Land Rights, Land Deals in the Right to Food of Peasants and Indigenous People

20-Years-of-CARP1I. What is the right to food?

The Right to Food is best described by the following:

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

The right to food is a human right. It protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. There are three important elements of the right to food: (1.) Availability – requires that food should be available from natural resources, either through the production of food, by cultivating land or by animal husbandry, or through fishing, hunting and gathering. It also means that food should be available for sale in markets and shops. (2) Accessibility – requires that economic and physical access to food should be guaranteed. Economic accessibility means that food is affordable. It must also be guaranteed to people in remote places. (3) Adequacy – requires that food must satisfy dietary needs. Food should be safe for human consumption and free from adverse contaminants from industrial and agricultural processes, including residues from pesticides, hormones or veterinary drugs. Adequate food should also be culturally acceptable. (For example, food that is a religious or cultural taboo for consumers or inconsistent with their eating habits would be culturally unacceptable.)

The right to food is not about charity, but about ensuring that all people have the capacity to feed themselves in dignity.

This right is protected under human rights and international humanitarian law. The correlative state obligations are equally well-established under international law. The right to food is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as well as a plethora of other international instruments. Noteworthy is the recognition of the right to food in numerous national constitutions.

It is generally accepted that the right to food implies three types of state obligations – the obligation to respect, protect and to fulfill. These types of obligations were defined in General Comment 12 by the Committee on ESCR and endorsed by states, when the FAO Council adopted the Right to Food Guidelines (Voluntary Guidelines) in November 2004.

The obligation to respect requires governments not to take any measures that arbitrarily deprive people of their right to food, for example, by measures preventing people from having access to food. The obligation to protect requires states to enforce appropriate laws and take relevant measures to prevent third parties, including individuals and corporations, from violating the right to food of others. The obligation to fulfill (facilitate and provide) entails that governments be pro-actively engaged in activities intended to strengthen people’s access to and utilization of resources so as to facilitate their ability to feed themselves. As a last resort, whenever an individual or group is unable to enjoy the right to adequate food for reasons beyond their control, states have the obligation to fulfill that right directly.

The Philippine Constitution has a provision that states that the Philippines “adopt the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land.” International treaties are legally binding on those States that ratify or accede to them.1 We have ratified most of the major international treaties. 2 The Philippines has unconditionally accepted the human rights legal system.

To sum up, the right to food means that governments must not take actions that result in increasing levels of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. It also means that governments must protect people from the actions of powerful others that might violate the right to food. States must also, to the maximum of available resources, invest in the eradication of hunger.