Protection of Right to Food and Environment in Times of Armed Conflict
by Hilal Elver*
The following is the keynote address given by Hilal Elver to the Geneva Academy on June 8, 2022. Footnotes at end of article.
Internal and international armed conflicts are one of the major reasons for increased food insecurity and malnutrition. Despite well-established norms of international human rights law and international humanitarian law protecting the right to food, hunger and malnutrition, as well as famine has skyrocketed in last few years. There is a shocking failure in addressing criminal acts of deliberate starvation and other severe violations of a fundamental human right: the “right to food.” This non-compliance by States and other political actors as well as the reluctance to implement existing international norms to protect human rights and the environment in times of war is a critical failure of international community.
Most recently, the war in Ukraine has elevated catastrophic hunger and malnutrition levels to the top of the global agenda. The war has raised awareness of ongoing widespread hunger and malnutrition even beyond Ukraine, as the parties to the conflict are the major players of global agricultural trade.
Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights specifically recognizes “the fundamental right of everyone to be from hunger,” which further imposes an obligation on States to ensure “the satisfaction of, at the very least, the minimum essential level” of this right under all circumstances, including the times of war. Freedom from hunger is accepted as part of customary international law, rendering it binding for all states regardless of whether they are party to the Covenant. States cannot put aside or postpone the realization of this core component of the body of economic and social rights. According to their international legal obligations, States must continue to take deliberate and targeted steps using all appropriate means to fulfill these rights, even in times of conflict. Yet, 60% of the people suffering from hunger and malnutrition globally live in conflict-ridden places, mostly in the Middle East and Africa.Continue reading “ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN RIGHTS DURING ARMED CONFLICT: NORMATIVE AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK”