How can trade work for the right to food?


International markets ensure that food can travel from food-surplus regions to food-deficit regions. The global food price crises of 2008 and of 2010-11 have illustrated the dangers of an imbalanced development of markets. While only a fraction of global food production is traded, the impacts are felt throughout the agricultural sector. The cost advantages enjoyed by the most competitive players, often amplified by subsidy and tariff arrangements, can drive down prices and flood markets, making it hard for small-scale producers to make a living even from local markets. This, in turn, can drive whole regions away from food production, leaving them overly dependent on imports of staple commodities.

If trade is to work for development and to contribute to the realization of the right to adequate food, a wide range of measures must progressively be adopted. The Special Rapporteur’s 2009 Mission to the WTO led to a widely-debated report on the fragmentation between international trade law and international human rights law, and the necessary measures to reconcile trade with the right to food. In 2011, the Special Rapporteur issued a briefing note calling for the global trade agenda to be reoriented around food security (see briefing note). In March 2012, he presented guidelines on human rights impact assessments of bilateral trade and investment agreements to the Human Rights Council.

Read 11/05/2013: 'The contribution of Fair Trade to securing human rights in agriculture' - Q&A from the Special Rapporteur (11 May 2013).
Read 06/03/2012: "Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Trade and Investment Agreements, Report presented at the 19th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, also available in French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Russian.
Read Project Syndicate (Intl)Taking Back Globalization (25-01-2012), reprinted in The Business Day (South Africa), The Korea Times (South Korea) and New Europe (Intl)
Read 26/01/2012, Geneva: Human Rights-Proofing” Globalization — UN right to food expert
Read 16/12/2011, Geneva: WTO defending an outdated vision of food security - UN food expert responds to Pascal Lamy
Read 16/11/2011, Geneva: Food security hostage to trade in WTO negotiations: UN right to food expert
Read 16/11/2011: "The World Trade Organization and the Post-Global Food Crisis Agenda: Putting Food Security First in the International Trade System", Briefing note by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food
Read Report of the Expert Seminar on Human Rights Impact Assessments for Trade and Investment Agreements (June 2010)
Read Summary of the report on the Mission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) presented to the Human Rights Council (March 2009)
Read Report on the Mission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) presented to the Human Rights Council (March 2009)
Read Background document on the Mission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) (March 2009)
Read Paper "International Trade in Agriculture and the Right to Food" Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Dialogue on Globalization, Occasional papers N° 46, Geneva (November 2009)
YouTube Video debate between Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO, and Olivier De Schutter: "Trade liberalization and the right to food" (May 2009)