The Human Right to Food and the Post-1991 Ethiopian State’s Obligation: A Case Study on Simada Woreda and Gulele Sub-city

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This dissertation examines the state of the human right to food and the post-1991 [Ethiopian] state’s compliance with its human right to food obligations as envisaged by the relevant international human rights instruments, i.e. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The study was undertaken in varying socio-economic contexts of Ethiopia, among the communities living in the rural Simada Woreda in the Amhara National Regional State and urban Gulele Sub-city of the Addis Ababa City. Deriving from the right to existence, the human right to food guarantees every human being the entitlement to be free from hunger and to have unrestricted access to food that is adequate in both quantity and quality that in turn would enable the right holder to live a healthy and active life. In this respect, in its very essence, the human right to food entitles right holders to have access to the means to feed themselves in dignity. Despite the affirmation of the right by the UDHR and the ICESCR since the second quarter of the 20th century, the right to food remains to be one of the most violated human rights around the world. As per the recent estimates of the FAO (2017), about 1 billion people around the world and about 40 million people in Ethiopia have been victims of hunger and undernutrition. The central aim of this study is, therefore, to investigate the state of the realization of the human right to food in varying socioeconomic contexts of Ethiopia, in the rural Simada woreda of the Amhara National Regional State and Gulele Sub-city of Addis Ababa City Administration. For this purpose, the study has adopted a qualitative multidisciplinary case study approach. Accordingly, information was gathered through document analysis, interviews, and focus group discussion. The state of the realization of the human right to food has been analyzed based on the human right to food constituting elements; availability, accessibility, and adequacy and correspondingly, the compliance of the state to the right to food obligations has been investigated on the basis of state obligation normative standards; recognition, respect, protection and fulfilment of the right, respectively. The finding of the study reveals that the human right to food is currently a mass violated right in the case study areas. The existing national legislation and policies of the state are not adequately addressing the demands of the realization of the human right to food. Often, as discussed in chapter four and following chapters, the national legislation and policies of the state and their implementation rather than providing the required respect and protection, they themselves contravene with the right. Though the Constitution of Ethiopia has paid tribute to the ICESCR by giving it access to the local legal system (Article 9(4) and Article 13(2)) and the human right to food can also be presumed as a guaranteed right within the purview of right to life, Article 15, an overt and express provision protecting the human right to food is lacking. At the level of practice, apart from foreignfunded food aid and the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) of the government which is currently under implementation only in selected rural Woredas, there has been no alternative or available social security scheme to the most and the chronically food-insecure people in Ethiopia. Particularly, to the dismay of the urban poor, PSNP and other safety net program are not yet functionally available. On top of this, the government is not opting to put the right to food among its policy priority list, in both rural and urban contexts. This thesis, therefore, argues, there is a compelling need to recognize the human right to food expressly and unequivocally under the human rights chapter of the FDRE constitution. For such a recognition would be a major milestone, though not a panacea, to address the problem. It would facilitate the realization of the right to food, and help the state and its agencies to comply with their constitutional obligations to the right and to hold them accountable accordingly. Apart from this, a human right to food legal framework would support the effort to better realize the right by providing the details on the right and its means of enforcement. Moreover, it is argued here that there is a need for a paradigmatic shift in policy approach from ‘food security’ to ‘food sovereignty’. For food security is a technical term, not a legal one, and does not put a duty on the state for the realization of the same. On the other hand, food sovereignty, both as a policy alternative and a grass-root social movement, underscores food as a fundamental human right. Therefore, as discussed in chapter seven, it would be instrumental to the realization of the right. Finally, yet importantly, this study has suggested that through more democratic governance that ensures participation, accountability, non-discrimination, transparency, human dignity, empowerment, and rule of law the human right to food can be better realized.



Freedom, Hunger, Malnutrition, Poverty, Right to Food, State Obligation