The problem of hunger is not limited to Malawi. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that more than 800 million people around the world suffer from hunger and that the millennium target of reducing that number by half will not be met without stronger commitments and an accelerated pace. In its annual report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005, the FAO cites “good governance” as a key factor in countries where food insecurity has been significantly reduced. The FAO pointed to specific elements of democratic governance necessary for the reduction of hunger, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.1
With regards to human rights, the FAO highlights the recent adoption by its members of Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.2 The Guidelines provide a practical tool to assist States to both understand and fulfill their obligations. The process to draft and adopt the Guidelines was the first time that any of the economic, social and cultural rights have been negotiated by governments in a multilateral forum outside of the UN’s human rights system. Their adoption in September 2004 illustrates the value that States place on human rights as a basic construct of development.
This report and the fact-finding mission on which it is based represent an effort to apply the FAO Guidelines in a practical experience and in doing so, to illustrate the distinct advantages a human rights framework provides for policy and program development. Rights & Democracy and FIAN International hope that the information gathered in the course of our mission and
presented in this report will encourage greater support for the FAO Guidelines and generate new approaches to ending hunger in Malawi as well as in other countries and regions of the world.
The international fact-finding mission (April 17-23, 2006) was undertaken as a collaborative initiative of Rights & Democracy and FIAN International. It responded to a request from the National Taskforce on the Human Right to Food, a network of Malawian civil society organizations coordinated by Church and Society, a project of the CCAP Blantyre Synod. The objective of the mission was to take stock of the hunger crisis from a human rights perspective and to provide related recommendations as a contribution towards sustainable food security and food self-sufficiency in Malawi. It was also hoped, that the exposure provided by an international delegation of human rights experts would be an impetus to the civil society campaign for a “Human Right to Food Bill” to be passed in Malawi’s parliament. The mission delegation was comprised of six individuals from Canada, Germany, Ghana, Malawi and Zambia. Their biographical notes are included in Annex 1 of this report.
The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005, UN FAO, Rome, Italy, 2005, p.11.
The FAO Guidelines can be downloaded at www.fao.org/righttofood.