An Electronic Law Journal

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Law, Social Justice & Global Development
(An Electronic Law Journal)

‘Food Sovereignty’: A Step Forward in the Realisation of the Right to Food

Richard Goulet

LL. M.

School of Law

University of Warwick

This is a refereed article published on: 16 April 2009

Citation: Goulet, R. ‘’Food Sovereignty’: A Step Forward in the Realisation of the Right to Food’, 2009 (1) Law, Social Justice & Global Development Journal (LGD).

This paper assesses the usefulness of a new concept, food sovereignty, in approaching the problem of world hunger and advancing the concept of the right to food. Recent neo-liberal policies, implemented by a number of multi-lateral institutions, have made it increasingly difficult for the state to fulfill its primary obligation to ensure the realisation of the right to food as provided for under international human rights law. The fulfillment of this obligation is further challenged by the changing global economic environment and the emergence of powerful non-state actors. This paper argues that adopting the concept of food sovereignty can help the state reassert its role as the defender of its citizen’s right to food by providing the necessary policy space to challenge existing neo-liberal orthodoxy and by reintroducing some of the values which underpin this right. It can also help the state reclaim control over the issue of food security and help foster democratic participation and decision-making in the area of food policy. Food Sovereignty can also enhance the accountability on non-state actors in the world food system by helping to further the evolution of their legal accountability under international law and by influencing public opinion on issues of food policy and self-regulation. Notwithstanding the importance of this concept, current debates about food sovereignty fail to fully integrate a gender perspective – an important factor in fully realising the right to food by ensuring that the interests of women are taken into account. It must do so in order to develop into a truly effective alternative policy framework which can tackle the problems which currently grip the global food system.


Food Security, Food Sovereignty, Gender, Hunger, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Non-state Actors, International Economic System, Multilateral Institutions, Neo-Liberalism, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Right to Food, Transnational Corporations, World Bank, World Trade Organisations (WTO)

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