Making headway towards urban food security

This blogpost was written by Miguel Ruiz Marchini, MSc student in Organic Agriculture at Wageningen University and #CFS43 Social Reporter. The original blog post can be found here.


Urbanization has been a growing and tangible trend in our societies since the industrial revolution. With climate change and increasing migration patterns, the risks and stakes are higher. The attention on food security has been focused, naturally, on rural production. This needs to evolve. Efforts are underway to transform urban landscapes into resilient systems that foster and support food production, and civic inclusion.

The side event “Urban food policies and their role in sustainable food systems” exposed ‘la crème de la crème’ of forward-looking policy making for urban food security. It was presented by IPES-Food, UNESCO Chair on World Food Systems, Ivory Coast, FAO, and IUFN as part of the 2016 Commission on World Food Security (CFS) Plenary.

Continue reading “Making headway towards urban food security”

Advances in Food Security and Sustainability


The first volume of Advances in Food Security and Sustainability has been released. I have contributed a chapter on the post-political condition and global food security governance.


Advances in Food Security and Sustainability takes a scientific look at the challenges, constraints, and solutions necessary to maintain a healthy and accessible food supply in different communities around the world. The series addresses a wide range of issues related to the principles and practices of food sustainability and security, exploring challenges related to protecting environmental resources while meeting human nutritional requirements.

 Key Features

  • Contains expertise from leading contributions on the topics discussed
  • Covers a vast array of subjects relating to food security and sustainability

Table of Contents

Continue reading “Advances in Food Security and Sustainability”

The unspoken words


Wageningen University student, Jesse Opdam, has written a post about the importance of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to address emerging issues.

microphone-and-handSometimes the words we leave unspoken are the most important ones, especially during policy negotiations where the political stakes are high. A lot of issues regarding food and nutrition have been addressed this week. It is simply impossible to address every single issue regarding food security within one week.

But what about sudden important (urgent) issues? Should the CFS not address them? This question was answered by Chair H.E. Amira Gornass with the following words: “I think CFS should be open to emerging issues”. And in my opinion, she is completely right. If the CFS does not address urgent issues on time, or before other food security platforms do, the CFS will lose its relevance. Continue reading “The unspoken words”

Fundamental but still contentious: Right to Food at the CFS

This blog was originally posted here on the Event Blog of the Committee on World Food Security. It was written by Nadia Lambek and Jessica Duncan.

CFS in action (photo by X. Jiang)
CFS42 (photo by X. Jiang)

When the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) reformed in 2009 it identified the promotion of the right to food as one of its goals. This was an important development, as recognizing human rights is fundamental to achieving food security.


Despite this development, however, the issue of human rights is still contentious within the CFS. Participants continue to clash over whether to include human rights in the CFS’s outputs and on whether or not to adopt a rights-based perspective in making policy recommendations.

Observers attending the first plenary session of the CFS might have been surprised to see that very few governments chose to mention human rights and the right to food in their opening addresses.  Indeed, these were only mentioned a handful of times and only by a few players, such as the Civil Society Mechanism, the Chair and a few countries, including Venezuela, Brazil and Norway.

But what do we mean by the right to food? What are the implications of a rights-based approach to food policy? And why is it so contentious?

What is the right to food?

The right to food is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 25), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 11) and a myriad of other international agreements.  The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights identifies the main principles of the right to food in General Comment No. 12.

Tlarge_vgrtf_enhe right to food is generally understood as the right to feed oneself with dignity. The United Nations has defined the right to food as being “realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.”

What are the implications for food policy?

The right to food has many implications for food policy.

First, the right to food requires that states that take account of the most marginalized and vulnerable in society when adopting policy.

Second, the right to food places a number of obligations on states. It requires that states:

  • Respect the right to food (the obligation not to take measures that harm access to food);
  • Protect the right to food (the obligation to take measures to ensure third parties do not harm access to food); and,
  •  Fulfill the right to food (the obligation to both proactively engage in activities to strengthen access to food and to provide food when an individual or group is unable to access adequate food alone).

These obligations should be adopted into law, but they should also guide and underscore all food policy. Individuals and groups should be able to hold states accountable when they fail to meet these obligations.

Third, the right to food requires that states “take steps to achieve progressively the full realization of the right to adequate food”. States are obliged to take all necessary steps to the maximum of their available resources to ensuring the right to food. Food policies are tools states can use to progressively realize this right.

So why is the right to food contentious?

The right to food is contentious because it requires states to take a number of steps that will fundamentally transform how they currently address food security, and food policy more broadly. States are also concerned they will be held accountable for failing to meet these obligations. For these reasons, states resist including the right to food in the CFS outputs.

Will the right to food continue to be contentious at CFS43? Watch this space…

Want to know more about the right to food?

Check out the following:


For a “deep dive” into the issue, see this super article by Nadia Lambek and Priscilla Claeys:  Institutionalizing a Fully Realized Right to Food: Progress, Limitations, and Lessons Learned from Emerging Alternative Policy Models


5 things you need to know about the CFS


This week I am teaming up with Nadia Lambek to research, reflect and write about the CFS. 

cfs43_150_enIn our conversations with people over the last few days (well actually, the last 6 years), we have been asked a lot of questions about the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and often, the questions are the same.

To save you, and us, some time, we have identified the top 5 questions we get about the CFS and provided our answers below. Continue reading “5 things you need to know about the CFS”

FAO e-conference explores contribution of small farms to food security and nutrition


From October 10-23  you can participate in an FAO e-conference exploring contribution of small farms to food security and nutrition.


Here is what you need to know:

Continue reading “FAO e-conference explores contribution of small farms to food security and nutrition”

Writing about food security solutions


Last week we launched a Special Issue of the journal Solutions. The issue featured solutions to food security problems, as proposed by younger scholars.

Writing about solutions is much more difficult than it sounds, at least that has been our experience. Thinking about why this is, we came up with a few idea which we outlined in the editorial.

Our basic message is that as academics, we have a role to play in solution building, and part of that role is to created spaces for diverse perspectives to be represented and for these perspectives, and lived experiences, to inform the development of food security solutions. Further, we need to foster the types of skills (inside universities and outside) that prepare people to discuss, to reflect, to debate, and to weigh trade-offs associated with solutions. It becomes more clear every day that there are no silver-bullet solutions when it comes to food security.

I encourage you to read the editorial and send us your comments!