Public Health Reviews   |  June 9, 2017

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Food and nutrition insecurity continues to pose a serious global challenge, reflecting government shortcomings in meeting international obligations to ensure the availability, accessibility, and quality of food and to ensure the highest attainable standard of health of their peoples. With global drivers like climate change, urbanization, greater armed conflict, and the globalization of unhealthy diet, particularly in under-resourced countries, food insecurity is rapidly becoming an even greater challenge for those living in poverty. International human rights law can serve a critical role in guiding governments that are struggling to protect the health of their populations, particularly among the most susceptible groups, in responding to food and nutrition insecurity. This article explores and advocates for a human rights approach to food and nutrition security, specifically identifying legal mechanisms to “domesticate” relevant international human rights standards through national policy. Recognizing nutrition security as a determinant of public health, this article recognizes the important links between the four main elements of food security (i.e., availability, stability, utilization, and access) and the normative attributes of the right to health and the right to food (i.e., availability, accessibility, affordability, and quality). In drawing from the evolution of international human rights instruments, official documents issued by international human rights treaty bodies, as well as past scholarship at the intersection of the right to health and right to food, this article interprets and articulates the intersectional rights-based obligations of national governments in the face of food and nutrition insecurity.

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