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17 December 2008

Says Doha Round Will Not Prevent Another Food Crisis

GENEVA -- In this first-ever report prepared by a UN independent expert on this highly contentious subject, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Prof. Olivier De Schutter, examines whether the current path of trade liberalization in agriculture complies with the WTO Members’ obligations towards the human right to adequate food, as recognized under international law.

The report is the outcome of a mission to the WTO and broad consultations with a range of actors, including a number of Ambassadors to the WTO. It is the first time that the WTO has accepted a request of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food to conduct such a mission.

Prof. De Schutter, an internationally recognized human rights expert, will present his recommendations on how to make the international agricultural trade system "human rights-compatible". The mandate he has been given by the Human Rights Council, the 47-member intergovernmental body of the United Nations, is to promote the right to food. Adopting the perspective of the right to food, the report argues, brings a new light to trade issues, and it should guide current and future trade negotiations.

The Special Rapporteur will go beyond the technicalities of the Doha round. He will share his vision of the new role agricultural trade should play in the future, drawing lessons from both the food crisis and the emerging threat of climate change. These two issues, he argues, are vastly underestimated in the current WTO negotiations.

His mission to the WTO also brought him to consider controversial issues such as safeguard mechanisms and the “specificity” of agricultural products, which are at the core of the negotiations. Prof. De Schutter´s conclusions should encourage States not to accept any undertakings under the WTO which would be incompatible with their obligations under international human rights law.

The report is based on both an official mission to the WTO and consultations with several national governments since June 2008. The official report will be presented at the March 2009 session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Professor De Schutter was appointed by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations as Special Rapporteur on the right to food in March 2008, and he inaugurated his mandate on May 1st, 2008. His three-year mandate is to monitor and report on the right to food to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council. A specialist in human rights, Olivier De Schutter teaches at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and the College of Europe (Natolin Campus, Poland). He is a Visiting Professor at Columbia University and a Member of the Global Law School Faculty of New York University. He was also previously Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Press contact:
Federica Donati/Beatrice Quadranti Tel. +41.22.9179496/9179615
Olivier De Schutter Tel. +32.488.482004

For further information on the work and mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, visit the webpage: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm


For use of the information media; not an official record