The Nation on the Right to Food

by Peter Spiro

Okay, not exactly a headline that makes you want to click through on a Friday afternoon. As part of its “food issue” (don’t expect recipes for blondies or table-setting ideas), The Nation has this piece on the right to food. I was expecting something from the bad old days of international law during which IL proponents thought it was good enough just to cite some provision of an international instrument (in this case article 25 of the Universal Declaration) and expect everyone to fall in line.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see a more nuanced argument here, recognizing that with formalist rights arguments people “can quickly slide into passive mode–to assumed provision by somebody else, as in the right to an education or to a jury trial, where it makes perfect sense.” The rest of the piece includes some interesting examples of bottom-up legal capacity building. I’m not sure I buy into all of the assumptions here, but it’s hard to argue with some of the mechanisms, such as title-transfers of arable land to peasants that otherwise goes untilled.

(Is there something interesting going on at The Nation generally, after years of fairly predictable stuff? Perhaps their luxury cruises — sorry, all sold out — have something to do with it. Maybe it’s time to update the phrase “limousine liberal”.)

3 Responses

  1. Don’t fret if you’re looking for something more conservative in your cruises: Who wouldn’t want to be sunbathing with Kenneth Starr?

    “Is there something interesting going on at The Nation generally, after years of fairly predictable stuff?”

    Competition from the blogosphere?

  2. Another “positive right” (My favorite form of double speak) implemented as a limitation on a real right (Property in this case) is nothing new, especially for the Nation.

    Plus, mere confiscation of land hardly ensures food for all. No real “Right to Food” can stop at that.

  3. So as to make sense of what it may (or does) mean to give legal life to, or institutionalize, the ‘right to food,’ I would suggest the following:

    Alston, Philip and Mary Robinson, eds. Human Rights and Development: Toward Mutual Reinforcement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    Bardhan, Pranab. International Trade, Growth, and Development: Essays. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

    Bardhan, Pranab, Samuel Bowles and Michael Wallerstein, eds. Globalization and Egalitarian Distribution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press/New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006.

    Barry, Christian and Thomas W. Pogge, eds. Global Institutions and Responsibilities: Achieving Social Justice. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

    Chang, Ha-Joon, ed. Rethinking Development Economics. London. Anthem Press, 2003.

    Drèze, Jean and Amartya Sen. Hunger and Public Action. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1989.

    Drèze, Jean, Amartya Sen and Athar Hussain, eds. The Political Economy of Hunger. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1995.

    Follesdal, Andreas and Thomas Pogge, eds. Real World Justice: Grounds, Principles, Rights, and Social Institutions. Berlin: Springer, 2005.

    Gould, Carol C. Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    Grusky, David B. and Ravi Kanbur, eds. Poverty and Inequality. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

    Kaplinsky, Raphael. Globalization, Poverty and Inequality. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2005.

    Kent, George. Freedom from Want: The Human Right to Adequate Food. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2005.

    Kuper, Andrew, ed. Global Responsibilities: Who Must Deliver on Human Rights? New York: Routledge, 2005.

    Mandle, Jon. Global Justice. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2006.

    Nussbaum, Martha C. Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    Pogge, Thomas W. World Poverty and Human Rights. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002.

    Runge, C. Ford, et al. Ending Hunger in Our Lifetime: Food Security and Globalization. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press (with The International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC), 2003.

    Sen, Amartya. Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

    Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.

    The above titles were culled from a larger compilation: ‘The Ethics, Economics & Politics of Global Distributive Justice: A Transdisciplinary Bibliography’

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