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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Member States Food Systems Summit Briefing

21 April 2021

Video statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet


21 April 2021

It is a pleasure to address you today.

It is encouraging to see States, UN agencies, civil society, social movements, chefs, nutritionists, agronomists, companies and people everywhere responding to the Secretary-General’s call for us to join forces to transform our food systems.

For the upcoming Summit, my Office has joined WHO in action track two (2) on sustainable and healthy diets.

Our aim is to ensure health and human rights go hand in hand.

From fiscal policies to labelling legislations, education activities and women empowerment measures, the game changing solutions launched for this work stream are a breath of fresh air.

The Summit will provide a platform for these new ideas and approaches.

In this way, it will contribute to accelerating progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and towards a world free from hunger and want.

This is timelier than ever.

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the livelihood of small-scale farmers and the entire global food supply chain, leading to an exacerbation of food insecurity.

Estimates indicate that more than two billion people in the world currently have no access to adequate food.

A situation that puts them at greater risk of malnutrition and makes them more vulnerable to health complications, including those associated with COVID-19.

The most affected are the poorest and most marginalized segments of the population, including women, children, migrants, indigenous peoples, internally displaced, people with disabilities, older people and those living in conflict-affected areas.

The Summit represents an unmissable opportunity for joint action towards sustainable and climate positive food systems.

Human rights are essential to making this shift, prioritizing people’s health and wellbeing.

The human rights framework helps identify patterns of discrimination, which are often root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

It provides normative and policy guidance to designing resilient and people-centred food systems, prioritizing the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

A human rights-based approach would encourage financial support to small-scale farmers and fishers.

It would ensure they have access to credit, land, seeds, natural resources and technology to both to support their livelihoods and the shift towards sustainable farming and fishing.

As it is crucial for a healthy environment and a healthy nutrition, this shift actually supports both the right to food and the right to health.


Gender equality is essential for sustainable and equitable food systems.

Representing a quarter of the world’s population, rural women play a crucial role. In maintaining and improving rural livelihoods and strengthening rural communities, as well as protecting rural ecosystems and combating climate change.

But despite their contributions, rural women suffer disproportionately from extreme poverty and exclusion.

They are pushed to the margins because of systemic discrimination in access to land and natural resources, education, health care and infrastructure, including water and sanitation.

They face gender-based violence and are often denied access to justice and effective legal remedies.

They are also more likely to be excluded from leadership and decision-making positions at all levels.

We need to eradicate all discrimination related to the access to land, natural resources and inheritance.

We need bold action to empower women and erode harmful gender stereotypes, including far-reaching education and awareness raising campaigns on gender equality.

A human rights-based approach to food systems calls for access to information, full participation and transparent and accountable processes.

My Office stands ready to support you and to continue our engagement with WHO, civil society and other actors.

Thank you.