The Right to Food in Belize Part One

The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.
– General Comment 12 (CESCR)

The Constitution of Belize does not explicitly guarantee the right to adequate food.

Belize has become a State party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2015 by way of ratification.

A child who dies from hunger is a murdered child. – Jean Ziegler


Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – 1948

Article 25
1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – 1966

Status: Ratification (2015)

Article 11

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.

2. The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed:

(a) To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources;

(b) Taking into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need.

Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – 1979

Status: Ratification (1990)

Article 12

2. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph I of this article, States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.

Article 14

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, shall ensure to such women the right:

(b) To have access to adequate health care facilities, including information, counselling and services in family planning;

(c) To benefit directly from social security programmes;

(e) To organize self-help groups and co-operatives in order to obtain equal access to economic opportunities through employment or self employment;

(g) To have access to agricultural credit and loans, marketing facilities, appropriate technology and equal treatment in land and agrarian reform as well as in land resettlement schemes;

(h) To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – 1989

Status: Ratification (1990)

Article 24

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.

2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:

(c) To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, the application of readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution;

Article 27

1. States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

2. The parent(s) or others responsible for the child have the primary responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities, the conditions of living necessary for the child's development.

3. States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – 2006

Status: Ratification (2011)

Article 28 - Adequate standard of living and social protection

1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right without discrimination on the basis of disability.

Central American Council of Human Rights Ombudsmen (CCPDH)

As part of the XLV Meeting of Central American Council of Human Rights Ombudsmen (CCPDH) in November 2011 in El Salvador a declaration on the Right to Food was passed, by which the Ombudsmen, Ombudsman Institutions and Attorneys in Panama, Costa Rica, Belize, Nicaragua and El Salvador highlighted the need to enforce this right through concrete actions at national and regional levels.

This Right to Food declaration urges States to adopt Food and Nutrition Security as a state policy.
It also requests the States to take action on public policy; legislation and institution building; allocation and implementation of budgetary resources; monitoring and evaluation; and participation of citizens and social movements in the planning, implementation and monitoring.

Organization of American States (OAS)

The Organization of American States (OAS) is the world’s oldest regional organization, dating back to the First International Conference of American States from October 1889 to April 1890. The Organization was established in order to achieve among its member states “an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence.” It uses a four-pronged approach to effectively implement its essential purposes, based on its main pillars: democracy, human rights, security and development.

This declaration is very important because it addresses comprehensively all the aspects of the food security and reaffirms the countries commitments regarding the right to adequate food contained in international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The 1945 Constitution of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization provides that:

the Nations accepting this Constitution, being determined to promote the common welfare by furthering separate and collective action on their part for the purpose of: raising levels of nutrition and standards of living . . . and thus . . . ensuring humanity’s freedom from hunger.

What is Right to Food?

The Right to food is a basic human right, it protects the right of the people to feed themselves in dignity. At it’s most basic, it guarantees freedom from hunger and access to safe and nutritious food.

Jean Ziegler, words it best:

More than 815 million people still suffer from hunger and chronic malnourishment, and 36 million people die from hunger directly or indirectly every year. Every seven seconds, a child under the age of 10 dies from hunger directly or indirectly every year. In a world In a world that is overflowing with riches and food, this is a scandal.

As for the GMO argument, Jean also offers this:

I’m against the theory of the multinational corporations who say if you are against hunger you must be for GMO. That’s wrong, there is plenty of natural, normal good food in the world to nourish the double of humanity. There is absolutely no justification to produce genetically modified food except the profit motive and the domination of the multinational corporations.

What this right is not

While this right does guarantee the right to food, it does not mean that Governments should be held accountable to hand out free food to anyone that wants it. It means that Government should create environments where each and every citizen has the opportunity to provide this basic human right for themselves and their families but be there for support when they do need assistance. We are faced around the world with a common misconception that Government should be the answer to all our problems, we as a people need to change this mentality. Furthermore, any discrimination in access to food, as well as to means and entitlements for its procurement, on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, age, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status constitutes a violation of the right to food.

How the lack of food affects a nation

This should be obvious but let’s delve a bit into this area a bit. There are many ways lack of safe adequate food affects a nation, from plain old hunger and malnutrition to physiological issues and many other serious medical conditions.


The definition of hunger is:

  1. a feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat.
  2. feel or suffer hunger through lack of food.

In politics, humanitarian aid, and social science, hunger is a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs. We feel hunger, it’s a physical effect; most of us simply reach into the fridge or food storage area and get something to snakc on or make am eal. Many others however, don’t have that luxury and can go for periods of time without food; for them, hunger is painful. Huger can lead to weakness, decreased concentration, increased susceptibility to diseases and reduced ability to self healing.

World Bank studies consistently find that about 60% of those who are hungry are female. The apparent explanation for this imbalance is that, compared to men, women more often forget meals to feed their children.

How can we help fight hunger in our corner of the world?

We can’t do much as a person on a worldwide scale, but we can make a difference in our neck of the woods.

  • Food Banks: Seek out a food back in your area and put a couple extra items in your shopping cart next time you go out to drop off at the food bank.
  • Soup Kitchens: These are places where people can come in to get a hot meal. You can help be either cooking a bit more than usual and donating the extra to the kitchen or coming out and helping to server food.

If you are a business, consider donating food items to one or both of these movements. Don’t have one in your area but see a need? Why not start one with others in your community.

Stay tuned for more on this topic.

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