Policy coherence for development to reduce world hunger

Langue(s) : Anglais

Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

This brochure comes at the right time. For too many years, “food security” has been understood as relying on the provision of food aid to regions in crisis, or even as coming from the dumping, on international markets, of foodstuffs that are inexpensive because generously subsidized. The aid trap has sprung: the volume of aid has had to be increased all the more as these policies ruined developing countries’ less competitive local commodity chains, and these countries were pushed to open to cheap imported foodstuffs and produce commodities for export. The dependency of most least developed countries rose in worrying proportions during the 1980s and 1990s. The food price crisis of 2007-2008 revealed this model’s limits. A new direction is now needed.


The right to food is the right of each individual to feed him- or herself; for those who earn a living farming, it is also the right to do so in viable conditions that provide them with sufficient income. Basing food security policies on the right to food is therefore entirely different from a humanitarian approach. It intends to support the capacity to produce, rather than maintain dependency. It also demands participatory policies that elevate “recipients” to actors in their own destinies, and involves them in the identification of both needs and solutions. This makes it necessary to assess policies to ensure that they benefit the most vulnerable, and that they fight hunger sustainably, which simply increasing agricultural production does not allow, especially when production is concentrated between the hands of the most competitive farmers and accelerates the marginalization of all those—the vast majority—who are not.


The Lisbon Treaty strengthens the reference to human rights in the European Union’s foreign relations. It is now time to take action. It is time for the European Parliament to demand that impact assessments on the right to food precede the conclusion of the European Union’s cooperation or association agreements. It is time for development cooperation policies to be brought into line with participatory national strategies that aim to realize the right to food—strategies based on a mapping of food insecurity and that oblige governments to be accountable, as recommended in the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food adopted by the FAO Member States. It is time—high time—for developing countries to strengthen their capacity to feed themselves and for food aid to cease to be a substitute for agricultural production support policies. It is time to see agriculture as something other than a means to produce—to see it also as a means to increase the poorest farmers’ incomes and preserve land and the planet. It is my hope that this brochure will open the debate, and that it will serve as a guide for action.