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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Food justice from a human rights perspective

06 February 2024

Delivered by

Nada Al-Nashif, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights


The International Conference on "Food Justice from a Human Rights Perspective: "Challenges of Reality and Future Stakes"



Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen,

I would like to express my appreciation to the National Human Rights Committee for organising and to the State of Qatar for hosting this important event. It brings together Member States, international and civil society organizations and the private sector to address the pressing global issue of food justice from a human rights perspective, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food.

The figures are striking: 735 million people around the world still suffer from hunger and malnutrition, with almost 60 million residing in this region alone. Our world faces recurring food crises that require urgent and coordinated action.

It is imperative that we, the international community, unite in our pursuit of a human rights-based approach to address these challenges. We must shift our focus from simply producing more food to building global and national food systems that prioritize accessibility, adequacy, and sustainability.

We are at a critical juncture where the impact of conflicts, economic crises, and climate change on the right to food cannot be overstated. It is our collective responsibility to promote and protect the right to food in conflict zones.

In this region, the starkest example is Gaza, where 2.2 million people – almost the entire population – are at imminent risk of famine, with 500’000 people already facing extreme hunger as a result of the destruction of food systems due to the siege. On average, only 30 trucks are allowed in daily into Gaza compared to 500 at pre-war levels. Starvation against civilians as a method of war is prohibited under international law.

Beyond Gaza, over two-third of undernourished people in the region are also from conflict-affected countries, with Somalia, Yemen, and Syria suffering the most. Food, in many parts of the region, is no longer affordable because of poverty, lack of fiscal space, tumbling currencies and economic sanctions.

Our Office is committed to addressing these challenges. In Chad for instance, we have worked to promote the right to food in the context of local conflicts between farmers and herders, engaging with parliament and advocating for a more effective allocation of resources in the agriculture sector. In Sudan, prior to the war, our Office facilitated the collaboration with the Government and the World Bank to ensure the inclusion of women tea sellers in social security schemes they had previously been excluded from in the context of austerity measures and the removal of subsidies.

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen,

Every day, climate change also hinders the full realization of the right to food for millions of people, while our agrifood systems, which represents between 21 and 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, perpetuate this cycle - a cycle that can only be broken by a shift towards a just and sustainable food system enshrined in human rights norms and standards.

Today, I call on States, international organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector to collectively embrace this challenge and responsibility. Our approach must be rooted in a commitment to human rights, ensuring that food is adequate, available, acceptable, and affordable for all, regardless of socio-economic status.

To achieve this, we must address and reduce economic and social inequalities by promoting a human rights economy that puts people and the planet at the centre of global and national food policies. Let us create the conditions for a sustainable agrifood system, where profit does not take precedence over human rights.

In our pursuit for global shared prosperity, let us strengthen our commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The right to food plays a pivotal role in the global fight against poverty, as hunger is often both a cause and a consequence of poverty. When people lack the means to secure nutritious meals, it hinders their ability to break the cycle of poverty. States must move beyond mere acknowledgement; they must proactively address the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable populations and ensure freedom from hunger, including through social protection systems and mobilization of international finance to States lacking adequate resources. We must promote and protect the rights of peasants and people working in rural areas and encourage responsible consumption practices to protect the rights of future generations.

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I invite you to accelerate efforts towards a more just and equitable world, let this conference be a catalyst for radical transformative action.

May the discussions in this conference pave the way for tangible solutions that will ensure the right to food for all, today and for generations to come.