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“Zero hunger” remains a distant reality for far too many, says UN expert

05 March 2020

GENEVA (5 March 2020) – To reach the goal of “zero hunger” that remains a distant reality for tens of millions of people, States, international organizations and civil society must adopt a holistic, coordinated and rights-based approach with increased participation of those most affected, said a UN expert in a report presented to the Human Rights Council.

“Realizing the right to food requires more than just eliminating hunger and malnutrition; it also requires guaranteeing access to nutritious, adequate food and promoting the survival of smallholder farmers and rural communities,” said Hilal Elver, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

In her final thematic report to the Council, the Special Rapporteur provides guidance on recommended actions for realizing the right to food given trends towards globalization and commodification of food systems.

“The current industrial agricultural model mistreats animals, emits greenhouse gases, relies on toxic pesticides, pollutes ecosystems, displaces and abuses agricultural workers and fisher folk, and disrupts traditional farming communities,” the expert says. “Put simply, the human rights of women, children, migrants, indigenous peoples, peasants, and small holder farmers are often violated.”

In light of these disturbing trends and challenges, Elver recommended “responsible investment and stronger support for agroecology that de-emphasize intensive production methods that can jeopardize environmental sustainability and undermine the wellbeing of communities”.

She also recommended a holistic, coordinated and rights-based approach to the elimination of hunger and malnutrition with increased participation and involvement of those most affected. “We need robust protections for human rights defenders and members of the scientific community who are facing increased attacks in the face of emerging nationalism, populism and predatory global capitalism.”

In her report, the expert notes that States must avoid the adoption of economic policies that deregulate food markets, as well as austerity measures that impose hardships on vulnerable communities and accentuate inequality. “These policies can lead to economic, social and political instability,” she said.

During the six years of her mandate, the Special Rapporteur witnessed increased hunger worldwide and sought to draw particular attention to the fate of populations living on the brink of starvation that now threatens 113 million people. Severe conflicts and emergency situations, including those linked to geopolitical tensions and climate change, are exacerbating these conditions.

“States, individuals, and all perpetrators must be held accountable for the deliberate violation of the right to food and the crime of starvation,” Elver said.


Ms Hilal Elver (Turkey) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the Human Rights Council in 2014. She is a Research Professor, and co-director of the Project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy housed at the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies and global distinguished fellow at the University of California Los Angeles Law School (UCLA) Resnick Food Law and Policy Center. 

The Special Rapporteurs are part of the 'Special Procedures', the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, which brings together the investigative and monitoring mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to address specific country situations or thematic issues around the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and act in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact Alia El Khatib: ([email protected]; +41 22 9178771)

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9445 / [email protected])

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