In 2009, the number of hungry in the world crossed the one billion
mark, a dubious milestone that has been attributed in large part to
consecutive food and economic crises. Over ninety-eight percent of these
individuals live in the developing world. Ironically, a great majority are
involved in food production as small-scale independent food producers or
agricultural laborers. These facts and figures signal a definitive blow to
efforts to reduce global hunger and lift the world's poorest from abject and
dehumanizing poverty. They also bring to light the deep imbalance of
power in a fundamentally flawed food system.
Responses to the current crisis have emphasized the responsibility of
states to realize the right to adequate food, and have called for greater
coordination and cooperation between states, civil society organizations,
international institutions, and private sector actors. These calls
conspicuously fail to attribute specific obligations or responsibilities to
global actors that have had a profound and often devastating impact on the
right to food, and whose policies and practices were instrumental in
facilitating the current food crisis.
Under economic globalization, the power exerted by global actors such
as dominant states, international financial institutions (IFIs), and
transnational corporations (TNCs), has wreaked havoc on the global food
system and has made it increasingly difficult for weaker states to assert full
control over policies that are central to their ability to fulfill the right to
food. Yet these actors are not given equal consideration in international
policy prescriptions, or under international law.
This Comment explores both the urgency and paucity of the "right to
food" as a legal and normative framework for addressing the current food
crisis. It begins with an articulation of the contours and limits of the right to
food under international human rights law, which organizes itself around
the obligations of states to individuals in their jurisdiction. It then explores
how powerful states, IFIs, and TNCs affect the right to food abroad both
directly and indirectly by impeding the ability of states to fulfill their
economic and social rights obligations. The Comment concludes by
addressing particular doctrinal challenges that are essential to reclaiming
the right to food as a relevant normative framework under economic
"Reclaiming the Right to Food as a Normative Response to the Global Food Crisis,"
Yale Human Rights and Development Journal: Vol. 13
, Article 1.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yhrdlj/vol13/iss2/1