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UN expert tells Heads of State they must respect human rights while tackling food prices

“International efforts to address the global food crisis must reflect the threat it poses to the human right to adequate food,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter on Wednesday in an address to Heads of State and other high-level officials attending the Conference on World Food Security in Rome.

In his speech to the conference, convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to discuss the situation caused by steep recent increases in world food prices, De Schutter also noted that “there is general agreement about the need to massively reinvest in agriculture in developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa” but that there are still “conflicting views” on how to do so. He insisted that consideration of “different approaches should be critically examined from the viewpoint of their impact on the right to food”.

The Special Rapporteur also drew the attention of the international community to the need to tackle speculative investments in food as well as “the imbalances of power in the food production and distribution chain”. He argued that speculation and concentration of power result in 500 million smallholder farming households reaping little benefit from the increased prices that make food too expensive for the poor.

Mr. De Schutter took up the position of Special Rapporteur on the Righ to Food to the UN Human Rights Council on 1 May 2008. He immediately called on the Council to hold a special session on the food crisis. On May 22nd, at its Special Session – the first held on a thematic, rather than country, crisis - the Council encouraged FAO to invite its Special Rapporteur to participate in the High-Level Conference on World Food Security, convened by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome on 3-5 June 2005. De Schutter addressed the plenary session of the Conference on Thursday 5 June and will brief the Human Rights Council on the outcome of the Conference on Friday 6 June in Geneva, where the Council is currently holding its 8th session.

The full statement of the Special Rapporteur to the Rome Conference is available at: ( http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm Mr De Schutter can be contacted at srfood@ohchr.org