Is eating a human right?

Right to food

Below are some key points for understanding the human right to food, which is anchored in international law. The information does not claim to be exact or complete.

Base salary

The right to food recognizes the right to adequate quality and culturally acceptable food and clean drinking water, and in particular the right to be protected from hunger and thirst.

Legal sources

State obligations

Duties to respect

Refrain from unjustified interference with the right to food by state organs, such as:

  • to make it impossible for certain population groups to have access to food that is actually available (e.g. by laying land mines, requisitioning food, expropriating agricultural land, targeted starvation of the civilian population, etc.)
  • targeted destruction of food and infrastructure

Protection obligations

State measures against violations of the right to food by non-state third parties (private individuals, companies, etc.), such as:

  • Measures against food hoarding in times of scarcity
  • Measures against discrimination against girls and women in the distribution of food
  • Control of private institutions such as retirement and nursing homes to ensure adequate nutrition for the inmates

Warranty obligations

Create institutional and material conditions for the full realization of the right to food, such as:

  • Commitment to Famine Famine
  • Commitment to ensuring the nutritional needs of people in state custody
  • Programmatic commitment to improve the general nutritional situation in situations of food shortage

Legitimate restrictions

The right to food may only be restricted if the general conditions for interference with fundamental and human rights are met:

Examples of Legitimate Restrictions

  • Rationing measures for basic foodstuffs to guarantee distributive justice in situations of general food shortage

Controversial issues

International case law (examples)

Online texts for deepening

  • The right to adequate food (Art. 11)
    General Comment No. 12 of the UN Committee on ESC Rights (English, French, pdf, 10 p.)
  • What is the Right to Food?
    Website of former UN Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler
  • Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food
    Documentation on FIAN Switzerland
  • The right to water
    General Comment No. 15 of the UN Committee on ESC Rights (English, pdf, 18 p.)
  • The right to food, part 1 (pdf, 32 pages)
    The right to food, part 2 (pdf, 31 pp.)
    Study by Walter Kälin and Jörg Künzli, in: Jusletter, Jan. 6 & Jan. 13, 2003
  • The right to adequate food - the most neglected human right
    Medicus Mundi Switzerland
  • The Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union and the Right to Food: Background and Demands (no longer available online)
    Association of Development Policy of German Non-Governmental Organizations (VENRO), 2012 (pdf, 16 pages)
  • Land grabbing and the human right to food
    Political-ethical analyzes and recommendations for action, ICEP working paper (pdf, 30 pages)

Human rights with related content

Sources for this article