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“Doha round [of the World Trade Organization] will not prevent another food crisis”

April 2009

The Right to Food like many other human rights has been under threat from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its rules that often prevent countries from designing and implementing domestic policies that aim to realize those rights. Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food recently presented the conclusions from his mission to the WTO to the UN Human Rights Council.

In its March 20th resolution on the right to food, the Council encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue to engage with the WTO to follow up on the issues of concern identified in his report (see executive summary).

The Special Rapporteur has consistently argued that efforts deployed at the national level to realize the right to food would only be successful if the international environment enables these efforts to bear fruit. De Schutter plans to continue to analyze the structural impediments to the full realization of the right to food, and welcomes opinions and inputs from all States and stakeholders involved that he has not been able to meet personally. His report includes substantive recommendations on how to ensure that trade policies in the area of agriculture are “human rights-compatible”. These recommendations require more analysis, public debate and, ultimately, action.

De Schutter raises important questions in his report and those inform his recommendations:

  • What can the right to food framework bring to the trade debate?
  • Why does the current multilateral trade regime work against the right to food?

He goes on to emphasize that an increased reliance on international trade in order to ensure food security results in:

  • a dependency on international trade
  • also reinforces the power of highly concentrated transnational corporate actors
  • promotes long supply chains which imply long distances in transport and unsustainable modes of production, with serious implications for climate change and human health and nutrition
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