Human Rights: Time for coordinated action to address the food crisis and create a global plan – UN expert

New York, 30 October, 2022.- A UN expert said today that despite the international consensus that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing fragilities within food systems, there remains no multilateral response to the crisis.

“The problem is not lack of solutions,” said Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. “The international community has a good sense of how to tackle the food crisis; what we need now is coordinated government action.”

This year, an additional 50 million people will face severe hunger, and another 19 million more people are expected to face chronic undernourishment in 2023. Domestic food inflation in more than 60 countries is reportedly 15 per cent or higher year on year, and about 60 per cent of low-income countries find themselves in, or at high risk of, debt distress.

The gender gap in food insecurity widened even further from 2020 to 2021. Women are 15 per cent more likely than men to be food insecure. The poor are the hardest hit, especially in developing countries, where food accounts for half of a typical family’s budget. In 2021, the number of children in child labour globally increased to 160 million, the first rise in 20 years – more than 70 per cent of them working in agriculture. Peoples’ homelands are being stolen, occupied, and decimated at genocidal rates.

In presenting his report to the UN General Assembly on the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the right to food, Fakhri provided some solutions. “As an immediate response, government should build on what worked during the pandemic. Many governments are starting to end pandemic relief measures. But measures like universal school meals and direct cash transfers provided proof of what is possible to realise the right to food. Make these programmes permanent, do not end them.”

Fakhri outlined structural challenges governments face with rising debt level, a broken trade system, and rising corporate power. To overcome those structural constraints, he recommended governments repurpose their existing budgets to transition to agroecology.

“By ensuring people have strong land rights and equitable access to land, by making sure workers’ rights are protected and their voices are at the centre of policy discussions, and by holding corporations accountable, governments can set the right conditions for a transition to agroecology,” said Fakhri.

“If the General Assembly reaffirms its commitment to the right to food in terms that explicitly address today’s challenges, it can inspire and galvanise governments and people to work together to develop a coordinated global response to the food crisis,” the UN expert said.

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