Taking the right to adequate food seriously: Reflections on the International Agreement on Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food SystemsPosted: 23 February, 2015
After two years of negotiations the Principles of Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (PRIAF) were approved by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) on October 15, 2014. This has been endorsed by some as a breakthrough for realising the right to adequate food and ensuring food security for all.
Since the 2007/2008 global economic crisis, agricultural investments, particularly large scale investments have flourished across the globe. Africa has become a major destination for large scale agriculture investors largely due to the cheap and fertile land, and poor protection of land rights. The investments are apparatuses of the market led agricultural trade liberalization model claimed to be the panacea for food insecurity in the world by hegemonic industrialized states.
It is evident that some of these investments have utterly affected the right to adequate food in Africa and elsewhere as the investments, for instance, displaced people from their land, or registered futile contribution to food security and nutrition. For this reason some practitioners proposed human rights based regulation of global and national food and nutrition related policies. Nevertheless the investors and host nations defended the investments and denied the adverse effects.
The PRIAF was born out of these competing views on agricultural investments. It brought together major stakeholders to come into consensus on common principles on how to conduct agriculture investments. It is an effort to regulate agriculture investments globally; and to strike a balance between investment promotion and protection of human rights and ensuring sustainable development.
Currently, Ethiopia is among the developing countries that are hosting thousands of refugees from Eritrea, Kenya, Somali and Sudan, and that mandates refugee to reside in camps. Some of the refugees in Ethiopia live in the northern parts of the country in a camp called the Shimelba refugee camp. Refugees in this particular camp lived in Eritrea and fled to avoid military service, religious persecution and ethnic discrimination. This camp is situated is in a place widely recognised for its diverse settings and agro-ecosystems, displaying a wide array of environmental problems and vulnerabilities. To this end, the lands are fragile and vulnerable to both natural and human generated calamities, ranging from the shortage of or unpredictable rainfall to species and resource base depletion and degradation rendered more acute by the effects of drought. The location of the camp site is isolated. The environmental conditions are difficult, with temperature ranging up to 42 degree Celsius. The Ethiopian government in collaboration with the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), oversight and manages Shimelba.
Ethiopia is signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol. Regionally, Ethiopia is also a party to the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (African Refugee Convention). Besides these refugee-specific instruments, Ethiopia is also a party to most of international and regional human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the International Convention on Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, therefore reinforcing the protection for refugees.
The Ethiopian government often associates its developmental ideology with the East Asian model, while at the same time defining itself as a progressive democratic government. Paradoxically, the government defends itself from prodemocracy critics by arguing that food security comes first, then slowly comes democracy. Within this context, I analyse the right to food as a legal concept and how it can be used as a means to achieve food security in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has ratified and adopted the main instruments establishing the right to food such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Covenant on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the African Charter on Peoples’ Rights. Ethiopia is also bound by international humanitarian law, having ratified the Geneva Convention of 1999 and the Additional Protocols thereto of 1977.