The Right to Adequate Food

The right to adequate food is a fundamental human right. It is both freedom from hunger and entitlement to food that meets dietary needs which are free from adverse substances, culturally acceptable, in large enough quantities, physically and economically accessible and with sustainable supply for present and future generation.

 

THE RIGHT TO ADEQUATE FOOD IN INTERNATIONAL LAW

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Rally for the implementation of agrarian reform 2014 © Astrud Lea Beringer

The right to adequate food is a human right and is a binding obligation established under international law. The right to adequate food was first recognized as a human right in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1966 it was incorporated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as Article 11 and ratified by 156 states with the Republic of the Philippines being one of them.

The General Comment No. 12 of the 1999 Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contains the most authoritative UN interpretation of the right to adequate food:

         “The right to adequate food is realized when every man, every woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means  for its procurement”

The right to food implies the availability of food for human consumption which is directly related to land productivity. This is influenced by elements such as access to land and security of land tenure, access to agricultural and farming implements, pre- and post-harvest facilities, credit and the health status of farmers.

Physical food accessibility is directly linked to roads, bridges, ports used to transport food from food production areas to food consumption areas, travel and transports costs, and traffic management that guarantees ease and safety of transportation.

Economic food accessibility is directly linked to income, food costs, and extent of credit. Income and food prices are major components to determine the access of food. Depending on how much was earned, the food expenditure of Filipinos varied in 2008 between 36.4% and 64.7%. Rising food prices have therefore a vast impact on food consumption if the income is not rising simultaneously. As a consequence, there is a higher possibility to slide into poverty.

Food safety refers to reduced health risksfrom foodborne diseases or harmful levels of toxic substances and to enhanced food benefits through the provision of essential dietary nutrients, implying appropriate consumption and feeding patterns that entail nutrients needed for physical and mental growth, development and maintenance.

 

STATE OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE RIGHT TO ADEQUATE FOOD

As a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Philippine Government is duty bound to three obligations – the obligation to respect, to protect and fulfill:

  • The obligation to respect existing access to adequate food requires the Philippine State not to take any measures that result in preventing such access.
  • The obligation to protect requires the Philippines State to ensure that enterprises or individuals do not deprive individuals of their access to adequate food.
  • The obligation to fulfill (facilitate) requires the State to pro-actively engage in activities intended to strengthen people’s access to and utilization of resources and means to ensure their livelihood, including food security. Finally, whenever an individual or group is unable, for reasons beyond their control, to enjoy the right to adequate food by the means at their disposal, States have the obligation to fulfill (provide) that right directly. This obligation also applies for persons who are victims of natural or other disasters.

 

RIGHT TO FOOD SITUATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

In 2008, Gallup International Voice of the People ranked the Philippines as the fifth country in the world with the most number of hungry people, half of whom were women and children. According to the UN Human Development Report of 2013, 18.4% out of 96.5 million Filipinos lived below the international poverty line of US$1.25a day.Many Filipinos cannot meet their basic food needs because the daily minimum wage has not kept pace with rising food prices.

In the last quarter of 2014, a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations indicates that 17.2% or 3.8 million families in the Philippines have experienced involuntary hunger at least once during the period.This is around 7% lower than the self-rated hunger in March 2012 where 23.8% of Filipino households claimed to have experienced hunger or have gone hungry at least once in the past three months.

Besides the ICESCR, the Philippines has ratified most of the important international human rights treaties dealing with the right to adequate food (RTAF), such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions Relating to the Protection of Victims of International and Non-International Armed Conflicts.

The Philippines adopted a vast array of laws purportedly to ensure the availability, accessibility and safety of food for its population. However, it has yet to realize the RTAF. This is due to certain provisions of various laws that are not coherent, not complementary, and at times, even in conflict with each other. For instance, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) protects the ancestral land of the Indigenous People, however, the Mining Act of 1995 allows foreign ownership of mining assets and issues exploration permits which threaten the Indigenous Peoples’ land rights.These make the efforts of government to address the food problem highly unstable and the results unsatisfactory.

 

FIAN PHILIPPINES AND THE RIGHT TO FOOD

FIAN Philippines has long been advocating the right to adequate food and has contributed to the documentation, monitoring and resolution of specific cases of right to food violations, the implementation of respective laws, policies and regulations, internationally and nationally, and the enhanced awareness of Filipinos on the importance of their human rights.

 

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