Food Security: A Priority for the Inter American Social Protection Network

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1 Food Security: A Priority for the Inter American Social Protection Network The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS/GS), the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Latin America and the Caribbean Without Hunger Initiative collaborate to use the tools of the Inter American Social Protection Network to promote cooperation on social protection policies and programs that are adequate for food security. Context Social protection is a key element in combating hunger. A comprehensive social protection system makes it possible to safeguard more decent and adequate standards of living for the population, build up the autonomy and capabilities of citizens for their economic and social inclusion, and consolidate an institutional framework of guarantees to enforce the human right to adequate food, which is constrained in the region mainly as a result of social inequalities. In 2011, 52.5 million persons were suffering from hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for 9% of the total population. i Food prices and the persistence of their volatility are jeopardizing the progress achieved in food security, heightening the risk of increasing poverty levels and reducing the access of the most vulnerable sectors of the population to food. This situation provides the opportunity and need to implement long term production and redistribution policies for the permanent strengthening of food security, inclusive productive and local development, and the effective enforcement of the right to food in the Americas. The need for a rights based approach The right to food is a human right recognized by international law, enabling persons to have access to adequate food and the resources needed to achieve sustainable food security. ii Worldwide, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes, in Article 11, that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and, expressly, the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger. iii As for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it provides, in Article 25, that [e]veryone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food. iv Furthermore, reducing hunger and poverty is expressly included among the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. v In the Inter American System, the Charter of the Organization of Americans States vi provides that one of the basic goals to achieve the objectives of integral development is proper nutrition, especially through the acceleration of national efforts to increase the production and availability of food. Likewise, Article 13 of the Inter American Democratic Charter, unanimously adopted by OAS Member States, provides that [t]he promotion and observance of economic, social, and cultural rights are inherently linked to integral development, equitable economic growth, and to the consolidation of democracy in the states of the Hemisphere. vii The political priority assigned to food security is evident in the Declaration of Mar del Plata of the Fourth Summit of the Americas, where the Heads of State and Government reasserted their commitment to fight poverty, inequality, hunger, and social exclusion in order to raise the standard of living of our peoples and strengthen democratic governance in the Americas. viii

2 - 2 - Implementation of policies and programs with a rights based approach strengthens the efficiency and effectiveness of public interventions. The principles of equality and nondiscrimination, transparence and information, participation and accountability promote institutional capacity building for social management and optimize the performance of public spending. A rights based approach strengthens the quality of democratic regimes and the vision of the State as a guarantor of rights beyond a welfare and patronage based perspective. There is a practical link between food and nutritional security and a rights based approach. Only to the extent that national food security and social protection strategies achieve higher levels of progressivity, adaptability, integrality and standards that are clear in terms of access and quality, will it be possible to achieve relevant and sustainable results over time. Food security and poverty: a two way causal relationship Achievement of sustainable food security is essential to enforce the right to adequate food. Today the notion of food security cannot be construed simply as an effect depending on whether the market is performing well or poorly, production or supply. Food insecurity levels are a direct consequence of the poverty and inequality structurally affecting most of the continent of the Americas, which is being replicated within territories and between generations along with poverty. The causal relationship between poverty and food insecurity is widely recognized and accepted. Nevertheless, there is also an inverse causal relationship, because poverty levels in a society are largely determined by the food security levels the population is exposed to. Food insecurity adversely affects poverty levels as a result of the following: 1. It undermines the ability of persons to develop physically and mentally, delaying the growth of children, reducing their cognitive capacities and academic performance, which in turn impairs the effectiveness of long term investment in education. 2. Severe damage to health, increasing rates of disease, premature death and the deterioration of human and productive capital of the population. 3. Rise in political and social instability, which determines over the long term the real capacity of a society to reduce poverty. To contribute to enforcing the right to adequate food interdependently with other social rights, it is necessary to implement comprehensive social protection systems in a coordinated fashion with broad policies to promote skills and local development, in addition to strengthening agri food markets and promoting economic and social inclusion on the basis of a socially sustainable development approach. Toward a social protection strategy in the framework of food security To implement an adequate social protection strategy to achieve food security, nationwide agreements have to be reached to draw up policies and programs that promote access to adequate food on a permanent basis. Moreover, it is also necessary to implement medium and long term plans to foster agri food markets that are more equitable, efficient and transparent, as well as social and economic inclusion policies, and comprehensive local development strategies. The major components of this strategy are as follows:

3 - 3 - i. Intersectoral approach: Hunger is a multi dimensional problem and its elimination necessarily involves wide ranging interventions and increasing efforts for intersectoral coordination between social, production and local development policies. To do this, national strategies have to be drawn up to adequately link the development of comprehensive social protection systems relevant for the various groups of the population and the needs of the life cycle to interventions aimed at inclusive economic and social development. To this end, an adequate social protection strategy for food and nutritional security requires active inter agency coordination among the various sectors and levels of government. ii. Direct assistance programs using cash transfers: For a large part of the poorest population it is not always possible to have access to the income needed to ensure a decent, adequate standard of living, a situation that is heightened by the high levels of informality, inequality, and volatility prevailing in a large part of the continent. As long as they are drawn up on the basis of a rights based approach, direct assistance programs contribute effectively to strengthening food security. Among these programs, cash transfer programs (both conditional and unconditional ix ) and food programs (direct transfer in kind) can become key intervention initiatives to build up access to food for the most vulnerable population. In this regard, it is important to highlight the positive impacts of conditional cash transfer programs on building human capital among their beneficiaries, on the creation of state capabilities for social policy management, and on household investments in production and sustenance activities that boost local economies. School meal programs can also exert a substantial impact on the biological, psychological and social development of children when they are implemented using an integrative approach. iii. Instruments to protect and foster rural development and family farming: Containing food insecurity by building up access to food must be supplemented by economic and social inclusion policies and programs for the most vulnerable sectors of rural areas, which are a key part of the agrifood production process and regional culture. Because of this, measures must be implemented to broaden access to basic production assets (water, land, work, inputs), in addition to technology transfer systems to increase productivity and resilience to climate change. Socioeconomic inclusion of small producers also requires funding and risk management programs, highlighting the importance of the network of agencies for their funding and access to insurance instruments, guarantee funds, and new structures for transferring risks. The sustainability of family farming requires access to markets that are more equitable, transparent and efficient, which could lead to the use of public instruments for its inclusion on the market and the boosting of local economies. iv. Labor market regulation: An inclusive social protection system has three components: x noncontributory social protection (or social welfare), contributory social protection (social security), and labor market regulation, understood as the set of regulations and standards aimed at protecting decent labor. From this standpoint, the policies and programs geared to strengthening access to food and social and economic inclusion in rural areas shall not achieve expected results unless there are adequate labor laws and unless labor market institutions are strengthened. To this end, progress must be made in integrating farm and non farm employment into the formal sector, along with strengthening compliance with labor laws and access to social security. It is especially urgent to review labor laws applicable to the farming and livestock sector, whose workers are affected by the fluctuations of seasonal employment and job instability in terms of the source of

4 - 4 - their income earnings. Progress must especially be made in conducting the reviews to implement the minimum wage for rural labor. Linking social protection strategies to macroeconomic strategies Efforts to achieve permanent food security by using social protection and promotion strategies shall be neither sustainable nor effective unless there is a close linkage between macroeconomic policies and domestic interventions. First, rules and mechanisms to coordinate between national States must be strengthened, taking advantage of their leading role in the world agri food market using new governance mechanisms and promoting intra regional trade, trade integration, and the transparency of food markets with public support. Second, efforts must be made to bridge the divides between family farming sectors and agribusiness, as well as between the various national production territorial zones. To achieve this, broad based national agreements and public policies are required, supported by the private sector and civil society to increase productive investment, agricultural health, and food safety. Finally, it is evident that there is a need to expand fiscal opportunities to implement comprehensive social protection systems. The combination of economic growth and cash transfer as an exclusive strategy to overcome poverty and inequality has begun to show its constraints, because it is based on an insufficient and inequitable tax structure, where indirect taxes and income tax reduction prevail. From the standpoint of social development, this situation is not sustainable, because it clashes with societies that are calling for their States to play a more proactive role; States, however, in practice, are prevented from tackling new social challenges unless new social and fiscal agreements are reached to support their actions. Networks role in disseminating knowledge, practices and experiences in social protection The Inter American Social Protection Network (IASPN) provides a forum to articulate and facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge about social protection among national ministries and agencies in charge of social and productive development, in collaboration with international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and the academic community. In this framework, OAS/GS and FAO are promoting intersectoral coordination and institutional capacity building to consolidate food security in the Americas. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean Ave. Dag Hammarskjöld 3241 Vitacura, Santiago de Chile Phone: (56 2) Fax: (56 2) rlc OAS General Secretariat Executive Secretariat for Integral Development 1889 F St. N.W. Washington, D.C Phone: (202) Fax: (201) i United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Panorama de la Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional en América Latina y el Caribe

5 - 5 - ii United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) The Right to Adequate Food. Factsheet No iii United Nations, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). iv United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights. v United Nations, Millennium Declaration. vi Organization of American States, Charter of the Organization of American States. 41_Carta_de_la_Organizacion_de_los_Estados_Americanos.htm vii Organization of American States, Inter American Democratic Charter. viii Organization of American State, Fourth Summit of the Americas, Declaration of Mar del Plata. ix For further in depth review of conditional cash transfer programs and their examination from a rights based approach, please consult the Workshop of Experts on Conditional Cash Transfer Programs using a Rights based Approach ( and the Sixth International Seminar on Conditional Cash Transfer Programs ( held in March and September 2011 in the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. x Cecchini, S. and Martínez, R Inclusive Social Protection in Latin America: A Comprehensive, Rights based Approach, ECLAC.

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