UN expert praises Africa’s commitment to “the right to adequate food”

[30 October 2013] GENEVA – The African Union is sending an important signal by using this year’s Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (Africa Day) to buttress the concept of the “right to adequate food” as an organizing framework for policies and strategies to address food and nutrition insecurity in Africa.

This was the message from Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, as food security stakeholders and international institutional actors convened today in Niger to celebrate Africa Day under the theme “Toward African Renaissance: Achieving the Right to Adequate Food and Nutrition.”

He stated: “It is highly encouraging that the Africa Day will focus on how the international human rights framework can strengthen African approaches to food security. Human rights-based approaches to hunger, involving legal entitlements – to productive resources, to accessing food, to social protection – are making tracks all around the world.”

“The right to food is particularly relevant in Africa, where one in five persons is undernourished – with one in four persons in Sub-Saharan African. Investment is flooding into the continent’s land and agricultural markets, but question marks remain about how this will be turned to the benefit of the 250 million Africans suffering from food insecurity. Are small farmers – themselves often food insecure – gaining new income opportunities? Are the customary rights of herders being respected? Is enough being done to ensure that adequate food is affordable and accessible to poor urban communities?”

“The right to food does not entail a set of policy recommendations to end hunger. Rather, it provides legal protections against developments that threaten people’s ability to produce or procure food. And, equally importantly, it provides a framework for working proactively across policy areas, with the participation of civil society, to put in place the multiple building blocks of food security, from secure land rights to agricultural extension services to social protection schemes. The right to food is a compass that that can sit alongside existing African frameworks and bring food security approaches into coherence.”

The UN expert referred to the findings of his report “Assessing a decade of right to food progress”* presented to the UN General Assembly on 25 October 2013. Drawing on regional right to food consultations in Eastern and Southern Africa (2012) and West Africa (2013), as well as five missions to African countries and submissions from a range of countries, the report documents the multiple contributions of various actors across Africa towards securing the right to food.


    • South Africa, Kenya and the Ivory Coast and Niger have already given direct constitutional protection to the right to food, while reform processes are underway in Nigeria, and Zambia.
    • Countries including Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal and Mali have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, framework legislation for agriculture, food and nutrition that enshrines rights-based principles of entitlements and access to food.
    • The 2011 Zanzibar Food Security and Nutrition Act affirms the obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food and establishes a National Food Security and Nutrition Council, as well as mainstreaming food security into various sectoral policies.


    • The South African High Court ordered a revision of the Marine Living Resources Act and the creation of the Small-Scale Fishers Policy to ensure the socio-economic rights of small-scale fishers (2012).
    • The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the ECOWAS Court of Justice ECOWAS ruled that Nigeria violated the right to food of the Ogoni people by failing to protect their land from environmental damage in the Niger delta (2012).
    • The High Court of Uganda ordered that compensation be paid to 2,041 individuals who had been evicted from their land in 2001 after the Government sold the land to foreign investors for a coffee plantation (2013).

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)

    • The Human Rights Commission in Uganda helped to influence the country's 2011-16 Food and Nutrition Policy by recommending a rights-based approach.
    • NHRIs in Cameroon, Malawi and South Africa monitor violations of the right to food.

Civil Society

    • In Malawi, a proposal was made by civil society organizations in 2010 for a national food security bill.
    • In Mozambique, the Technical Secretariat for Food and Nutritional Security, an interministerial coordination body, led an inclusive process for a food security bill.
    • Citizens’ report cards in a range of African countries rate the quality of the public services they are provided.

(*) Read the report: 'Assessing a decade of right to food progress'.

See the infographic: Operationalizing the right to food: a multi-actor process.

Vignette infographic