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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

HR/CN/1064
29 March 2004

INDEPENDENT EXPERT ON EFFECTS OF STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT,
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON RIGHT TO FOOD PRESENT REPORTS
Commission Continues General Debate on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 29 March (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this afternoon continued with its general debate on economic, social and cultural rights, hearing from the Independent Expert on the effects of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the achievement of these rights as well as from the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

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Jean Ziegler, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, stressed that although the right to food of every human being should be respected, famine, hunger and extreme poverty still sentenced millions of people to underdevelopment, daily suffering and early death.  Amid understandable distrust of the promises of free trade for ensuring food security and the recurrent collapse of trade talks, a new concept was emerging from civil society as an alternative model for agriculture and agricultural trade.  “Food sovereignty” treated trade as a means to an end and gave primacy to food security and the right to food.  Under its logic, subsidies were permissible to support small-scale agriculture for local production, but should never be permitted to large-scale farming or the export sector.

Responding to Mr. Ziegler’s presentation as concerned countries were the Representatives of Bangladesh, Israel and Palestine.  Representatives of Cuba, Egypt, Brazil, Switzerland, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Canada, Australia, Mauritania and Pakistan participated in the interactive dialogue.

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The Commission will resume its consideration of economic, social and cultural rights at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 30 March 2004.

Documents on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Also before the Commission is the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, (E/CN.4/2004/10 and Add.1 and Add.2), in which the Special Rapporteur calls urgent attention to the fact that progress in reducing hunger and malnutrition has virtually come to a halt.  He urges all States to meet their commitments to eradicate hunger and realize the right to food.  In the report, he opens with an introduction and overview of his activities over the last year, before moving on to further develop the conceptual background to his work on the right to food.  In sections II and II, he seeks to analyse new and positive developments emerging, the concept of “food sovereignty” and the development of stronger human rights obligations for transnational corporations.  The section on “food sovereignty” examines this new concept, which is emerging from civil society as an alternative model for agriculture and agricultural trade.  The section on transnational corporations and the right to food builds on a chapter presented in his last report.  The report closes with a summary of the conclusions and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.

The first Addendum to the above report examines the situation of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition in Bangladesh, and then analyses the situation from the perspective of the right to food.  The report examines the legal framework governing the right to food in Bangladesh, including the obligation that the Government has undertaken to fulfil the right under international and national law, and looks at whether policies and programmes are in place to meet those commitments.  The report then outlines the main findings and concerns of the Special Rapporteur regarding the realization of the right to food, and finally presents key conclusions and recommendations.

The second Addendum concerns the mission of the Special Rapporteur to the occupied Palestinian territories.  In the report, the Special Rapporteur finds that although the Government of Israel, as the occupying power in the territories, has the legal obligation under international law to ensure the right to food of the civilian Palestinian population, it is failing to meet this responsibility.  Recommendations are made in the report to the Government of Israel to improve access for humanitarian relief, to take immediate action to reverse the humanitarian crisis, to lift closures in the territories and to end the confiscation and the disproportionate destruction of Palestinian lands, water and other resources.  The Government of Israel should halt the programme of “Bantustaniszation”, stop the building of the fence/wall and improve respect for the right to food under international human rights and humanitarian law.  Serious consideration should be given to the viability of a future PalestinianState with sustainable access to, and control over, its own food and water supplies. 

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Statements on Reports of Expert on Right to Food

JEAN ZIEGLER, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, presenting his report on the right to food (E/CN. 4/2004/10/Add. 1 & 2), said the right to food of every human being should be respected; yet, famine, hunger and extreme poverty still sentenced millions of people to underdevelopment, daily suffering and early death.  At this present moment, the food crisis was seriously affecting the lives of millions of people in 38 countries around the world, predominantly in Africa.  Sudan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan were currently suffering the most seriously from a food crisis.  The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was also seriously deteriorating.  Famine and widespread lack of access to food meant that in the world, 840 million people were suffering on a daily basis from chronic malnutrition.  Around 36 million people died from hunger directly or indirectly every year.  Progress in reducing world hunger had virtually come to a halt and in many countries hunger was increasing.  It was time to recognize that hunger was not a question of fate, but the result of the negative effects of human action or inaction.  It was a failure to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food.

Amid understandable distrust of the promises of free trade for ensuring food security and the recurrent collapse of trade talks, a new concept was emerging from civil society as an alternative model for agriculture and agricultural trade, he remarked.  This concept of “food sovereignty” treated trade as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, and gave primacy to food security and the right to food.  Under the logic of food sovereignty, subsidies were permissible to support small-scale agriculture for local production, but should never be permitted to large-scale farming or the export sector.

Also presenting his report on the occupied Palestinian territory, the Rapporteur said that he had visited the region following reports of a growing humanitarian crisis, as half of the Palestinian population had become completely dependent on food aid for their survival.  During his mission, he found evidence of the deteriorating humanitarian situation.  Over 50 per cent of Palestinians were now completely dependent on food aid, and yet humanitarian access was frequently restricted.  According to the World Bank, more than half of Palestinian households were now eating only once a day.  With regard to Bangladesh, he said that hunger, malnutrition and poverty affected the lives of 65 million people who struggled to meet their basic food needs every day.  The Government was making important progress towards achieving the progressive realization of the right to food. 

In conclusion, Mr. Ziegler called attention to the impressive global leadership that Brazil was showing in the fight against hunger.  At the initiative of that country's President, a fight against hunger had been made the number one priority.  The President's programme "Zero Hunger" was being applied across Brazil.  

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YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said there was no hunger in the territories, nor was there any policy of provoking hunger.  In 2003, there were early indications of economic improvement, with an increase in many areas, and the reason for this was the transfer of billions of shekels to the Palestinian Authority by Israel, the donors, and structural reforms.  However, recent tension had affected this progress.  Israel viewed the report with serious concern, both in view of its substantive content and the politicised and one-sided tone and manner in which it was written, which attested that it was a purely political exercise.  This was striking, viewing the cooperation with which Israel had met the Expert, as it provided a platform for unsubstantiated allegations.  In addition, there was no confiscation of water and land resources, nor did Israel provoke hunger; if there were any economic problems, it was due to the intents and policies of the Palestinian Authority. 

Palestinian terrorists had frequently delayed the provision of foodstuff to Palestinians, which was not mentioned in the report.  The diversion of financial funds to private accounts instead of being used to alleviate the situation was also absent.  The report made no attempt to distinguish between fact and fiction, and an unprofessional approach characterized the whole report, with frequent referral to measures that were beyond the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and a clear abuse of professional integrity and standards, with a distinguishing lack of impartiality that was the characteristic of the Special Rapporteur.  He overlooked the active participation of the Palestinian Authority in sabotaging the situation.  The best way to alleviate the hardships faced by the Palestinians was to end the violence. 

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) expressed his respect and appreciation to the Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler.  The destruction of houses and the confiscation of Palestinian lands by Israel had been inspired by an underlying strategy of "bantustanization", which had been used by the former apartheid regime of South Africa.  The occupation forces had constructed military blockades and by doing so they were hindering the movement of food.  The Palestinian territory was experiencing all sorts of crises.  The violation of the right to food was a serious violation of human rights.  The report of the Special Rapporteur was only an additional document to that of the Secretary-General and other rapporteurs who dealt with the region.  The report of Mr. Ziegler was very important and it contained information on the new dimension of the violations of human rights in the occupied territories.  He thanked the Rapporteur for his valuable work.   With regard to the statement of the Israeli Representative in the Commission, he said that had the Rapporteur described the occupied territory as a place where no confiscation of land and deaths were occurring, the Israeli part would have been happy, but the case was different.  The Special Rapporteur had presented the reality in the ground.

Interactive Dialogue

CLAUDIA PEREZ ALVAREZ (Cuba) said he supported the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur, but asked for his comments on the possibility of a monitoring mechanism to supervise the implementation of the norms referenced in the report. 

EHAB GAMAL ELDIN (Egypt) said with regard to the occupied Palestinian territory, the report was timely and detailed the very dangerous situation there, and the lack of access to free and democratic humanitarian aid, as required by the international community.  The occupying power was failing to meet its obligations as required by international humanitarian law, said the report, which should incite the international community to address the issue.  What practical steps did the Special Rapporteur recommend in order to redress the situation with regard to the right to food for Palestinians?

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JEAN ZIEGLER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, responding to the questions posed by the delegates, refuted one of the reproaches made by Israel.  This was his membership in a body that was, he said, committed to peace, and was in concordance with his mandate, with which he was fully in conformity.  With regard to Palestine, he thanked the delegate for his comments, noted that Cuba had for 40 years been confronting a blockade that jeopardized its economy, and yet managed to provide food to all its population.  ...

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