Responsible governance of land tenure:an essential factor for the realization of the right to food

Working Paper
[Land Tenure Working Paper 15]

The right to food is one of the central human rights indispensable for an individual to
enjoy a life in dignity. It is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in
community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or
means for its procurement.1 In addition to being a fundamental and inalienable right,
access to adequate food is a current day priority of the Millennium Development Goals.
At the national level, the welfare and rights of individuals constitute an objective of the
state itself and the purpose for which state bodies have been created. Guaranteeing the
right to food requires coherent public policies through institutions established to secure
the right at a national level. It largely depends on whether sectoral policies create the
conditions necessary to make it a reality and on the fact that it must be understood as
indivisible and interrelated2 with other human rights. Among the most important areas in
this respect are: natural resources management, trade policy, investment in agriculture,
infrastructure and local markets, national social security, educational and public service
systems. The multidimensional nature of the right to food requires implementation with a
broad perspective that takes into account all policy areas that bear on access to food.
The present document emphasizes the right to food as a primary objective of the set of
public policies concerned with economic and social development. Achieving this
objective depends on responsible governance of land and other natural resources. The
importance of land lies in the fact that it often represents a direct link with cultural
identity, while serving as the primary source of food production and sustenance. Given
that land tenure and administration systems determine who and under what conditions can
exercise property and usage rights of such a valuable resource, it is fundamental to
analyse the relevance of land tenure in light of its effect on the realization of the right to
food. After setting forth the links between access to land and the right to food, the
analysis proceeds to a more detailed look at the significance and implications of these
links in legal terms. The third section of the document focuses on issues concerning
national implementation; it sets forth examples in a variety of countries pointing out
challenges and opportunities encountered in a human rights-based approach to land tenure
policy for the realization of the right to food.

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Date and language
May 2010
Other information
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