UN rights expert urges WTO to make right to food a priority

UN rights expert urges WTO to make right to food a priority

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[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter [official website] said Friday that the World Trade Organization (WTO) [official website] must make food security a top priority [UN News Centre report; report, PDF] at its global trade talks next month. De Schutter stressed that WTO policies do not adequately ensure the right to food in developing countries, especially as international food prices are on the rise. He expressed concern that existing WTO trade regulations leave developing countries vulnerable drastic price increases which can lead to food shortages. The rapporteur recommended that the WTO review and make appropriate changes to its polices to allow developing countries greater food security:

WTO members should redefine how food security is treated in multilateral trade agreements so that policies to achieve food security and the realization of the human right to adequate food are no longer treated as a derivations from but as recognized principal objectives of agricultural trade policy. Food security is presently treated under the WTO as the grounds for exceptions for a very limited range of trade liberalization commitments…Members should preserve and create a range of flexibilities in the Doha Round Negotiations in order to ensure that the future international trade regime operates in lock step with multilateral and national efforts to address food insecurity.

De Schutter’s comments are in anticipation of the Eighth WTO Ministerial Conference [materials] to be held December 15–17 in Geneva, Switzerland. As of earlier this month, the provisional agenda [document] for the conference does not list specific topics of discussion.

Last month, De Schutter voiced his support for a reformation of the Mexican constitution [JURIST report] which will recognize the right to food. In 2010, De Schutter urged governments to institute legal reform to help fight hunger [JURIST report] and promote the right to food. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] in 2007 called for an increased effort to uphold the “fundamental human right” to food [JURIST report] for people around the world who suffer from chronic hunger. The right to adequate food is recognized in Articles 24(2)(c) and 27(3) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 12(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and Articles 25(f) and 28(1) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [texts]. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights [text], adopted by the UN in 1948, states that “[e]veryone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food.”