Arbour: Include marginalized groups in efforts to solve food crisis

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From: HREA – Human Rights Education Associates and its Newsletter.

UNITED NATIONS Press release, 1 May 2008.

GENEVA – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today joined the Secretary-General in urging the international community to respond promptly and effectively to the crisis generated by the rapid growth in food prices around the world.

“As the Secretary-General has stressed, the first priority must be to feed the hungry”, said the High Commissioner, adding that while this is a response of a fundamentally humanitarian character, it should nevertheless be understood not as an act of charity, but a matter of obligation. As such, non-discriminatory distribution of food, and proper assessments of communities’ needs in this context are crucial.

“More fundamentally, and for the more medium and longer term, the underlying inequalities and inabilities to access food must be addressed by a comprehensive solution”, said the High Commissioner. “When we focus on those most in need, we must include not only the poorest but also those that are particularly vulnerable to discrimination on any other grounds, including gender, ethnicity, or disability.” Arbour stressed that addressing the plight of the socially excluded, and the causes of any such discrimination, will be essential to resolving the current crisis. In this effort, all voices must be heard, whether directly or through representative organizations.

The High Commissioner added that food-related social unrest could also result in other human rights risks – to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – which must also be addressed.

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