29 Apr 2013

The Right to Food for All

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, visited the WTI on 11 April 2013 to hold a stakeholder workshop with researchers from the Institute, as well as from the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE).

According to Peter Messerli, Director of the CDE, “The theses presented provided a plethora of possibilities as to how to ensure the right to food for all.”

Greater Involvement of Women

Christian Häberli, a Bernese researcher at the WTI, along with Sabin Bieri and Thomas Kohler of the CDE, are investigating how small-scale farming businesses could contribute to feeding the world’s population. While Häberli identified a lack of competition between small-scale farmers in developing countries (caused by false politics and incentives), Bieri described this market trend in agricultural production as being a double-edged sword, since the opportunity for cultivating crops for one’s own consumption thereby disappears. The greater involvement of women – as promoted by Special Rapporteur de Schutter – is something Bieri agrees with. However, she notes that men need to be equally involved in developing strategic solutions.

Caution: Large-Scale Land Acquisitions

De Schutter observed that large-scale land acquisitions influence the important co-existence of small and large-scale businesses, stating that “even a very strict regulation of large-scale land acquisitions would not help combat the marginalisation of small-scale farmers.” Instead, he suggested that small-scale farmers should enjoy greater market integration. This would entail examining decentralised markets that are tailored to small-scale production.

The Role of Politics

De Schutter considers politics to play a vital role in ensuring the right to food. While WTI-Researcher Baris Karapinar places an urgent emphasis on depleting elevated agricultural trade barriers to compensate for crop failure due to climate change, in particular, de Schutter regards the issue with scepticism. According to him, increased yields due to market deregulation would not be distributed equally.

Switzerland behind the Times

If institutionalised, establishing a policy to promote the right to food would have an impact on other political goals. According to de Schutter, it is very difficult to take all of these into account. More concretely, “assessing the human rights impact of trade and investment regulation should precede free-trade agreements,” suggested WTI and CDE Researcher Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi. Although the EU makes use of similar assessments, Switzerland does not. Bürgi Bonanomi and other experts in the audience underlined that Switzerland is at the early stages establishing similar policy coherence to achieve its objectives.

For the full text in German, please visit the uniaktuell website.