Food Security Human Rights

The Governance Challenges of Food System: An International Conference

I just returned from the international conference on food security, sustainability and the law, which was held in Beijing on 24 May 2014. The conference was successfully organized by University of New England, Australia, and Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing.

The conference addressed a wide range of issues, including: how can improved governance reduce harmful impacts of farming on the environment, and upon people (including consumers), how can the many different rivalries over resources involved in the food system be better identified and managed, what legal and other mechanisms can be used to ensure investor and manager accountability and responsibility in reducing farming impacts, how can food, its costs and its benefits, be more equitably distributed between peoples (including between regions and communities, and what are the risks of modern food-system technologies and how might these be better governed.

The two big themes of food security and food safety are discussed equally by many experts in the field, covering a diverse theoretical spectrum, not only law, but also food science, sociology, anthropology and political science. Case studies, both international and national, were presented, to give insights on the development and challenges in food system.

I was honored to be invited by University of New England and to be given the opportunity present my paper on ‘A Critical Assessment on the Transformative Role of the Right to Food: the Case of Agricultural Modernisation in Merauke, Papua’. An edited volume will be initiated in the near future based on the presented papers, to which I am looking forward to contribute.

Food Security International Law

Transformative potential of the right to food

In his final report the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, presents his conclusions regarding the interdependency of the food system. He asserts that reaching the eradication of hunger requires a combination of (1) empowering local communities, (2) implementing supportive policies at the national level, and (3) creating an enabling international environment that can affect the ability of countries to guarantee the right to food.

Food Security Governance

Reviews on our book: Governing Food Security

I would like to share some reviews on our book ‘Governing Food Security’.

Please find them here and here.

Development Food Security

A missing link in the interdisciplinary research on food justice

Many researchers have studied how social factors shape agricultural production. Institutional and bureaucratic changes, like the self-sufficiency policy, the pattern of land holdings (in terms of size distribution of farm), land tenure and other contractual arrangements have contributed to efficiency of productions (i.e. Fagerberg, 2000). Diversity in cropping systems and market arrangements have also been argued as having implications for soil fertility management (Sanchez, 2002; Adjei-Nsiah, 2006). In the similar vein, gender-linked differences in the adoption of modern crop varieties and chemical fertilizer result from gender-linked differences in access to agricultural inputs (Doss and Morris, 2000).

The abundant amount of such streams of studies provides us with sufficient knowledge of and methodological suggestions for studying how social factors shape the physical and technical environment for agricultural production. This interest in insights on the social determinants of physical and technical environments has come at the expense of complementary studies regarding physical and technical determinants of social and, in particular, legal strategies.

The physical and technical environments are indeed connected with societal legal concerns, particularly pertaining to claims and strategies as well as settlement of disputes. A recent finding of research on land management in the oil palm based cropping system on the Adja Plateau in Benin conducted by the Soil Quality Department WUR shows that what looks as one field with crops and trees is in fact an arena for competing claims where informal and formal tenure rules interact; and where formalisation that results in increasing clear ownership may also weaker positions for the landless that use the land for growing food crops (Yemadje et al, forthcoming).  Conflicts between herders and agriculturalist could also show the same connection, especially in the context of land grabbing (Deininger and Castagnini, 2006; Peters, 2004).  Recommendations for treating specific physical and technical factors crucial for farmers, such as land (de Schutter, 2011) and seed (de Schutter, 2011), in different ways has been advocated a way to essentially deliver possible safety net from marginalisation.

What critically missing from the foregoing studies on the intersections between law and natural sciences is an explicit methodology how to study the influence of physical and technical features pertaining to food production to legal representations and strategies, where plurality is not only a character of the legal orders and the agricultural features but also in their interaction with the societal settings.

Food Security Human Rights Indonesia

Food Security and Human Brights

My article on ‘Food Security and Human Rights’ is published in Development in PracticeVol. 20 (1), 2010, pp. 122-130.

Here is the abstract:

Food is crucial to an adequate standard of living. The acknowledgement of the right to food in government policies is fundamental to the protection of human dignity, particularly in relation to food insecurity. It allows the right-holder to seek redress and hold government accountable for non-fulfilment. With reference to Indonesia, the article highlights deficits in meeting obligations to the right to food as stipulated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The state links food policy to the issue of national stability, with a resulting focus on the national rather than household or individual levels, and the inhibition at the grassroots of the right to food.