End of mandate of Olivier De Schutter as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food

date: 10 June 2014

Food

On May 30th, Olivier De Schutter finalized the second term of his mandate as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. He took up the position on May 1st, 2008, and was renewed for another three years in 2011. Special Rapporteurs can only be renewed once. He will be succeeded in the mandate by Prof. Hilal Elver, a Turkish academic based at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a specialist on environmental issues.

"These have been an extraordinary six years", O. De Schutter said as he finalized his mandate. "Very significant changes have taken place in our understanding of hunger and malnutrition, and of what to do about them. We now recognize that poor, food-deficit countries should be supported not by trade and aid alone, but first and foremost by supporting them in their ability to feed themselves. We also have gained a much better understanding of the links between agricultural policies, food, and health, and the question of nutrition or adequacy of diets is now at the top of the international agenda. There is broad acknowledgment too of the need to shift to more sustainable modes of production and consumption: topics such as agroecology and how to reduce waste have, finally, entered mainstream discussions.

"Much work remains to be done, of course. But there are promising signs that things are moving in the right direction. Small-scale food producers' organizations are more visible in decision-making than they ever were. Local initiatives and food policy councils are blossoming, creating the conditions for a 'transition from below' towards more sustainable food systems. As illustrated by the new Brazilian Food Guide -- which is far more lucid and promising than the traditional 'dietary guidelines' taught in schools --, we are paying greater attention not just to what we ingest, but also to how and when we eat, and we are recognizing that food is also about culture, pleasure, and conviviality. "

Olivier De Schutter also discussed the future. "In the next few years, I shall be looking forward to helping put the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) on track, building bridges between the scientific community and public and private decision-makers, in a permanent dialogue with civil society. Food systems are being fundamentally reformed, and alternatives are emerging to the mainstream food system: it is more important than ever that decisions are made on the basis of the best science available".