Monday, April 26, 2004

Perhaps you missed this little gem from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights last week.
In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.24) on the right to food, adopted as orally amended and by a roll-call vote of 51 in favour and 1 opposed, with 1 abstention, the Commission considered it intolerable that there were around 840 million undernourished people in the world and that every seven seconds a child under the age of 10 died, directly or indirectly, of hunger somewhere in the world when, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the world produced more than enough food to feed its entire population; stressed the need to make efforts to mobilize and optimize the allocation and utilization of technical and financial resources from all sources, including external debt relief for developing countries, to reinforce national actions to implement sustainable rood security policies; recognized that the promises made at the World Food Summit in 1996 to halve the number of malnourished persons were not being fulfilled; encouraged all States to take steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the right to food; and encouraged the Special Rapporteur on the right to food to continue mainstreaming a gender perspective in the fulfilment of his mandate.
OK, guess which country was the single vote against this resolution? Yah, you knew it would be.
The United States supported the progressive realization of the right to adequate food as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living. The attainment of that right was a goal to be realized progressively -- it did not give rise to international obligations or domestic legal entitlements.
When 840 million persons are malnourished around the world, exactly what you want is a slow-go strategy.

Indeed the US is usually the top global food donor -- but this is hardly out of the goodness of the heart of America. The history of PL 480 shows that the US gives food according to domestic levels of overproduction, not according to foreign need. In fact, the US often refuses to give money to starving people so that they can buy food from the most efficient source, favoring instead grants of grain direct from the silos of Cargill, ADM and the rest.

Too bad paying your taxes can't be the same kind of goal realized progressively without obligation. Oh, wait, I forgot -- for some it is!


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