Proposal in the Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition risks undermining international law

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During the 3rd and final round of negotiations of the Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition (VGFSyN), the representative of the United States proposed the following addition to the text:

“Treaties in the list below are only relevant for the parties to each respective treaty; other documents listed are not legally binding and reference to them shall not be interpreted as a sign of support or acknowledgement by countries that abstained or voted against their adoption and have not since then expressed their support.”

With this change, the United States is in effect questioning the nature of UN treaties and resolutions. Although, at the time of writing, this proposal has not yet been accepted by member states, it has changed the nature of the negotiations around the VGFSyN. “What is now at stake is not just these particular voluntary guidelines but international law and the multilateral system itself,” says the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri.

To better understand the significance of the proposed addition by the United States, we suggest readings by two world-leading experts who have swiftly reacted to this deeply concerning change in the Guidelines.