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Promoting accountability of food security actions to the people most affected by food insecurity and malnutrition

Video statement by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the Right to Adequate Food Event in Rome

24 January 2017

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to a topic which is essential to the cause of human rights. Today, for perhaps the first time in history, it is well within our power to fulfill the universal right to food. The world produces enough food to feed everyone. As the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development makes clear, States can end extreme poverty, malnutrition and hunger.

And yet FAO figures indicate that in the past two years, one out of every nine people alive on our planet was undernourished. Millions of them were, and are, children – forever stunting their development and ability to enjoy the full range of their rights.

States are not making the policy choices which would ensure food of sufficient quantity and quality food reaches everyone. Why is this?

I believe this failure is at least partly rooted in the persistent absence of domestic laws and legislative frameworks to give legal effect to economic and social rights. They are rights – not neutral or optional commodities. But all too often, States fail to draw up laws to ensure they are protected. They fail to set up accountability mechanisms to monitor compliance, detect violations of those rights, and provide remedies to victims whose rights have been violated by State or non-State actors such as private-sector entities. I will continue to press States vigorously to set up the legal and institutional frameworks necessary to ensure that economic, social and cultural rights have the proper legal status within their domestic landscape, as the inalienable rights of every individual.

Human rights law also addresses the international dimension of States' responsibilities to protect human rights. All States are obligated to ensure equitable distribution of world food supplies. They must cooperate with each other to create the conditions in which the universal right to food can be realised. This includes regulating private sector actors so they uphold their human rights responsibilities.

And above all, a human rights approach means putting people first. People will be fully empowered to secure food for themselves and for their families in a sustainable way when they have fair access to common resources and services such as education; and when policy has taken on board their needs and views.

The human rights approach, outlined in the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the right to food, is central to the positive cycle of rights, development and progress.

In this anniversary year of the two great human rights covenants and Declaration on the Right to Development which has had such strong influence on the 2030 Agenda, it is essential we push forward a human rights approach to food security and nutrition.