Leiden Journal of International Law


The Right to Food and the International Economic System: An Assessment of the Rights-Based Approach to the Problem of World Hunger


Article author query
mowbray j   [Google Scholar] 


This article considers the effectiveness of rights-based approaches to the problem of world hunger. Given that inadequate food supply may be the result of complex, structural problems outside the control of particular staes and authorities, can advocacy based on the right to food significantly improve world food security? To answer this question, this article considers one particular structural factor which contributes to world hunger, namely the operation of the international economic system. It concludes that, at both a theoretical and a practical level, human rights discourse is ill-suited to achieve the fundamental structural change to this system necessary t improve food security. This represents a significant limitation on the effectiveness of the right to food. As a result, an alternative legal approach is suggested, namely using a legal principle of ‘food sovereignty’ to ensure that the international system as a whole operates to support the food needs of its population.

Key Words: food security; food sovereignty; human rights discourse; international economic system; international trade law; right to food.


1 Ph.D. candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge. I am grateful to Susan Marks for her valuable comments on earlier versions of this article. My thanks also to Katie Young and to the Leiden Journal's anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.