the global food crisis has not unfolded in isolation
from the financial and economic crisis. Remittance flows, for example,
have been declining since late 2008, as a result of migrant workers
loosing their jobs. The consequences are increased food insecurity
for the communities these remittances support.

"Just like the collapse of large banks, widespread hunger entails
systemic risks. Less wholesome and less nutritious diets create an
economic liability for the future development", said Mr. De Schutter.
"If the coping strategies adopted by vulnerable households cause
reductions in the quantity and/or quality of diets at critical stages
of child growth or during pregnancy, this may have long-lasting
consequences on physical and mental growth". Some of the poorest
families have also been led to distress sales, including sales of
productive assets such as land or tools, thereby making recovery less

In this context, the Special Rapporteur recommends a greater
attention on the right to food framework. "The right to food is not
the right to be fed after an emergency. It is the right to access the
means to produce food or the means to an income that enables the
purchase of adequate food" said Mr. De Schutter. "The right to food
can act as a compass to guide possible responses at the national and
international levels" said Mr. De Schutter, who spent the first year
of his mandate translating the implications of the right to food into
concrete recommendations for areas such as trade or large-scale
transnational land investments. It is a tool to ensure that policies
are geared towards alleviating hunger and malnutrition and towards
building the resilience of the most vulnerable groups against risks,
shocks and policy changes. "This is totally different from the
outdated and misplaced strategy of a plain increase in food
production", said Mr. De Schutter.

Mr. De Schutter recommends five directions in order to prevent more
hunger and to progressively realize the right to food:

1. Fighting against volatility on international agricultural markets.
The Special Rapporteur warns again the risk of new periods of extreme
volatility on international agricultural markets such as the one that
sparkled food riots in dozens of countries in 2008. "There is a clear
need for improving the management of grain stocks at global level,
including coordination of global grain stocks to limit the
attractiveness of speculation" said Mr De Schutter, who also
recommends combating speculation on the futures markets of
agricultural commodities; and supports the establishment of an
emergency reserve allowing the World Food Programme to meet
humanitarian needs at pre-crisis prices.

2. Encouraging States to build social protection schemes thanks to a
global reinsurance mechanism. A significant number of countries
reacted to the global food crisis by establishing or strengthening
safety net programmes. Yet volatility on international agricultural
markets may affect the willingness of poor countries to engage into
such programs because they could fear not being able to commit to
such schemes when food prices increase. The Special Rapporteur
announced he supports a global reinsurance mechanism for countries
that engage in such schemes: "It would create an incentive for
countries to put in place robust social protection programmes for the
benefit of their population".

3. Channel resources towards the scaling up of sustainable
agriculture systems rather than simply increasing food production.
According to Mr. De Schutter, the food crisis has had one positive
impact: the renewed interest in agriculture. "Yet not all
agricultural production models are the same. States, donors and
international organizations should channel their support to
sustainable farming approaches that benefit the most vulnerable
groups and that are resilient to climate change and to the exhaustion
of hydrocarbons", said the Special Rapporteur. "Agroecological farming
approaches such as agroforestry or low-external input agriculture have
demonstrated their high potential, especially in the difficult
environments where vulnerable groups live".

4. Protecting agricultural workers rights. The international
community has vastly, according to Mr. De Schutter, underestimated
the importance of protecting the entitlements of the 700 million
agricultural workers, which also are particularly vulnerable as their
wages do not raise with higher food prices, and who are often not
protected by social protection schemes as they are often hired on a
seasonal basis in a largely informal sector. "Accelerating the work
towards a better implementation of the relevant ILO conventions in
the rural areas, in order to guarantee that those working on farms
can be guaranteed a living wage, adequate health and safety
conditions of employment, could be one of the best leverage to ensure
that those working on the agricultural sector are ensured access to
adequate food".

5. Reforming the governance of the global food and agricultural
system. The Special Rapporteur highlighted the urgency to improve the
global governance. His suggestions for a renewed Committee on World
Food Security are currently being discussed in Rome. "I'm confident
more and more countries are ready to engage to time-bound targets in
hunger alleviation as well as to a monitoring mechanism, if such a
mechanism can at the same time lead to guidelines for improved
international coordination" said Mr. De Schutter.

Mr. De Schutter expects decision-makers to put the food issue back on
the international agenda at the highest level. "We've seen too many
summits whose only achievements have been a slight increase in food
aid commitments or in commitments to reinvest in agriculture. We face
a momentum. Our responsibility is to achieve structural improvements"
said Mr. De Schutter. "Solutions exist. We can shape food systems
that are productive, that create jobs and that are resilient to
climate change".

* * *

Olivier De Schutter was appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on the
right to food in 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He
is independent from any government or organization. He teaches
International Human Rights Law at the Catholic University of Louvain

Press contacts: Olivier De Schutter Tel. +32.488.482004 - Federica
Donati Tel. +41.22.9179496

For additional information, please visit: www.srfood.org
 or www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm

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