United Nations System
Report of the Meeting of the Working Group on Nutrition, Ethics and Human Rights
Thursday 13 April, World Bank, Washington
1. Introduction by the WG Chairman
The Chair introduced the meeting by emphasising the rapidly growing interest in a rights based approach to development among UN agencies in general, despite there being still many problems ahead both at the conceptual and implementing level. This included the difficulty in developing the most appropriate indicators for assessing the implementation of a rights-based approach as distinguished from a development/basic needs approach. He also noted that some although still only a few countries were actively engaged in identifying what a rights based approach ought to imply in practice. The SCN symposium in 1999 hosted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights had meant a great step forward for the work of the SCN and for the role it can play in the continued efforts to advance collective efforts of the UN family to protect and promote nutrition rights especially of young children and women. He had begun to note a stronger feeling by staff of UN agencies, of belonging to and serving the United Nations as a whole and not only their single agencies. He welcomed this as essential for the formulation and implementation of rights based approaches.
2. Developments since the 26th SCN Session - status of follow-up of WG /NEHR recommendations
Wenche Barth Eide recalled the 1999 WG/SCN recommendations and reviewed in some more detail the status of their follow-up. She noted that all working groups suffered from lack of resources and sufficient infrastructure to comply equally well with each commitment made at the annual SCN session. The WANAHR network has been providing intellectual and practical support to this WG for the last four-to-five years by drawing on existing resources including time of a core of its affiliates. A new opportunity is opening in 2000 through the establishment of an international project on competence building, studies and advisory functions regarding the right to food and nutrition. The project, to be institutionally anchored at the University of Oslo would, as part of its terms of reference, also provide a better basis for the WANAHR co-ordinating secretariat and enable an expansion of the network and more systematic clearing of information and exchange. This in turn means that WANAHR's support to the WG can be better sustained should it be decided to continue the group.
She then reported on each of the six recommendations agreed on in 1999. In one case out of the six, time had not yet proved ripe for actively pursuing the recommendation.
The SCN-symposium in Geneva in April 1999, organised jointly by the SCN and the Office of the HCHR and hosted by the High Commissioner, pointed forward to continuing contact and collaboration between the OHCHR and the agency- and interagency nutrition community. With scarce time and no particular resources available for the purpose at the SCN secretariat, any formalised collaborative mechanism would take time to establish especially as there is no clear model for how to do so. In the meantime it is important to sustain professional contact where possible and relevant to both sets of actors. During the past year there have been several opportunities for technical contributions by WG/NEHR affiliates to important developments to advance the attention to and operationalisation of the right to food and nutrition, as described below. This has been appreciated by the OHCHR and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and generated expectations of the professional inputs that could be provided by the nutrition community in the future. There is now a definite goodwill and interest at the OHCHR that more sustainable mechanisms for interaction ought to be established.
Contribution to General Comment No 12: A major event was the adoption, on 11 May 1999, of the General Comment on the Right to food by the Convention Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights during its twentieth session in Geneva. The Committee Chairperson Ms. Victoria Dandan informed the SCN about this upcoming activity at the SCN Symposium in April that year, and invited all SCN members and observers to consider the draft available and make substantive comments and inputs by 1 May. The WG secretariat saw this as a first and unique opportunity for the SCN environment to influence - collectively or as single agencies - this important undertaking to give clearer content to Article 11 of the Covenant on ESCR on the right to food (which was among the recommendations by the World Food Summit, Objective 7.4). It therefore suggested that the date for preparing the comment be postponed until the Committee's next session in November/December the same year. This would give SCN members more time to understand the significance of a general comment and adequately prepare their contributions.
Since that would be too late for the Committee, however, the SCN WG immediately started working on the existing draft. Its rapporteurs spent considerable time in providing professional input to the final draft to be discussed by the Committee, and in fact provided, together with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, a new revised draft that finally became the one discussed and adopted by the Committee, with minor changes. FIAN (observer to SCN and a key international NGO in the follow-up of WFS Objective 7.4) took part as observer in the Committee's discussion and defended the new version. The Committee appreciated the contribution and especially the proposal for a new structure of the document, which afterwards has been adopted by the OHCHR as a model structure for all future General Comments
The significance of the GC to the right to food is reflected in the following paragraphs from the conclusions of the High Commissioner's report to the UN Commission on Human Rights this year, on the right to food:
Contribution to the formulation of a resolution on the right to food by the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: In August 1999, the Rapporteurs were able to provide inputs to the text of a Resolution adopted by the Sub-Commission on the Right to Food. Among other things the resolution included a proposal for a meeting with IFIs on the effect of their activities on economic, social and cultural rights in general and the right to food in particular. (See also below under Recommendation 4.).
Explorations with the OHCHR regarding mechanisms to strengthen collaboration: Opportunities such as those mentioned illustrates that the nutrition community can contribute timely and substantively to the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in matters regarding the right to food and nutrition. For it to play a sustained role in operationalising food and nutrition rights for use in monitoring, dialogue and advisory work for national implementation in the future, viable channels of information and exchange need to be worked out between the intergovernmental human rights and development organisations.
Initially, the major need was thought of as a mechanism to link the OHCHR and the SCN secretariat primarily. While this continues to be highly desirable, the need for professionally qualified link-work directly between the OHCHR and the SCN member agencies has also become apparent. Following recent discussions between representatives of the WG and the OHCHR at high level, the formulation of terms of reference for a pro-active liaison advisory function with the development agencies will be worked out in the very near future, and funding explored to enable a qualified person to be affiliated to the Office of the HCHR. The project is thought of initially as a time-limited task to help establishing the channels and modes of operation to sustain the necessary exchange and collaboration.
Other factors that will cultivate and sustain the contact with OHCHR and SCN: It is essential that the SCN - both through the WG and the Secretariat itself - continue to make itself visible and heard vis-à-vis the human rights bodies and corresponding relevant activities. Even if each agency needs to find its own profile with respect to human rights and how it can best contribute to advancing the right to food within the collective, SCN must be recognised as an important partner in its own right in the human rights movement evolving within the system. For example, the SCN has now a standing invitation to both the Commission on Human Rights and, since 1999, to its Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. As both are meeting in Geneva the Secretariat must make it a priority to follow the agenda and attend meetings whenever matters relevant to the right to food and nutrition are being discussed. With the increasing attention to economic, social and cultural rights and the advanced stage of work especially regarding the right to food, this will no doubt be a recurrent theme in the human rights bodies in the years to come. The SCN should therefore officially attend the relevant parts of meetings of the human rights bodies from now on if needed by delegating participation to Working Group affiliates.
3. Human rights based programming
The meeting then turned to developments over the last year in operationalising a rights-based approach to food, nutrition and development for programming - "from theory to practice". Two examples were provided: a national case from Brazil, and approaches to nutrition field programming by UNICEF.
3.1 Brazil: Progress with operationalising the human rights approach to the implementation of public policies and programmes for food and nutrition security in Brazil through experiences at state and local level.
Flavio Valente first briefly reviewed the background to the struggle against hunger in Brazil, emphasising its close relations to the popular and union movement for democracy, and the strengthening of partnership with governmental institutions including through civil society participation in the preparation for the World Food Summit in 1996 and the elaboration of the national Human Rights Program. He reported on the large number of governmental agencies involved at federal, state and local level involved in food and nutrition security issues and/or human rights, as well as the role of the different non-state actors including civil society and international agencies representatives in Brazil. He also envisaged a number of forthcoming arrangements in Brazil and in Latin America as a whole, which would offer new opportunities to advance the notion and practice of the right to food. There was also the planned Portuguese Speaking Peoples Conference on Food Security and Human Rights in the fall of 2000.
Valente went on to describe the elements of the current efforts to operationalize and implement a human rights approach to food and nutrition security in Brazil. The first step had been to identify who are the right holders, who are the duty bearers, what are the responsibilities of different social actors, what are the claiming mechanisms and what are the possible remedies. It was decided to carry out a series of study exercises with respect to these concerns as highlighted below.
1. The decision to chose the PNAE was taken on the basis that:
2. The study carried out:
3. The proposal is that this table should be filled out for each municipality, during the capacity building course in each of the municipalities. The baseline data will vary from school to school, and therefore the goals will probably vary likewise Later on a State wide list of common indicators will be defined in a State Conference to discuss the monitoring process, in Alagoas.
4. The participation of all social actors involved in the program in the definition of the indicators and how they will collected and analysed is seen as fundamental to guarantee their full involvement in the process. This process will only make sense to people if:
5. It is very important to have in mind that while realising one right we have to avoid the violation of other rights: such as the right to diversity; to non discrimination; to participation; etc. That is why so much stress has to be placed on process indicators as well as product indicators.
6. As a last phase of the process we are proposing the identification of sentil schools and municipalities that could reflect the diversity of existing situations in the State. These sentinels would receive special support in their monitoring activities.
7. It is fundamental to link this monitoring with the putting into place of effective claiming mechanisms and the clear definition of goals and time frames for the progressive realisation of the right.
8. We should be aware that in the first moment we might identify an increasing number of violations. That might just reflect the improvement in monitoring and a worsening in general conditions.
9. Capacity building courses:
Table 1. Preliminary proposal of indicators currently being developed
Source: VALENTE et al., 2000
4. Development of a System for the monitoring of the implementation of Human Rights in Brazil
The system would encompass three main components:
It would be linked to the National Secretariat of Human Rights and to the National Conference of Human Rights, with its State counterparts. General indicators are being developed as indicated below (regrettably only in Portuguese):
Fonte: VALENTE et al., 2000
The case of Brazil is the first one known to take up the critical task of developing, in relation to the implementation of the right to food, indicators that are relevant beyond registration of outcome, meaning that also "the quality of the process to getting there" would be assessed. This is where the human rights dimension present special opportunities, i.e. with respect to the right to participation and control of public policies.
Flavio Valente and his collaborators hoped that participants in the SCN Working Group on NEHR would assist in developing further ideas on indicators for monitoring economic, social, cultural and other rights relevant to the realisation of the right to food.
3.2 An approach to human rights programming in UNICEF
During the last few years, all parts of UNICEF had been engaged in an effort to identify priorities for the organisation beyond the year 2000. The new priorities will be promoted through the new Leadership for Children Initiative. Among the key aspects are:
1. Human Rights, in particular Human Rights of Children and Women. The approach has its foundation in the philosophy (theory) and practice of Human Rights. This entails that programming must comply and be in advancement of human rights goals and principles. Such compliance must take place throughout the UNICEF programming cycle with partners. For UNICEF, particular focus must be placed on the goals and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women within the politico-economic context of the ESAR countries.
2. Humanitarian Law and Emergency Preparedness and Responsiveness. Almost all countries in ESAR are either already affected or at a high risk of being affected by emergencies. These emergencies adversely affect the quality of lives of most of people in the region, especially children and women. It is therefore imperative that emergency preparedness and responsiveness be incorporated in UNICEF's programming by complying with the recommendations of the post-Martigny process. The approach tries to incorporate the implications of humanitarian law and humanitarian principles.
3. Good Programming Experiences. There are a number of lessons learnt from good programming experiences in the region. Although these experiences do not by themselves constitute human rights programming, it is clear that a HRAP requires many of the elements of such good programming. It is therefore important to build on these good programming experiences.
4. Focus on Community Capacity Development. People live in households and communities. It is in households and communities where human rights' violations are manifested. Members of these communities have capacities that they use or can use to develop themselves and lay the foundation for the security and well being. Households and communities do not and should not exist in isolation. The duties to realise human rights are at all levels of society, from the individual to the international levels. Such roles are synergistic. Advocacy and mobilisation are therefore necessary in facilitating social interdependence or solidarity to realise human rights. This requires capacity building at all levels of society.
Based on these principles, a step-wise procedure for programming is outlined. The linkages between the steps are important and sometimes the result of the work in one step will require review of the work in the previous step. Some of the steps are familiar to most UNICEF staff, while others, particularly the Role/Pattern Analysis and Capacity Analysis, are new. The description of the steps would be reviewed and improved upon as experience is gained from practical applications.
The steps would include a Causality Analysis, a Role or Pattern Analysis, and a Capacity Analysis.
As to the Causality Analysis, reaching a consensus regarding the principle factors and processes affecting realisation of children's human rights offers enormously improved opportunities to achieve a more systematic and logic integration of programming for children. A focussed analysis will help to limit the analysis to only those causes that actually influence the selected outcome in the situation at hand and will, therefore, not include all possible causes and processes in society. This is essential in order to make the exercise manageable. This is particularly important if the problem - as is normally the case - requires co-ordinated actions by many partners at different administrative levels corresponding to recognition of the problem at some level of society. The Causality Analysis will produce a list of rights that either are violated or at risk of being violated together with the major causes of these violations.
Regarding Role or Pattern Analysis, human rights represent relationships between claim- or right-holders (subjects) and duty-bearers (objects). These relationships form a 'pattern' in society linking individuals and communities to each other and with higher levels of society. Children and women are the priority right-holders for UNICEF. Often a particular duty-bearer cannot meet his/her obligations because some other rights of the duty-bearer are being violated. The work to identify duty-bearers for a particular right benefits from the earlier causality analysis that will help in identifying duty-bearers at different levels of society. Focusing on specific priority problems will also help to reduce the Role/Pattern analysis to a limited set of claim-duty relationships that are likely to be most critical in the given situation. If not limited, there is a risk to end up with a very large number of claim-duty relationships and actors, which will not be possible to involve and support in programme planning and implementation. The purpose of the Role/Pattern Analysis is thus to arrive at a list of the most crucial claim-duty relationships for each particular set of selected rights violations.
Capacity Analysis includes the identification of the main duty-bearers and analysis of why these do not seem to be able to perform their duties as expected. Capacity and Capacity-Building are central concepts in most programming discussions and considerable efforts have been made to define and clarify what these concepts should mean in various contextual applications. UNICEF and UNDP are currently collaborating in trying to develop and adopt a common framework of understanding for these concepts and key elements and issues. The following are normally considered as the key elements in assessing capacity and in planning for capacity development.
This analysis will result in the Identification of Capacity gaps of each duty-bearer or group of duty bearers for each identified right.
Urban Jonsson went on to describe how UNICEF utilises this framework to select actions for each violated right and specific duty-bearer, to contribute to closing the capacity gaps. Often the same action will contribute to empowering a duty-bearer to meet several duties in relation to the realization of more than one right. A prioritisation is then necessary based on the agency's advantages. Medium-Term Plans will guide in this selection as will region and country specific needs, constraints and opportunities. It is important to realise that UNICEF's comparative advantage should not be seen as static. UNICEF can and should develop new competencies.
The final step is to aggregate all the activities selected for UNICEF support, into programmes and projects. This is an important as well as a difficult task. UNICEF Country Programmes of Co-operation in ESAR has used different approaches to achieve this. Aggregation/clustering of UNICEF supported activities can be done in several ways: By sector (Health, Education etc), by generic strategy (advocacy, information, education, training and service-delivery), by theme (e.g. survival, development, protection and participation or phases of the life-cycle), or by theme based on human rights categories: respect, protect, facilitate and fulfil. No clear generic advice is possible at this stage. Country offices are being encouraged to experiment and learn from practice.
As a conclusion to Urban Jonsson's presentation, it can be said that the ideas embedded therein represent a valuable new step not only in understanding some of the issues implied in capacity building at different levels, but also in the evolving search for meaningful benchmarks and indicators of the realisation of the right to food. Systematically breaking down the programming exercise into elements and operationalising them under a human rights optics points to a relevant methodology for identifying process indicators that can be used in constructive monitoring and dialogue about improvements in a rights context.
4. Developments in other agencies
Dr. Kraisid Tontisirin, Director, Food and Nutrition Division, FAO reported on the work of FAO on The Right to Adequate Food. He recalled that the World Food Summit gathered in Rome not only adopted an ambitious yet realisable goal of halving the number of undernourished people in the world by the year 2015, but also reaffirmed the right of everyone to adequate food in conformity with Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the fundamental right of everyone to freedom from hunger.
Explicit recognition of this important human right by the World Food Summit came only after a long series of earlier unsuccessful attempts by FAO to obtain formal endorsement of some formulation that would acknowledge the moral obligation of states and their citizens to create a world free from hunger. But not only did the Summit make a breakthrough in terms of its recognition of this right, it also entrusted the High Commissioner for Human Rights with a special mandate to better define the rights related to food, and propose ways for their implementation. Considerable progress had been made in the implementation of her mandate, and FAO has been an active partner throughout this process; this included the two expert consultations on the Right to Adequate Food held by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in December 1997 and November 1998, culminating in the adoption of a General Comment on the Right to Food by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in May 1999.
Last year, at the ACC/SCN Symposium on the Substance and Politics of a Human Rights Approach to Food and Nutrition Policies and Programmes in Geneva, 12-13 April 1999, Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department, FAO, informed SCN of a number of actions that FAO had taken, on its own initiative, to promote the right to food. These included:
During the past year, FAO had:
Professor Eide's report was currently circulating within FAO for review and comment. Amongst her recommendations, those which had particularly attracted FAO's attention after a first reading of her thorough report, concern international development assistance and the encouragement of national initiatives for the right to food, including through a few field trials of what application of right to food concepts would actually mean for a country that wishes to conform with the undertakings contained in the International Covenant.
Taking into account that the implementation of the right to food is only completed when every woman, man and child has assured and sustainable access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, FAO statistics suggest that fewer people are undernourished today than a few years ago; however, progress is as yet slower than it should be to achieve the goals of the World Food Summit.
Mr. Tontisirin stated that FAO very much supports the approach taken by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food of the Sub-Commission on Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in recommending the adoption of framework legislation for the implementation of the right to adequate food. Especially those states that have adopted a constitutional provision on the right to food and nutrition should give practical effect to it in national legislation. Countries wishing to do so could avail themselves of opportunities for assistance through the advisory services of the High Commissioner as well as the development law service of FAO. The donor community is encouraged to support such efforts and FAO would be very interested in participating in such exercises that could be undertaken on a pilot basis to start with.
Finally, attention was drawn to the next session of the FAO Committee on World Food Security in September this year, which is dedicated to monitoring progress in the implementation of Commitments One, Two, Five and relevant parts of Commitment Seven of the World Food Summit Plan of Action. This review would specifically cover, inter alia, progress in implementing the actions set forth in Commitment 7.4 on the World Food Summit Plan of Action pertaining to clarification of the right to food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, and to attention being given to implementation and full and progressive realisation of these rights as a means of achieving food security for all. FAO was confident that the deliberations of that session will provide a valuable input to the work of the Committee on ESCR and help guide everybody in taking subsequent practical steps to bring this fundamental right ever closer for all mankind.
Graeme Clugston, Director, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development recalled that with the arrival of Dr Brundtland, 1998, one of the major priorities that she first announced would be foundational for the new WHO, was that of Human Rights¾underpinning the entire WHO programme of work.
Over the past year, Dr Brundtland had entrusted a unit in the cluster (SDE) in the Department of Health for Sustainable Development to be the focal point for WHO for its Human Rights Approach to health. Other Departments in other clusters also have staff whose focus is to address Human Rights in their own areas of health work. The Nutrition Department had also considered trying to establish a special post.
Recently Dr Brundtland had further encouraged efforts to ensure that a human rights culture permeates all activities in WHO, through 2 interdependent avenues:
Half a century ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 asserted that 'everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and his family, including food ...'
This is echoed in the Constitution of the World Health
Organization, also adopted in 1948, which affirms in article 2, that promoting the
improvement of nutrition is among the specific ways that WHO can achieve its objective in
article 1 - 'the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health'..
In 1981, the World Health Assembly adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes which emphasises providing 'safe and adequate nutrition for infants' (article 1). On this occasion, the Member States of the World Health Organization affirmed, in Code preamble, paragraph 1:: 'the right of every child and every pregnant and lactating woman to be adequately nourished as a means of attaining and maintaining health'.
Increasingly, WHO is promoting a human-rights perspective to addressing the food and nutrition needs of all age and population groups, using these instruments and the human rights perspective in its dual outreach to Member States worldwide:
1. In advocacy and technical support in nutrition to Member
Through this normative/monitoring/evaluation work WHO is able to bring to the attention of Governments and the international community:
The question was now how the Nutrition Department of WHO could go to scale¾to take the lofty goals and instruments of human rights and apply them. A recent example is the Joint WHO/UNICEF Technical Consultation on Infant and Young Child Feeding which we just held, 13-17 March 2000 for developing a new Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. A human-rights perspective is foundational in this draft strategy, particularly as defined in The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Here then, is an overview of WHO's continuing endeavours to include and apply, in a practical way, the instruments of Human Rights, and their aims, principles and ethics, to WHO's global outreach for combating malnutrition, and improving nutritional status worldwide.
An excerpt from the WHO Vision for nutrition in health and development was illustrative:
4.3 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
The representative of the OHCHR, Elsa Stamatopoulou, outlined the main developments since the meeting of the ACC/SCN in April 1999 hosted in Geneva by OHCHR, on the substance and politics of a human rights approach to food and nutrition policies and programmes. She said the highlight of last year was the adoption by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of General Comment 12 on the right to adequate food on 11 May 1999. She saw the General Comment as the crystallisation of the long time co-operation between food policy and human rights experts presenting an excellent basis for a practical tool to be developed. In August 1999, the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Mr. A. Eide, presented to the Sub-Commission an update of his 1987 study on the right to food (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1999/12) addressing recommendations to States, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, specialised agencies, NGOs, professional organisations and academic institutions. This year, the High Commissioner had presented a report to the Commission on Human Rights in March 2000 summarising replies received from Governments, agencies, treaty bodies and NGOs and reviewing progress made on the definition of the right to food.
While co-operation between agencies and human rights treaty bodies had developed well during the last few years, OHCHR felt that more emphasis should be placed on: (1) sharing information, (2) developing joint indicators to measure achievements and shortcomings in the realisation of food and nutrition rights, (3) UN agencies providing not only legal, political and administrative advice to States, but also help States in monitoring the implementation of their obligations regarding the right to food and nutrition.
In order to facilitate the implementation of recommendations adopted by ACC/SCN in 1999, the OHCHR hoped that a facilitator could be appointed. Finally, OHCHR considered it would be important in this interagency effort, that the General Comment 12 on the right to adequate food could be further operationalized by governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations. OHCHR hoped that ACC/SCN would take practical measures in this regard.
5. Activities of special interest
5.1 Report on a breastfeeding and human rights e-mail debate
David Clark of UNICEF reported on an e-mail debate held in 1999 regarding breastfeeding in a human rights perspective. This has been a hot issue especially over the last four to five years, since it raises some fundamental questions pertaining to women's rights vs. infant's rights in the broader perspective of interrelatedness and indivisibility of all human rights.
David Clark decided to focus on those issues pertaining to breastfeeding rights around which there is now reasonable consensus. He reminded the audience that human rights express relationships between subjects or rights-holders (who can claim their rights) and objects or duty-bearers. He further recalled that a duty implies that duty-bearers may be held accountable for complying with the duty, but that to do so, he or she must not only accept responsibility but also have a certain authority for executing it, and of course resources. These notions become important when assessing women's possibilities to provide their babies with the best available food, breast milk.
To assert women's right to breastfeed is a relatively new position, especially taking into account that much feminist thinking has developed around the notion that women have the right NOT to breastfeed. Therefore, to assert the infant's right to be breastfed and the mother's responsibility to breastfeed, would be seen as a form of prescription in relation to women's bodies.
Some people argue that the "choice" is not really whether or not to breastfeed, but whether or not to have a baby. If a couple chooses parenthood, and the resulting baby begins to grow and develop, there is no substitute for the human womb, placenta and umbilical cord in pregnancy. Likewise, for the newborn, there is no substitute for the human mammary gland and its produce.
To ensure that infants get the food intended for them, i.e. breastmilk, cannot be the duty of women alone however. It must be recognised that duty-bearers who have their own rights violated cannot satisfactorily meet their duties, thus we cannot blame parents for starving children if they do not have the resources to feed them. Likewise with breastfeeding: it is incumbent on the state to ensure that women are not punished for being mothers, that they have equal access to the facilities making it possible to combine motherhood and citizenhood, and that breastfeeding shall not be an option only to those women and babies who are either lucky or rich.
The example of Norway was given, where one had obtained a 90%+ breastfeeding rate (breast feeding at six months) - not by pushing the responsibility of mothers, but rather through information and support for expecting and new mothers, and removing obstacles to breastfeeding through legislation.
Given that there is still not a full agreement on the dual set of rights of the mother-child dyad, the consensus of the e-mail debate - which was to also guide WABA in its approach to the issue - prior to the 2000 Breastfeeding Week - was to adopt a pragmatic approach, while foreseeing the likelihood that in five or ten years from now WABA's decision will be judged in a different light. Clark concluded his talk by reading out the consensus that had been reached, and which reflected the pragmatic approach taken:
5.2 An international Project for Competence-Building, Studies and Advisory Functions on the Right to Food and Nutrition
Arne Oshaug, Deptuy Director-General of the Royal Norwegian Ministry for Agriculture, Department of Food Production and Animal Health and Plant Health, SCN observer for Norway, gave a brief on an innovation supported by the Norwegian Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for an independent forum to address the right to food and nutrition as a human right.
It concerned an international Project for competence building, studies and advisory functions regarding the right to food and nutrition as a human right. It officially started on 1 April 2000 with start-up funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for first two years 2000-2001. The project is institutionally anchored at the University of Oslo through a collaborative arrangement between two core institutions: Norwegian Institute of Human Rights, a centre under the Faculty of Law, and the Institute of Nutrition Research, a Department at the Faculty of Medicine. It will collaborate with institutions, agencies and NGO networks wishing to join in shaping rights-based approaches to food and nutrition as a public and development concern, and with institutions that may want to contribute to the funding of specific project activities.
Arne Oshaug saw the rationale for the establishment of the project in the fact that, on the one hand, the interest in human rights including economic, social and cultural rights is generally on the increase, with attention to the right to adequate food and nutrition growing within the United Nations System. Also, a number of growing number of democratic states support the need to promote the human right to adequate food and nutrition
On the other hand, mutual insight and capacity to address legal human rights in development remain low, and the Project had therefore been established to form a culture of understanding development as the realisation of all human rights; to strengthen the understanding of the linkages between international human rights and food and nutrition in human and national development; and to enhance human capacity for a rights-based approach in activities related to food and nutrition security.
Thus the objectives are:
Among the expected outcomes in the short term are:
In the long term:
Key features of the mode of work would be Networking with other academic groups, government links, UN bodies, NGOs active in advancing the concept and practice of the right to food and nutrition across disciplines and sectors; Outreach through academic and other publications and through WANAHR (World Alliance for Human Rights), UN Forum for Nutrition (ACC/SCN), co-operative initiatives and arrangements with link institutions, web-site (coming); requested advisory activities, while Advocacy would be a continuing challenge and praxis throughout all objectives and activities of the project.
Oshaug ended by stating that food and nutrition rights form a unique springboard to an integrated understanding of human rights for peaceful human development. This conviction had been at the core of the efforts leading to the establishment of this international innovation.
6. Future activities
6.1 Should the WG on NEHR continue to exist?
The first question raised by the chair was whether this Working Group should continue its work or whether it had now achieved its goals. The WG had had an obvious success in placing human rights on the agenda of the SCN and maybe one should leave it at that? .
There were several strong reactions to this by some members of the group. The major argument was, that to have put the theme successfully on the agenda is not to say that this new "baby" of the SCN can live and thrive on its own from now on. It will for some time remain fragile and in need of continuing nourishment and care. Apart from UNICEF with its demonstrated commitment to applying human rights principles in programming, it had been demonstrated that a few other agencies at best, are just at the beginning of developing the internal processes needed to come to grips with what a rights-based approach would mean to their work. Mainstreaming human rights in nutrition must be the aim of the SCN and this should eventually be reflected throughout its thematic working groups. NGOs working with a rights-based approach need the SCN WG as a focal point in the UN that can support and assist them in giving visibility and legitimacy to their rights-based work with food and nutrition issues at country level.
The WG on NEHR would therefore be needed for another period of, say, two years to ensure that human rights principles will be interpreted and operationalised in direct relation to the areas of work of the SCN. The potential for this is high given the growing UN and civil society commitment to human rights in general, and with the interest expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in pursuing the initiative for collaboration with SCN that started with the joint symposium in 1999. Various Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) developed by the OHCHR and single agencies provide scope for direct collaboration on food and nutrition rights between the High Commissioner and the agencies and must be utilised to a maximum. A further "pull factor" lied in the set of new working tools with which such collaboration can now more effectively be put into place, including the General Comment No. 12 on The right to adequate food by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The coming two year period will be a period of particular challenges in consolidating the response by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the mandate given to her by the World Food Summit: to clarify the content of the right to food and steps needed to implement it. The process ought to come to a close in the foreseeable future, for example with the marking of WFS + 5 in November 2001. The SCN community must take not only take advantage of that process but become an active partner in it by contributing with its professional expertise and commitment to ending hunger and malnutrition.
6.2 Recommendations for work programme
Particular demands must now be set to focus and modus operandi of the WG on NEHR. Working methods must ensure more frequent contact among members of the WG, through meetings between sessions or/and regular e-mail update and exchange about new developments. The SCN members should be consulted as appropriate in developing new initiatives. Steps must be taken to address some of the more difficult issues that may be faced in adopting a rights-based approach.
Recommendation 1/2000: Preparation of a manual on the interpretation and use of General Comment no 12* on the right to adequate food.
The SCN Working group on NEHR welcomes the adoption, by the Committee on ESCR, of General Comment No 12 on the right to adequate food. The operationalisation of the analysis contained in this GC by development practitioners of governmental, intergovernmental agencies and non-governmental organisations, would be greatly enhanced by the creation of a practical tool in the form of a manual on the use of the General Comment in the operationalisation of the human right to food and nutrition and its implementation, i.e. through the process of elaborating national framework legislation. The Working Group recommends that such a manual be prepared as a co-operative venture between the OHCHR and WAHNAR through a special Task Force on General Comment No. 12 on The right to adequate food. A workshop should be held during the coming year preferably in Geneva, and otherwise in electronic consultation with SCN members during the process of preparation. A progress report should be presented to the SCN at its 2001 session and the final document should be submitted at the 2002 session for final approval, publication and wide distribution.
Recommendation 2/2000: The WG meeting during the annual session in 2001 should focus entirely on benchmarks and indicators for food and nutrition rights programming and monitoring.
The call for benchmarks and indicators to be used in monitoring, advocacy and constructive dialogue with Member States is a standing concern and challenge of the OHCHR, and has been seen as a major thrust for SCN's future involvement in developing rights-based approaches to policies and programmes since the establishment of the WG. The time has come to embark more explicitly on developing meaningful indicators for use in country implementation and national reporting to the relevant UN treaty bodies, as well as in other aspects of monitoring the realisation of the right to food and nutrition as measures of human and social development, and programming for improvements. This work should take advantage of ongoing experiences in countries, such as, for example, Brazil and South Africa.
The next annual meeting of the WG should focus entirely on
the question of indicators. The SCN secretariat, assisted by WANAHR and the new
international project on The Right to Food in Development, institutionally based at the
University of Oslo, should raise funds as needed for the preparation of background
Reference is made to the report presented by the WG at the 2000 session, which lays out the status of implementation of the six recommendations from 1999. The WG should actively continue to pursue these and provide a final report on their implementation at its meeting during the Twenty Eighth Session in 2001.
6.3 Concluding remarks by the Rapporteur
Co-rapporteur Uwe Kracht could not attend.