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20 years of UN Right to Food Guidelines: time for full implementation

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the UN’s Right to Food Guidelines, the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition calls for their immediate and comprehensive implementation, with due consideration and application of advances of the normative and legal framework on the human right to adequate food and nutrition made since their adoption in 2004.

Millions of people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition due to structural inequalities, violence in societies and food systems, and rampant grabbing of territories, characterized by the unjust and unsustainable acquisition of land, water, seeds, and other natural resources as well as unfair and unjust trade regimes. Due to gender-based violence and intersecting forms of discrimination women, girls and diversities have been disproportionately affected by such dispossession and mounting inequalities. At the same time, extractivism, commodification and financialization, including in the context of industrial agriculture and aquaculture, have triggered the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution with devastating impacts on the realization of the right to food and nutrition both for present as well as for future generations.

The Right to Food Guidelines were adopted by the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 2004. They have provided a solid ground for the elaboration and development of a full body of human rights norms and policies subsequently adopted by the UN, such as the CEDAW General Recommendation 34, FAO Tenure Guidelines, Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They have contributed to the advanced human rights narrative and enriched normative legal framework of the right to food and nutrition, providing a guidance towards human rights-based transformation of food systems.

Today, 29 countries explicitly recognize the right to adequate food in their constitutions, while more than 100 countries acknowledge it implicitly or through directives, principles or other pertinent provisions. In this context, we would like to highlight Nepal’s role as a pioneer: the country’s constitution guarantees the right to food and food sovereignty, and a law to this effect was passed in 2018. The law provides for institutional mechanisms at the national, provincial and local levels, as well as the coordinated development of a national nutrition plan. An ordinance to implement the law was passed by the Government of Nepal in March this year.  With this legal recognition, Nepal has focused its efforts on reducing the proportion of undernourished population by half since 2018, and currently ranks 69th out of 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index.

This is in sharp contrast to other South Asian countries. In Bangladesh, for example, a right to food law was drafted by the Law Commission as early as 2016, but its passage is still pending. In India, despite a number of positive developments, such as the Supreme Court’s recognition of the right to food as a fundamental right in 2001 and the enactment of landmark legislation such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 and the National Food Security Act of 2013, the hunger situation  is serious and the country ranks 111th in the Global Hunger Index.

We call on governments to strengthen their commitments towards the realization of the right to food and nutrition and to end hunger and malnutrition, by incorporating international human rights provisions into national legislation, regulations, policies and programs. This entails creating mechanisms for accountability, ensuring meaningful participation of affected communities in decision-making processes, and establishing transparent systems to monitor and redress instances of violations of the right to food.

We urge governments worldwide to uphold their obligations regarding the realization of the human right to food and nutrition by implementing the guidelines and taking decisive actions to end hunger and malnutrition. By doing so, we can collectively build a future where the enjoyment of the right to food and nutrition is a reality for all, where the rights of individuals and communities are respected, protected and fulfilled, and where the global community stands united against the forces that perpetuate hunger and discrimination.

International cooperation among states for the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights is an obligation of all states. Every state has a responsibility to actively contribute to maintaining enduring peace and justice – particularly in conflict-affected nations – and toward ending poverty and hunger. By addressing the root causes, holding responsible actors accountable, and fostering collaboration at local, national, and international levels, we can collectively strive towards a world where the right to food and nutrition is realized for all. In particular, we, the undersigned organizations, recommend the following to all states for the implementation of the Right to Food Guidelines:

Strategic collaborations: Strengthen convergences and joint strategies with civil society in its diversity by prioritizing rights holders such as social movements, Indigenous Peoples, feminist movements, small-scale food producers and others.

Strengthening governance with social participation at all levels: Create and implement food governance systems with strong social participation mechanisms and with a solid legal and institutional framework and guaranteed conditions of operation.

Defending the public interest from corporate influence in food systems: Develop comprehensive legal frameworks of responsibility, regulation and accountability for corporations, from production to consumption, as well as norms that protect governance spaces from corporate influence and conflict of interest.

Engagement in processes and policies to transform food systems and strengthen land tenure: Promote and actively engage in the transformation of food systems respecting local food cultures, valuing agro-socio-biodiversity and the principles of agroecology, and prioritizing local and territorial systems, particularly the importance of land tenure security.

Note 1: The statement was initiated by FIAN International and Bread for the World (Germany) and elaborated on the occasion of the World Social Forum 2024 in Kathmandu as an outcome of the side event “20 Years of the Right to Food Guidelines: Past, Present, and Future”. The event was organized by Brot für die Welt, FIAN International, and the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition.

Note 2: The recommendations are based on the "Brasilia Charter - On Democratic Governance of Food Systems for the Realization of the Human Right to Adequate Food", declaration of the International Seminar "Democratic Governance of Food Systems for the Realization of the Human Right to Adequate Food", Brasilia, 10th December 2023, on the occasion of the sixth National Conference on Food and Nutrition Security.

The statement is endorsed by the following organizations and individuals:


ACTUAR - Associação para a Cooperação e o Desenvolvimento

Articulação SUL

Bangladesh Food Security Network (KHANI Bangladesh)


Brot für die Welt

Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT)

Confédération Paysanne du Faso



FIAN Austria

FIAN Belgium

FIAN Brasil

FIAN Burkina Faso

FIAN Colombia

FIAN Deutschland

FIAN Ecuador

FIAN India

Fian Indonesia

FIAN International

FIAN Nepal

FIAN Portugal

FIAN Sri Lanka

FIAN Switzerland

FIAN Uganda

Food Security Network- KHANI

Fundación Alternativas

Gaza Urban & Peri-urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP)

Housing and Land Right Network - Habitat International Coalition

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Instituto de Defesa de Consumidores (Idec)

Instituto de Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente - IDMA

Kasisi Agricultural Training Center

Kitwe District Land Alliance

Lake Region Food Systems Network

Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD)

Movimento Urbano de Agroecologia MUDA

National Fisheries Solidarity Organization, Sri Lanka.

Observatorio de Políticas de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional - Universidad de Brasilia


Participatory Research & Action Network- PRAAN

PELUM Association Regional Secretariat


Rede para a Soberania e Segurança alimentar e Nutricional da Guiné-Bissau "RESSAN-GB"

Right to Food Campaign India

ROSA - Rede de Organizacoes para a Soberania Alimentar

Rural Reconstruction Nepal-RRN

Slow Food

Sustainable Innovations Africa




WUNRN-Women's UN Report Network

Zabarang Kalyan Samity

Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB)


Bishnu Bhusal

Claudio Schuftan

Cynthia Betsabe Santillan Ibarra

Egidio Angel Strappazzon

Garcia Jaciara

Govinda Dhakal

Grace Tepula

Maïmouna Soulama Soma

Manuel Consolo

Neetu Sharma

Rakesh Katal

Roy Paz Cordero Cuisano

Sasmita Jena

Souad Mahmoud


For more information please contact Yifang Slot-Tang