Authors: Jonathan Sheff
John F. Kennedy School of Government
For much of the last 54 years since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the right to food languished in relative international obscurity. Little attention was paid to the potential value of a rights-based approach to food security. This neglect was reversed dramatically in 1996, with the first World Food Summit (WFS) organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Largely by chance, the right to food found its way onto the Summit agenda. It ultimately became a central focus of international debate, the most contentious issue in negotiations leading up to the final draft of the Summit declaration. In the short six years since this commitment was adopted, progress has been considerable. Most significantly, this WFS commitment led to the establishment of General Comment 12 (adopted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1999), which outlines the duties and obligations of states with respect to implementation of the right to food. General Comment 12 now stands as the most authoritative interpretation of the right to food.
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