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The Government Must Make Use Of Its Human Rights Toolkit To Tackle Food Insecurity

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt has joined the call from community group Sunday Blessings for the government to tackle food insecurity by making better use of the tools available to it through international human rights law.

On Thursday, Chief Commissioner Hunt added his signature to the Parliamentary petition that Sunday Blessings plan to deliver to members of parliament.

“I’m delighted to sign this petition and to see the wonderful leadership of the team at Sunday Blessings. It’s appalling that in a rich country like Aotearoa many children and their families do not have food security” said Commissioner Hunt.

Successive New Zealand governments have signed up to the right to food, including through the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and in the Crown’s responsibilities under article 3 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Yet, in a recent study on the right to food found that Aotearoa New Zealand ranks 29th out of 32 rich countries.*

“I applaud the work of the government to date to address food insecurity, yet the reality is that access to affordable, healthy food is slipping away for more and more people” says Chief Commissioner Hunt.

Demand for food has significantly increased for foodbanks since COVID-19 restrictions were implemented, while increased levels of unemployment and economic hardship increase food insecurity. Whānau Māori, Pacific peoples and disabled people are more likely to fall victim to food insecurity. More than one in four tamariki Māori live in food insecure households, infringing on article 3, Oritetanga/Equality, of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.**

“To achieve better outcomes for people who are struggling with food insecurity, the government should draw on the substantive frameworks outlined in the international human rights conventions that we are a party too.

“These frameworks exist for the very reason to support governments to build an enabling environment for people to feed themselves in dignity, and to establish appropriate safety nets for those who are unable to do so.

“Not only would this achieve better outcomes for people who do not have food security, it would also demonstrate that the government is fulfilling its legally binding obligations under ICESCR and other conventions”, says Chief Commissioner Hunt.



* https://rightstracker.org/en/metric/food?as=hi&scale=r&pb=adjusted&cgroup=oecd

** https://www.cpag.org.nz/assets/06062020%20CPAG%20Food%20Insecurity%20IV%20-%20FINAL.pdf

The petition is available at https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/petitions/document/PET_116692/petition-of-sunday-blessings-implement-legislative-policy

The right to food is a legally binding international obligation on New Zealand:

§ Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food.

§ Recognised in Article 25, paragraph (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

§ The human right to adequate food is recognised in specific international instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Art. 24(2)(c) and 27(3)), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Art. 12(2)), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Art. 25(f) and 28(1)).

§ Sustainable Development Goal - 2.1 By 2030,end hungerand ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round. See https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/hunger/#:~:text=2.1%20By%202030%2C%20end%20hunger,sufficient%20food%20all%20year%20round.

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