Monitoring Realization of the RtAF

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Source: The Guardian

A rights-based approach leads to a closer look at causes of hunger: In a world of plenty: how is it possible that still so many people lack access to adequate food? There are differences between countries, but also within countries and even within households. At all these levels processes take place and decisions are taken that either promote or inhibit the realization of the right to food.

At global level one can think about decisions to use food for non-food uses (biofuels) and mismanagement of public goods that prevent the fulfillment of the right to food. There are also factors that have an impact on public goods (such as climate change) that intergovernmental institutes should try to positively influence to respect en protect the right to food.

At national level, factors that impede or promote access to production factors such as land and water are important. In general one could say that national governments should promote an enabling environment for a progressive implementation of the right adequate food for all. Concrete examples of progress in this respect are the Voluntary guidelines for the progressive implementation of the right to food, adopted in 2004. The set of 19 guidelines provide governments with a basic framework for action in order to fulflil the right to food. In May 2012, Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security were issued 1, further specifying the roles and desired actions of national governments.

Finally at micro level or household level the (power) relation between male and female household members is important and often determines intra-household dynamics: who takes decisions about the distribution and use of food within the household?

The progressive realization of the Right to Adequate Food and related obligations will not happen unless states develop a culture of human rights and unless civil society uses the tools available to monitor efforts and results of states and hold them accountable.

Public pressure can be a powerful means of holding governments and intergovernmental bodies accountable for their policies and programs, and to assess the degree to which states are meeting their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human right to adequate food of every person.

The United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is the foremost inclusive government-led global platform on food and nutrition security. The CFS holds the potential to play an important role in the necessary reporting and accountability mechanism. For this the CFS should be firmly supported by FAO and WHO and safeguarded against undue corporate influence.

Tools for Monitoring the realization of the RtAF
  • International Bill of Human Rights2, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Human Rights (ICESCHR)
  • Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the Right to Adequate Food
  • Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests3
  • National Constitutions
  • Right to Food and Nutrition Watch

Civil society organizations and other relevant actors should be aware of the existence and implications of these tools for the tasks, responsibilities and obligations of the public as well as private sector. Civil society organizations as well as all other sectors should be equipped to apply these tools.

Involved RtAF actors

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An important actor in this area is FIAN International4, which is and international human rights organization that has advocated for the realization of the right to adequate food for more than 25 years. FIAN consists of national sections and individual members in over 50 countries around the world. It is a not-for-profit organization without any religious or political affiliation and has consultative status to the United Nations. FIAN’s mission is to expose violations of people's right to food wherever they may occur. FIAN follows a case based human rights approach by documenting and analyzing concrete violations of the right to food. Additionally, monitoring reports, referred to as "parallel reports," are presented regularly to different UN human rights bodies such as the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and others.

Right to food and nutrition watch logo.png

To be effective, public pressure needs to be evidence-based. One of the monitoring tools developed by ICCO-cooperation and FIAN together with a host of partner civil society organizations is the annual publication Right to Food Watch5. This international publication was launched in 2008 to monitor the concept of food as a human right and keep track of patterns of right to food violations while also monitoring their impact. It provides a systematic compilation of best practices for the realization of the right to food and also documents where violations have been committed.

Currently the WATCH is the flagship publication of the Global Network on the Right to Food and Nutrition, composed of 20 people´s organizations and NGOs, committed to fighting hunger and all forms of malnutrition with Human Rights.

FAO has elaborated a practical aid for the implementation of the Right to Food Guidelines. It emphasizes the operational aspects of the right to food and contributes to strengthening in-country capacity to implement this right.

Another important actor is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. For the period of 2008- mid 2014 this position has been held by Prof. Olivier de Schutter, with the following mandate:

To promote the full realization of the right to food and the adoption of measures at the national, regional and international levels for the realization of the right of everyone to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger so as to be able fully to develop and maintain their physical and mental capacities.

Since June 2014 Mrs Hilal Elver has taken over the position of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

Ms. Hilal Elver - Special Rapporteur on Right to Food. Source: ICCO


  1. FAO. Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security. Rome FAO; 2012.
  3. and


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