CSOs meet with UN Special Rapporteur to express frustration to lack of gov’t food policy
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) headed by FIAN Philippines, Focus on the Global South, LILAK, Alyansa Tigil Mina, and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) held a conference on Feb 20, at the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) Penthouse to meet with Dr. Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
The conference was the first of the many agenda in the itinerary of the newly appointed rapporteur in the Philippines, her very first official mission since her appointment last May 2014.
“Dr. Elver’s visit is a milestone for the discussion of the Right to Adequate Food issues in the country,” said Aurea Miclat–Teves, President of FIAN Philippines and one of the convenors of the National Food Coalition.
“Civil Society Organizations advocating for the establishment of a National Food Policy to eradicate hunger in the Philippines were provided with the opportunity to present the hunger and food situation in the country,” Teves added.
A paper released by Focus on the Global South stated that in the past 15 years (1999-2014), the number of Filipino families who rated themselves as hungry (based on the Social Weather Station’s self-rated hunger survey) rose from 8.3% to 18.3%.
In the last quarter of 2014, an estimated 3.8 million households were victims of hunger – a close quarter of the total population of the country, majority of whom resides in the rural areas.
“The figures showing the persistent state of hunger in the country, which previous and current governments have failed to address .” said Mary Ann Manahan, program officer from the Focus on The Global South.
“This largely stem from the government’s lack of a rights-based inspired national food strategy and program that could have helped eradicate this dire situation.” added Manahan.
Elver’s visit will focus on assessing the legal framework of the country when it comes to the discussion of food security, an investigation on the impacts of extreme weather events and socio-economic conditions vis-à-vis the food security and malnutrition issues.
An assessment on the protection program for smallholders, indigenous peoples, and urban poor with a focus on women peasants in achieving and implementation of the right to food and food security will also be discussed,
as well as issues of adequacy, availability and accessibility issues vis. realization or violation of the right to food in the country.
Through the UN Rapporteur’s visit, the CSOs aim to emphasize the links of land rights, access to and control of productive resources and the right to food,
highlight policies and impacts of external actors on the right to food and food security and to underscore the issue of poverty, inequality and the right to food of the poor and vulnerable groups, especially women, children and indigents.
CSOs also raised the issues of harassments, intimidation, and extra judicial killings of land rights defenders, farmers, and indigenous peoples perpetrated by landlords, real estate, commercial, and mining companies.
According to the group, the raised issues are all related to the central question of control and access to land and security of tenure by the country’s food producers, which is key to rural poverty alleviation and a hungry-free Philippines.
Just last year, Philippines has been awarded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for outstanding progress in fighting hunger ahead of the 2015 deadline.
This however, is not enough according to the CSOs as despite the unprecedented growth rates in the past few years, poverty, hunger and inequality have remained high.
“Targets are mere figures,” Teves said. “The 3.8 million Filipino families whose hunger affect their everyday lives is the real measurement of the government’s poor adherence to this basic right to adequate food,” she said.
Meanwhile, Elver is expected to visit Tacloban on February 21 to meet with CSOs and Yolanda survivors in the area. The UN special rapporteur on the right to food is also scheduled to visit areas in Luzon, the trips’ dates are yet to be announced.
The CSO Coordinating Committee for the entry conference of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right To Food comprised of 25 national organizations from NGOs, farmers, women, labor, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, social movements ,the religious, human rights community and academe.
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20 February 2015