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By Elli Kontorravdis (Nourish Scotland)

This piece was published first by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)

The #rightapproach that goes to the heart of our society

At Nourish Scotland we’re supporting a human rights-based approach because food is about so much more than just calories.

The right to food goes to the very core of our culture, and we deserve to be able to eat with dignity and choice.

This right should help make sure we treat producers and the environment fairly.

The UK Government signed up to the broad body of socio-economic rights, which include the right to food, in 1976. But it has never done anything to turn these rights into a reality.

The Scottish Government has the legal power to incorporate and make progress on these rights. It has taken important steps on some elements, but it can and should do much more.

In the coming year we’ll be facilitating a number of right to food advocacy workshops

Our campaign is focused on structural reform to progress human rights. We’re asking for two keys things:

  • legislation to guarantee socio-economic rights, like the Human Rights Act did for civil and political rights.

  • legislation to take strategic action to make the right to food real.

  • The latter is particularly important if we are to bring coherence and independent oversight to the food system.

The current policy framework is extremely fragmented, being split across environment, climate change, agriculture, health, social justice, communities, procurement, waste and other decision-making portfolios.

The good news is that three of the biggest parties in the Scottish Parliament – the SNP, Scottish Labour, and the Scottish Greens – made manifesto promises to consider incorporating socio-economic rights, and to introduce a Food, Farming and Health Bill.

More good news is that, following our participation in the recent UN review of compliance with socio-economic rights, a UN Committee recommended that Scotland move forward on these issues.

The more awkward news is that the UK Government is unlikely to follow suit. It risks regressing on existing rights through the repeal and replacement of the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.

Nourish has been working on the right to food for over a year. We have had a lot of success, but it is important to keep asking ourselves if we are taking a rights-based approach.

We’re trying to. We know that a lot of our work has been targeted at the legal and policy level, and that we probably have not been as inclusive as we should have been.

We’ve now committed to putting the voices of people with lived experience first.

In the coming year we’ll be facilitating a number of right to food advocacy workshops, designed and delivered by people at the sharp end of food injustice, whether that be:

  • not having enough money to buy food

  • experiencing diet-related health inequalities

  • not being able to access land to grow food

  • facing unfair commercial pressure on production and sales

The right to food isn’t just about changing laws to respect and protect the right to food, it’s about empowering people experiencing injustice to advocate for the changes they know, better than anyone else, need to happen.

The only way human rights can ever be properly fulfilled is if people know two things: first that they have them, and second how they can be enforced.

Hear Elli talk more about how Nourish Scotland is working with people with direct experience in the battle against food insecurity and her trip to the United Nations in Geneva in this podcast