UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food: “Let the CFS be the place where governments take action”

Speech of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, at the CFS 47 Side Event “Developing effective policy responses to Covid-19: what is needed and what is the role of the CFS?” Hello, my name is Michael Fakhri. I am the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. I am sorry that I cannot be speaking to you live today but due to the pandemic and time zone differences, I have to provide this video instead. COVID-19 has not only been a public health crisis, but it has also generated a hunger crisis. The virus is new, but it has been predictably harshest on marginalised people. In fact, the world was falling behind on fully realising the right to food even before the current pandemic. The number of hungry and undernourished people in the world has been rising since 2015. And the situation is getting worse. The virus continues to ravage humanity; even with new vaccines, it will be some time before the global health situation stabilises and it will be at least a decade before the world recovers economically. Meanwhile, Member States and international organisations have not yet come together to tackle the looming hunger crisis. Different international organisations are doing their best. But there remains no internationally coordinated action responding to the hunger crisis caused by the pandemic. Not at the General Assembly, not at the Human Rights Council, and not at the Committee on World Food Security. I should add that COVID-19 is not on the Food Systems Summit’s agenda. In other side events, I have addressed why a human rights approach is needed to tackle COVID-19. I want to focus my remarks here on why the CFS is best positioned to take on the hunger crisis that this virus has exacerbated. Remember that the CFS was first created in 1974 because of the spread of global famine and hunger. The CFS was reenergised in 2010 because of the food crisis. And today, we face the existential crisis of climate change. This global pandemic is only a practice run for what lies ahead. The CFS is already well positioned to act. Today’s panelists are able to articulate how the CFS can quickly act based on existing reports and policy instruments. These are things like the HLPE Issues Paper on COVID-19, the CFS Tenure Guidelines, the CFS Framework for Action in Protracted Crisis, the International Labour Organisation Policy Recommendations, and my newest report to the

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

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. Letter of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri. Letter of Rodrigo Uprimny, member of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). Disclaimer: Mr Uprimny clarifies that this opinion is not made officially in the name of CESCR;  however, he considers that most members of the CESCR agree with it.

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