Where global solutions are shaped for you | News & Media | HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS DIALOGUE ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH ALBINISM AND BEGINS DIALOGUE ON THE RIGHT TO FOOD

For the latest from UN Geneva, visit www.ungeneva.org.
This site is no longer updated (except for the Disarmament section) as we transition to the new site.

ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS DIALOGUE ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH ALBINISM AND BEGINS DIALOGUE ON THE RIGHT TO FOOD

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children
3 March 2020

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, and began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver.

Presenting her thematic report on women and children impacted by albinism, Ms. Ero noted that the weight of global suffering around albinism was disproportionately borne by women and girls who suffered multiple and intersecting discrimination aggravated by their gender, being impacted by albinism and age, among other factors. Due to the gross misunderstanding and mystification of albinism, mothers of children with albinism were stigmatized right from birth and throughout life. States had to consider developing human rights-centered policies on rare conditions and strategizing to reach women who had been historically left behind, such as through targeted grants or funds, and entrepreneurship for women impacted by albinism and their children.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers recognized that women and girls impacted by albinism faced multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, which could manifest themselves as some of the most egregious human rights violations, including sexual violence and falling victim to ritual killings, social exclusion and poverty. Efforts to combat such violence must be comprehensive and multidisciplinary and States must seek to address the root causes of violence, which could stem from gender inequality, discriminatory social norms and harmful stereotypes, speakers underlined. Accordingly, speakers called on Member States to prevent and address those violations and ensure that children and women with albinism could exercise their rights on an equal footing with others. States also needed to invest in and adopt policies enabling access of persons with albinism to adequate health services, including eye health, sexual and reproductive health, and prevention of skin cancer.

Speaking in the dialogue on the human rights of persons with albinism were : European Union, Burkina Faso (on behalf of the African Group), UN Women, United Nations Children’s Fund, Brazil, Djibouti, Togo, Burkina Faso, Japan, Lesotho, Malaysia, Namibia, Portugal, Egypt, Venezuela, Cameroon, China, Nigeria, Tanzania and Somalia.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Standing Voice, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme, Amnesty International, World Barua Organization, Chinese Association for International Understanding, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, China Society for Human Rights Studies, and World Jewish Congress.

The Council also began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver.

Presenting her reports, Ms. Elver said that the realisation of the right to food remained a distant, if not an impossible reality for too many. Her report offered a critical perspective on trends and the reality and a review of new developments that had the potential to change the status quo. The globalization and commodification of food systems and the current industrial-agricultural model had serious disadvantages. Put simply, the human rights of food system actors, including agricultural workers, smallholder farmers and consumers, were often ignored or violated. Power within the food system was concentrated in the hands of a few corporate actors. Positive developments included the 2018 adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. Ms. Elver also presented her country reports on Azerbaijan, Italy and Zimbabwe.

Azerbaijan, Italy and Zimbabwe spoke as concerned countries, while the Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe also took the floor.

In the discussion on the right to food, speakers noted that the progress achieved so far was insufficient to achieve the enjoyment of the right to food, and the Sustainable Development Goal target of zero hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Hunger as a result of conflict continued to rise and speakers strongly condemned the unlawful denial of humanitarian access to civilians and the use of starvation as a method of warfare. The adverse effects of climate change posed increased threats to food security and more attention should be paid to rural families as strategic players in agricultural activities. Additionally, development assistance had to include agricultural components. Full implementation of the right to food required adequate public and private investment to enable small-scale farmers to increase productivity and to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources.

Speaking on the right to food were : European Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Cuba, State of Palestine, Holy See, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Iraq, Philippines, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Sudan, Egypt, Myanmar, Turkey, Venezuela, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Libya, Indonesia, Cameroon, United Nations Children’s Fund, and China.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children. The first part of the dialogue, which took part in the previous meeting, can be read here.

In the discussion on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, speakers expressed concern that the sale and sexual exploitation of children had been made even more prevalent due to technological advancements, conflicts, migration and displacement. Combatting that phenomenon required collective action at the national, regional and international levels in order to hold perpetrators and facilitators accountable. There was a need to adopt a political and cultural approach rejecting the idea that children were commodities that could be bought, sold and sexually exploited. The same approach had to be applied towards the practice of commercial maternal surrogacy that amounted to the sale of children. Finally, speakers recommended that the Special Rapporteur focus on transnational aspects of those types of crimes and on standardization of different ways of working with national police forces.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children were Guyana and Chad.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Caritas Internationalis, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Edmund Rice International, Defence for Children International (in a joint statement with Plan International, Inc.and Terre Des Hommes Federation Internationale), Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, Beijing Children’s Aid and Research Center, Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration, World Organisation against Torture, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Global Welfare Association.

China, Armenia and Zimbabwe spoke in right of reply.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV

The Council will meet again on Wednesday, 4 March, at 10 a.m. to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and to hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights and the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

The beginning of the interactive dialogue with Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, started in the previous meeting and a summary can be seen here.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

Speakers said it was worrying that the sale and sexual exploitation of children had been made even more prevalent due to technological advancements, conflicts, migration and displacement. Combatting this required collective action at national, regional and international levels to hold perpetrators and facilitators accountable. Governments had to set up efforts to address root causes of violations. There was a need to better collect data and children themselves had to be included in decision making. In education, the special needs of children who had been victims had to be accounted for. Many States still allowed the criminalization of children who were exploited in prostitution or begging. There was a need to regulate training in psychology and social work in accordance with international standards. Prevention, support and trauma healing could best be achieved through the expertise of qualified social workers. Speakers suggested adopting terminology online like child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse material to replace child pornography. This re-branding better stated the severity and criminality of images, videos and actions taking place.

As recognized by the General Assembly resolution on the “girl child”, girls were most affected by the sale and sexual exploitation of children. To better protect girls and boys from significant risks they faced, all countries had to invest in strategies that challenged discriminatory attitudes and harmful social norms. Comprehensive, rights-based prevention strategies were needed to combat the sale and sexual exploitation of children. Anti-trafficking laws had to consider measures to discourage, reduce and eliminate the demand in order to be adequate and effective, following the example of some European countries that had implemented the so-called Nordic Model. There was also a need to adopt a political and cultural approach rejecting the idea that children were commodities that could be bought, sold and sexually exploited. The same approach had to be applied towards the practice of commercial maternal surrogacy that amounted to sale of children. The Special Rapporteur should focus on transnational aspects of these types of crimes, standardization of different ways of working with national police forces and coordination among all national bodies that dealt with identification, and support and integration of victims of sexual exploitation.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, thanked all those who had made comments on the report and mandate. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represented an ambitious agenda to leave no behind. It was imbued with human rights and living up to the expectations of international human rights law. It was too slow because it did not reach everyone, the Special Rapporteur noted. The 2030 Agenda provided wonderful tools for national and fully inclusive development plans. It was important to generate data and show progress. There was progress and some countries had done great work with respect to early marriage, Ms. Boer-Buquicchio underlined. But in the area of sexual exploitation, the lack of statistics indeed hampered progress. Were they really reaching out to all children, or were they only protecting their own children, the Special Rapporteur asked? Were services available to them, and was the best interest of the child indeed taken into account? Were they really interested in solving that serious problem? Those were the questions the international community needed to tackle, the Special Rapporteur emphasized. The question of accountability was essential. Each and every person carried responsibility and should not turn a blind eye to child abuse. The Special Rapporteur therefore called on States to fully support her successor.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism on women and children impacted by albinism (A/HRC/43/42).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism – Visit to South Africa (A/HRC/43/42/Add.1).

Presentation of Reports by the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism

IKPONWOSA ERO, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, said that she had recently heard about a 92-year-old woman with albinism whose toes were cut off, and were later found in the hands of alleged witch doctors. Ms. Ero presented her thematic report on women and children impacted by albinism. Although both groups deserved a separate report, an introductory report like this one was better suited given how interlinked the issues were in this context. Her main finding in this report was that the weight of global suffering around albinism was disproportionately borne by women, in particular women with albinism and mothers of children with albinism, who suffered multiple and intersecting discrimination by being impacted by albinism, and aggravated by their gender and age, among other factors. Some particular violations they faced included : blame and abandonment; reprisal in cases where their partners or spouses had participated in ritual attacks against their children with albinism; vulnerability to generalized violence including accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks; sexual violence on various grounds; and poverty. Due to gross misunderstanding and mystification of albinism, mothers of children with the condition were stigmatized right from birth and throughout life. States had to consider developing human rights centred policies on rare conditions and strategizing to reach women who had been historically left behind, such as through targeted grants or funds and entrepreneurship for women impacted by albinism and their children.

Turning to her country visit, Ms. Ero said she had visited South Africa during September – the month of albinism in South Africa. Many positive initiatives had been undertaken by the Government. They had adopted a comprehensive legislative framework and the Ekurhuleni Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Albinism in 2013. Although South Africa had cases of attacks against persons with albinism, including trafficking, killing and grave robberies, the State had been exemplary compared to its counterparts in the region, because cases had generally been prosecuted in a timely manner. There remained work to be done in several areas : to work on data and statistics, as currently there was no official data on this population; to do situation analysis on attacks and security; on discrimination – it was imperative that national languages ceased to refer to people with albinism with dehumanizing terms such as monkey or ape; and in terms of health, particularly as skin cancer remained a scourge. Moreover reasonable accommodation and security had to be improved and the Government had to address harmful practices emanating from accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks.

Statement by the Concerned Country

South Africa, speaking as the concerned country, considered the country report by the Independent Expert to be a fair and balanced reflection of both positive developments that had taken place in the country since 1994, as well as of the efforts that still needed to be made to enforce the enjoyment of human rights by persons living with albinism. The authorities noted with particular concern issues related to the stigmatization of and discrimination against persons living with albinism, the lack of statistics and data, the right to life and security, and health and education issues. Furthermore, the Government acknowledged the intersectionality between race, disability and colour that the Independent Expert had highlighted in her report. In that regard, the Government had already met with the task team appointed to develop the National Action Plan on Albinism and would continue to work with the sector to finalize the five-year plan. In addition, the South African Human Rights Commission had undertaken a study tour to the European Union to consider the most appropriate forms of an independent monitoring mechanism for the country, as recommended by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In conclusion, South Africa welcomed various initiatives taken regionally and internationally to address the rights of persons with albinism.
Discussion with the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism

Speakers recognized that women and girls impacted by albinism faced multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, which could manifest themselves as some of the most egregious human rights violations, including sexual violence and falling victim to ritual killings, social exclusion and poverty. Efforts to combat such violence must be comprehensive and multidisciplinary and they must seek to address the root causes of violence, which could stem from gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, and harmful stereotypes, speakers underlined. Accordingly, they called on Member States to prevent and address those violations and ensure that children and women with albinism could exercise their rights on an equal footing with others. Education and training at all levels should be the priority in order to tackle the root causes of violence against persons with albinism. While that work was ongoing, States also needed to ensure that all services and support were available to avoid further violations and abuses, and that impunity was combatted through the enactment of legislation that criminalized violence and discrimination against persons with albinism. It was important to integrate the issue of women and girls impacted by albinism in national action plans for gender equality and gender violence prevention and response. Access to education, health and justice were the three key elements for a better protection of all persons with albinism, especially women and children.

Speakers asked the Independent Expert to share some of the lessons learned from her efforts to eradicate discrimination against persons with albinism, and they asked for her recommendations to raise awareness and stimulate public support for that issue. Speakers reminded that the lack of education for children with albinism resulted in their unemployment, which led to poverty and low income. Appropriate education support, including teachers with knowledge of albinism, was therefore important for enhancing the development, growth and self-esteem of children with albinism. In addition, to eliminate the scourge of discrimination and violence against persons with albinism, States needed to invest in and adopt policies enabling access of persons with albinism to adequate health services, including eye health, sexual and reproductive health, and prevention of skin cancer. Social security schemes should be in place to ensure adequate protection and prevent further exposure to risk factors.

Interim Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism

IKPONWOSA ERO, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, asked States to support initiatives coming from the African Group on combatting harmful practices. The Council recognized forced marriages as harmful practices, but harmful practices were also ritual attacks against persons with albinism. Work was being carried out on developing guidelines by the Pan-African Parliament on accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks. Tanzania, Namibia, Kenya and Sierra Leona had collected data on persons with albinism. At their core, the Sustainable Development Goals included everyone, but without data, they could not include everyone. Action plans with concrete measures were needed, including governments and private sectors.

Discussion with the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism

Speakers called on all members of the global community to focus more attention to alleviating the plight of persons with albinism who continued to suffer in silence. Such attention was necessary to achieve the laudable aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals. Speakers asked the Independent Expert about the role of religious leaders in preventing attacks on persons with albinism based on erroneous belief and myth. They welcomed the Independent Expert’s recommendations on developing forums and the use of media and technology in order to raise awareness about the issue, as well as her appeals to adopt among other measures the implementation of reasonable accommodation to improve access to employment, education and adequate health protection. Speakers encouraged Governments to take measures to prevent the high school dropout rate of children with albinism before exhausting compulsory education level due to the lack of assistive devices, proper support materials, negative attitudes towards learners with albinism, and lack of understanding of albinism and learner needs by both parents and teachers. Policy-makers from all over the world should pay attention to the recommendations outlined by the Independent Expert, noting that they should include albinism in their laws and regulations. Persons with albinism should be treated with dignity and live a life free from fear. Their right to life should be prioritized, speakers stressed.

Concluding Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism

IKPONWOSA ERO, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by persons with albinism, responding to questions about the role of religious leaders in combatting violence and discrimination against persons with albinism, noted that most of the hatred was coming from not listening to each other. Everyone should be truly inclusive regardless of how difficult it may be. The Independent Expert urged all stakeholders to become inducted in the process of her recommendations. As for the African regional action plan on albinism, she explained that it was available online, addressing particular issues on the continent. Fighting poverty among persons with albinism was fundamental, but that question went beyond the scope of her mandate, the Independent Expert said. One stakeholder could not do everything in that respect. As for research and development on rare conditions, the Independent Expert called on countries and the private sector to increase work on and attention to that question. Recalling the attacks on persons with albinism, she warned that a small-scale genocide could be taking place in front of all eyes without knowing it. Albinism was a phenomenon that combined colourism and racism to an extent that no other condition had.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

Documentation

The Council has before it the Critical perspective on food systems, food crises and the future of the right to food - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/43/44).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food – Visit to Azerbaijan (A/HRC/43/44/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food - Visit to Zimbabwe (A/HRC/43/44/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food – Comments by Azerbaijan (A/HRC/43/44/Add.3).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food - Comments by Zimbabwe (A/HRC/43/44/Add.4).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented her seventh and final thematic report, along with three other reports about official country visits to Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe and Italy. Over the past six years, Ms. Elver said she had concluded that the realisation of the right to food remained a distant, if not an impossible reality for too many. Her report offered a critical perspective on trends and the reality and a review of new developments that had the potential to change the status quo. The globalization and commodification of food systems and the current industrial-agricultural model had serious disadvantages. Put simply, the human rights of food system actors, including agricultural workers, small-holder farmers and consumers, were often ignored or violated. Power within the food system was concentrated in the hands of a few corporate actors. Farm subsidies and other protectionist measures mostly benefitted large multinational corporations and big land owners, over the interests of local producers. Positive developments included the 2018 adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. There was also an emergence of concerning trends. Food system workers continued to rank among the world’s most food insecure, facing a lack of social protection and exposure to toxic pesticides.

The worst food crises had occurred in areas of active conflict threatening over 113 million people. She reiterated her call for a global convention that gave States and the international community clear legal mandates to prevent famine and protect the right to adequate food before situations reached a critical point. Conflict was not the only driver of food insecurity. Climate crises also posed an existential threat and failure to act could push over 3 billion people into extreme poverty and hunger.

Turning to her country visits, the Special Rapporteur said that Azerbaijan was focusing its efforts on developing the country’s agricultural potential. It had established new institutions such as the State Agency for Food Safety and had introduced new laws, policies and programmes. The challenge now was to maintain implementation of the goals through the allocation of adequate budgets. Despite positive achievements, this growth had not been sufficiently inclusive and had not yet benefitted the whole of the society, and inequality was one of the stumbling blocks in the struggle to eliminate poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

In Zimbabwe, despite the constitutional protection of the right to food, starvation was slowly making its way into the country, with over 60 per cent of the population considered to be food-insecure due to extreme poverty, high inflation and poor agricultural productivity. There were serious allegations of the distribution of lands and food being manipulated for political ends over the last two decades. As food insecurity and land mismanagement increased the risk of civil unrest, the Government was urged to adopt necessary measures to deliver its zero hunger commitment without discrimination.

In Italy, the right to food was implicitly embedded in its Constitution. Italy had also demonstrated its commitment and active role in engaging with international human rights mechanisms and active participation in the global food policy platforms. Italy faced a number of challenges to fully realize the right to food for all. Italy was still recovering from the 2008 economic crisis and many families had gone from middle-income to low-income. In 2019, the Government introduced the guaranteed minimum income law, a social welfare programme. The Italian agricultural landscape presented on one side large land holdings and intensive production systems, mostly in the north, and a large group of smallholder farmers. Several reforms to protect smallholder farmers had been enacted. Smallholder producers were struggling with low prices paid by large distributors that led to farmer suicide and bankruptcy.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Azerbaijan, speaking as a concerned country, reminded that a number of United Nations Special Procedure mandate holders had visited Azerbaijan. The visit by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food was viewed as an important contribution to the country’s policies and Azerbaijan thanked her for her valuable recommendations. The Government was focusing on building a non-energy, multi-sector economy, where the agricultural sector was a major contributor. Small- and medium-sized enterprises and the empowerment of women in agriculture was a priority for the Government in order to ensure sustainable economic development. In addition, the authorities had to accommodate the needs of one million refugees and internally displaced persons as the result of the occupation by Armenia of southwestern Azerbaijan. Finally, the delegation of Azerbaijan called the Council’s attention to the methodology of Special Rapporteurs when preparing their reports, noting that a sound balance was necessary between the statistics and information provided by Government officials, and the information gathered from sometimes dubious resources. It was important to avoid political editorializing in those reports.

Italy, speaking as a concerned country, reaffirmed its commitment to Special Procedure mandate holders in general. When it came to the country report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Italy expressed its disappointment since it did not seem to provide an appropriate picture of its endeavours in the field of the right to food. Several negative assessments on the whole agro-alimentary Italian system appeared to be unjustified and very generic, without specific and relevant data. The report did not adequately underline what Italy did to help people in situations of poverty or emergency, nor that the Italian Development Cooperation fostered the right to food through targeted and diversified programmes. Italian legislation provided an excellent framework for permanent solutions in the field of recovery facilitation, like tax incentives for donations of food, which was a form of prevention of food waste. As for the “infiltrations” of organized crime in the Italian food system, the delegation reaffirmed that the Italian authorities were fully engaged in combatting illegal situations.

Zimbabwe, speaking as a concerned country, responded to the Special Rapporteur’s alleged partisan food aid distribution, non-remission of proceeds from the sale of minerals to the treasury, and the claim that there was a man-made food crisis in the country. Indeed, the Special Rapporteur had correctly observed that the country faced the continued imposition of illegal economic sanctions. That situation was compounded by successive droughts and the devastating tropical cyclone Idai. Those factors had negatively impacted the food security of Zimbabwe’s citizens, particularly vulnerable groups. However, the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that the majority of the population was suffering from food insecurity was grossly exaggerated. Her conclusion that Zimbabwe faced a man-made food crisis was a misinterpretation of the situation, which was a direct result of the sanctions and the effects of climate change. The Special Rapporteur had not taken into account the interventions, safety nets and measures implemented to ensure the right to food.

Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe congratulated the Government of Zimbabwe for having facilitated a transparent, inclusive and participatory assessment of the food security situation in the country by the Special Rapporteur. It was commendable for national processes and programmes to be subjected to such higher level of scrutiny as that demonstrated commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability. The major findings of the report fairly reflected the situation on the ground. It realistically reflected the worsening food security situation in the country due to natural disasters, recurrent droughts, unemployment, high inflation, erosion of incomes, fuel and energy crisis, and economic sanctions. The Commission was ready to work with the Government to ensure the effective implementation of rights-based programmes in order to achieve the national goals of guaranteeing food availability, accessibility and nutritional adequacy in a sustainable manner.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

Speakers expressed gratitude to the Special Rapporteur who amplified the voices of the world’s hungry and food-insecure. The report comprehensively outlined the challenges, good practices and trends related to addressing the realization of the right to food. The progress achieved was insufficient to achieve the enjoyment of the right to food as well as the Sustainable Development Goal target of zero hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Hunger as a result of conflict continued to rise and unlawful denial of humanitarian access to civilians and use of starvation as a method of warfare were condemned in the strongest terms as grave violations of international law. The adverse effects of climate change posed increased threats to food insecurity. The Rapporteur was thanked for reminding the international community about the difficult conditions that Palestinian people and Rohingya were facing. Agriculture was important in addressing the challenges of food insecurity. More attention had to be given to rural families that were strategic players in agricultural activities. Additionally, development assistance had to include agricultural components. The full implementation of the right to food required adequate public and private investment to enable small-scale farmers to increase productivity and a more equitable distribution of resources. A sustainable food system was instrumental to advance the human right to adequate food and the realization of that right had to include a multifaceted approach.

Speakers affirmed that the right to food was not unattainable, only unrealized. Therefore coordinated, well-resourced and prioritized efforts by States, international institutions, civil society and the private sector were essential. More importantly, a human rights based approach was necessary to strengthen legal, policy and institutional environments and tackle the root causes of hunger and malnutrition. The Special Rapporteur was asked about the role that the Human Rights Council could play in order to address challenges related to the right to food? She was also asked to share her views on the impact of food loss and waste in the implementation of right to food. States outlined their institutional set up for ensuring food security, promoting sustainable agriculture, and government policies and national action plans aimed at the realization of the right to food. States also outlined their efforts towards the elimination of hunger and malnutrition. Nonetheless, the rise of malnutrition was still prevalent and it was still the main source of child mortality. An increasing number of countries were facing several challenges against the right to food due to ongoing conflicts, humanitarian crises, climate change, disasters and current agricultural and industrial models. Good practices which had been already applied by many States were commended.

Interim Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, responding to the comments made by the delegations whose countries she had visited, noted that Special Procedure mandate holders received background reports from the people that could not reach United Nations human rights mechanisms easily. She reminded that the main purpose of country visits was to listen to the most vulnerable people whose voice was never present in the Human Rights Council. It did not mean that the mandate holders were generalizing. Many of the points raised by Governments were also present in her report, which unfortunately was constrained by a word limit. The comprehensive understanding of the right to food exceeded those limitations. Turning to Zimbabwe, the Special Rapporteur underlined that she had used many of the reports on malnutrition and the food security situation there so no other assessment was possible in her report. She expressed hope that her report on Zimbabwe would bring more international attention to the situation there. The Council should be more active in the food agenda and should be reaching New York and Rome, the seat of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Ms. Elver said.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

Speakers voiced their concerns over difficult conditions facing small farmers and the collapse of small markets due to globalization. The steady increase in the number of food-insecure people over the last few years, from 815 million in 2016 to 821 million presently, demonstrated that much remained to be done. Conflict zones continued to be the epicentre for the majority of those suffering from hunger, and their livelihoods were made worse in many cases by the impacts of climate change. Recent times had shown how sensitive the relationship was between conflicts and economic, social and cultural rights in a number of countries. Deliberate starvation was a crime against humanity. It was reiterated that smallholder farmers and peasants had to be given particular attention. Any international instrument that would establish a stronger global framework concerning the welfare of smallholder farmers was welcomed, mainly through the United Nations Decade of Family Farming and the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The Rapporteur was asked how good practices of certain countries could be universalized more effectively.

Globally, at least one in two children under the age of five suffered from hidden hunger due to deficiencies in vitamins and other essential nutrients. As the Rapporteur noted, children’s nutrition rights were not fulfilled, so an agenda was proposed by the United Nations Children’s Fund to put children’s nutrition rights first by recommitting to the right of all children to food and nutrition. The agenda included empowerment of families and young people to demand nutritious food, building of healthy food environments for all children, and mobilizing health, water, sanitation and social protection systems to deliver interventions.


For use of the information media; not an official record.


HRC20.018E


Related Information