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Back | Programme Area: Research-Related Activities

Food as a Commodity, Human Right or Common Good? Implications for Hunger Eradication

Date: 9 Apr 2013

  • Time: 12.30-14.00
  • Location: D19, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Project Title: UNRISD Seminar Series

Food as a Commodity, Human Right or Common Good? Implications for Hunger Eradication
This event has already taken place. To download the podcast of the seminar (80 MB), click "Media Files" on the panel on the right.

The way we approach hunger eradication depends on how we see food, which has multidimensional meanings for human societies. Three competing paradigms currently influence the global food system:
    > food and nutrition security, which considers hunger a human need that must be satisfied;

    > the right to food, a fully-fledged human right that states have the obligation to protect, respect and fulfill;

    > food sovereignty which sees food as a commons, not as a mere commodity, and goes well beyond human needs or human rights, incorporating the cultural dimension too.

    The food sovereignty paradigm is making remarkable progress in the fight against hunger in Latin America, boosted by major achievements in legal frameworks concerning the right to food. However, neither approach seems to be favoured by major parts of the developmental mainstream, as is apparent in the ongoing debates on the post-2105 agenda.

    Tri-centric governance for a fairer food system

    José Luis Vivero Pol will discuss why current market-driven production and allocation of food cannot guarantee food justice. He will argue that in order to address the structural flaws of the global food system, we should consider food as a commons—in political terms—or an impure public good—in economic terms. He will suggest a gradual shift towards tri-centric governance systems (based on Elinor Ostrom's work), where market rules, governmental regulations and collective action arrangements pave the way for a fairer and more sustainable food system.

    Speaker: José Luis Vivero Pol is an anti-hunger and social rights activist with 14 years experience in food systems, and is currently a PhD candidate in Food Governance at the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium. He has previously worked for the European Commision, FAO and civil society organizations conceptualizing and implementing major anti-hunger schemes such as the Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative. In addition, he has proposed a binding Food Treaty as a tool to end hunger within the post-2015 debate.

    Discussant: Tom Lavers is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at UNRISD. His research focuses on the links between social policy, agrarian change and state-society relations. His PhD thesis, which he recently completed at the University of Bath, examined the political economy of social policy and agrarian transformation in Ethiopia. He has published a number of articles on social protection, food security and 'the land grab' in Ethiopia.


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