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One in nine face hunger: Inequality drives global figure up

NEW YORK (24 October 2019) – For the third year in a row, hunger and malnutrition are on the rise, back to levels last seen nearly 10 years ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food told the General Assembly.

Today, Hilal Elver said, one in nine people face hunger and 2 billion people are food insecure.

This lack of progress in the realization of the right of everyone to food confirms that states have struggled to fulfil their promise to “leave no one behind,” as embedded in the 2030 Agenda. Yet the SDGs do provide a roadmap for adopting policy reforms and expand social and legal protections for the most vulnerable groups.

“The Sustainable Development Goals, are a potentially transformative tool to advance the realization of the right to food, as well as other economic, social and cultural rights,” the expert said.

Accomplishing the goals first and foremost requires tackling the inequalities that have undermined the right to food and left too many behind. “A human rights based vision of the Goals gives high priority to the more than 2.5 billion people who depend on agriculture for both subsistence and their livelihoods. It also requires dispersing wealth to close the inequality gap within and among countries and between individuals,” said Elver.

Implementing fiscal policies that redistribute wealth will help reallocate power and promote greater access to productive resources within food systems, especially for the world’s poor, as redistribution via taxation or reallocation of existing spending may resolve over 75 percent of global poverty.

The Special Rapporteur also called on States to continue to expand access to social protection systems, saying that less than half of the world’s population is effectively protected by legally enforceable social protections and that coverage is often limited by inadequate implementation.

Ensuring that no-one is left behind also requires eliminating the structural discrimination that interferes with the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, Elver said. “Women and girls, youth, peasants, rural communities, indigenous peoples and migrants face persistent discrimination and increased vulnerability to hunger in disaster and conflict settings. States must use the Goals as a blueprint for actively engaging and empowering groups that have been historically left behind.”

The global agenda for change cannot be achieved if the right to food is not guaranteed. States must trade in market-driven policies for human rights based solutions and allocate sufficient resources to support the implementation of the Goals, Elver said.

The expert called on the UN system to work holistically to assist States to adopt a human rights-based approach to the implementation of the Goals and to eliminate hunger and malnutrition worldwide.

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