Dec. 10, 2010: "Human Rights Can Fix Our Broken Agricultural System," Advocates Argue

Publish Date: 
Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Human Rights Can Fix Our Broken Agricultural System," Advocates Argue

[10 December, 2010 | Bangkok/Brasilia/Buenos Aires/Cairo/Kampala/Kuala Lumpur/Lusaka/Mexico City/Manila/Nairobi/New York/Washington DC]

A group of human rights organizations from every region of the world came together today to release the Kuala Lumpur Guidelines for a Human Rights Approach to Economic Policy in Agriculture.  The Guidelines are a practical tool for use by people everywhere concerned with ensuring the primacy and centrality of human rights in economic policies related to agriculture.  The imperative for its release is underscored by an unparalleled convergence of food, energy, climate, financial, ecological and economic crises.

"On this Human Rights Day, we cannot forget the 1 billion among us living in hunger," said Anni Mitin of the Southeast Asian Council for Food Security (SEACON). "Simply producing more food will not solve the problem. We must place human rights at the center of the economic model that underpins agricultural production."

The "Kuala Lumpur Guidelines" apply the norms of international human rights law to economic law and policies affecting agriculture.

"Economic policy is public policy," said Jane Nalunga of Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI).  "Just as we scrutinize governments' immigration or foreign policies, we also must analyze economic policies through a human rights lens, especially in agriculture. The trade, investment, finance as well as fiscal and monetary policies of all governments need to be judged against  these fundamental standards for dignity."

All member states of the United Nations have legally committed themselves to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, including the promotion of respect for human rights. Their duties to respect, protect, and fulfill rights relating to food and nutrition have had to contend with new threats as agriculture has become more commercialized, monopolized, and concentrated.  Complicating matters more are the emergence of genetic crop modification, intellectual property concerns, agro-fuels, the widespread application of industrial chemicals and an alarming loss of the world's arable land to industrialization.

"The universal obligations of human rights provide the moral, legal and operational framework for creating new agricultural production models based on human dignity, equality, diversity and ecological sustainability.  The new KL Guidelines are a concrete tool for governments, advocacy organizations and the private sector to do just that," explained Sérgio Sauer, Brazilian National Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Land, Territory and Food.

For more information on the Kuala Lumpur Guidelines, visit here or download them directly here.

Para leer las Directrices en español, visite:

Para ler em português, visite:

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The Kuala Lumpur Guidelines were jointly elaborated by the following organizations: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development-Forum Asia (Thailand), Center of Concern (US), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales-CELS (Argentina), Desarrollo, Educación y Cultura Autogestionarios-DECA Equipo Pueblo (Mexico), International Gender and Trade Network, International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-ESCR-Net, Kenya Human Rights Commission (Kenya), Land Center for Human Rights (Egypt), Southeast Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade-SEACON (Malaysia), Southern & Eastern African Trade Information & Negotiations Institute-SEATINI (Uganda), Terra de Direitos (Brazil) and Women and Law in Southern Africa (Zambia). These Guidelines were developed as part of "Bridging Trade, Investment, Finance and Human Rights-A Pilot Project in Agriculture." For more information, please visit: