The issue of World Hunger

By 2050, the world's population is projected to increase from its current level of 7 billion people to over 9 billion, and the largest obstacle to food security is that current predictions for agricultural output make it highly improbable that the population will be adequately fed (De Schutter, 2014). While decreasing the certainty of food projections in some parts of the world, climate change also sheds light on how crucial it is to keep track of food security across different countries. With so many people dying from malnutrition and other hunger-related diseases, world hunger has emerged as a serious moral, practical, and political challenge. What the world is doing about it, though, is what should most worry us. Relief to hunger is usually provided in the form of an aid either by humanitarian campaigns or by the government. However provision of food that is either cheap or free to the citizens has adverse effects in the long run. One of the challenges that the cheap food presents is that the system forces the farmers to reduce their selling prices to match the market subsidized costs thereby limiting their income. This leads to unsustainable agriculture and at the end pushes the farmers to become part of the poor (Riches, 1997).


The UN was formed as one of the strategies that were primarily aimed at resolving the depressions caused by ultranationalism. Hence the UN came up with new organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to facilitate nations’ recovery from such calamities. These international organizations have made great strides in responding to humanitarian emergencies (De Schutter, 2014).

Various nations respond differently when it comes to humanitarian issues all over the world anda nation might opt to choose;


In such cases a country might decide to not engage in any international social or economic affairs. Japan for a long time remained in the isolation state with discouragements on trade and foreigners until 1854. On the other hand, Switzerland chooses what international affairs to be engaged in and in most cases refuses to be affiliated to any form of dispute alliances.


In this scenario a country may decide to participate in offering food relief to hunger stricken regions out of their free will.


In such a case two nations may be motivated by an agreement on a similar need or issue hence choose to work together towards resolving the hunger issue.


This scenario involves lots of nations coming together for a common goal. World Trade Organization and United Nations are multilateral.


In supranationalism there is an agreement reached by representatives from member nations or choosing of independently appointed candidates to draft decisions that the rest of the member nations will have to abide by i.e. European Union. In order for this approach to work the member nations must be willing to relinquish some control of their private affairs and adhere to the developed common policies.

The issues raised on world hunger from a moral point of view make the topic more perplexing with lots of groups being influenced with the humanitarian impulse of wanting to relieve the suffering of starving people. Considering that over 60% of the world’s populations reside in comparatively poor nations and are desperately poor, it should not be concluded non-reflectively on the obligation of the rich in helping the poor. Lifeboat Ethics by Garret Hardin raises interesting arguments on programs like the World Food Bank that has policies of sharing food with the commons as a decision that is disastrous to the inhabitants of the rich and the poor suffering in the sea of hunger. The sharing of resources could lead to overloading of the environment and these could lead to severe demands in the long run thereby increasing hunger severity instead of reducing the hunger (Narveson, 2014). Such consequentialist concerns seek to establish if the food relief programs will be really doing well or harm not just in the very moment but also in the long run. Reinventing the current food security practices requires the adoption of a multidisciplinary approach that involves farmers, ecologists, social scientists, agronomists, biologists and most importantly policy makers.

Jan Narveson differentiates justice and charity where he argues that a country cannot be morally forced to be charitable (Narveson, 2014). Thus, it is critical to first establish if feeding the hungry is a justice requirement or charity. In this case a majority of hunger cases are third world nations thereby seeing to the needs of a stranger is considered as a matter of charity. The choice on voluntary giving are morally permissible and the responsibility comes to a question if giving without forgoing the primary obligations of a country providing for their citizens adequately. Therefore there should be no policy that forces nations to give maximizes utility. The Utilitarian’s don’t feed the hungry argument reasons that if the hungry are fed they will reproduce to create the next generation that is unsustainable and eventually there won’t be reserves to save the people thereby causing even more starvation by feeding hungry people.

Traditionally the governments had obligations on the human rights however the increasing international consensus that even entities that are non-governmental have responsibilities in regards to the human rights. Different obligation standards are held to countries that have signed the international instruments but not ratified it. In cases where an international law is widely adopted and accepted and it has customary international laws then all the countries are required to abide by the law despite their ratification status (Riches, 1999).

Canada in 1976 ratified the international covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and this requires the recognition of food as a basic human need and right that is protected by the international laws thereby creating an obligation to the government of Canada to respect, protect and fulfill. Canada change the arguments on the right of food by reframing the ratified international laws as the public policy and owing of their obligations on food security to the federal and provincial governments. The right to food is largely influenced by political will however as much there will always be charitable responses on food it should be noted that charitable responses are not sustainable, effective or a principled substitute for guarantees in human rights. Ratification of international human rights starts with the obligation of a country to report periodically on the progress of the countries on the treaties. United Nations can only respond with recommendations to Canada although these may not be legally binding although can embarrass politically. The residents of Canada are in no position to complain to United Nations on food insecurity unless they can place food insecurity under convention and this is because Canada has not signed any Optical Protocol to the Convention on civil and political rights. The Canadian government has openly mentioned that the Charter as interpreted by their supreme court doesn’t cover the internationally recognized law on economic, social and cultural rights. The Supreme Court in Canada has stated that the Charter rights should be consistently interpreted with the international human rights social, economic and cultural obligations of Canada. The United Nation has argued that in most cases the governments in Canada (federal and provincial) term the social and economic rights protected by the charter as policy objectives that are not subject to judicial remedies i.e. in the case of Baker v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 SCR 817).

There have been mixed feelings about the assertion of social, economic and cultural rights i.e. by referring to the case presented to the Supreme Court of Canada of Gosselin v Quebec (Attorney General) which tried to resolve the issue of preferential welfare benefits to the people who were under 30 years of age and in Gosselin argued that the social assistance scheme by Quebec was in violation of the Charter sections 7 and 15(1). However a majority of the Supreme Court still held that the Charter rights of Gosselin were not violated (Dixon, 2009). The current provisions on exercising of protected political and civil rights are inadequate as the Canadians require the protection of their food security amongst other rights covered in the international economic, social and cultural rights. Canada has a lot of people facing food insecurity issue and yet there are limited legal provisions that advocate for the right to food.

The primary sources of food insecurity is poverty (unemployment, inadequate welfare, low income) besides national calamities and yet governments create an environment that allows for the policies to allow multinational corporations to create lots of wealth and at the same time end up perpetuating poverty, hunger and food insecurity issues. Food security can only be said to exist when all individuals at all times have the economic and physical accessibility to nutritious, safe and sufficient food to enable them to meet their preferences and dietary needs in order for them to lead a healthy and active lifestyle (Narveson, 2014).


De Schutter, O. (2014). UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Report on agroecology and the right to food.

Dixon, R. (2009). The Supreme Court of Canada, Charter Dialogue and Deference.

Narveson, J. (2014). Feeding the Hungry. The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, 231-244.

Riches, G. (1997). Hunger in Canada: Abandoning the right to food. In First World Hunger (pp. 46-77). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Riches, G. (1999). Advancing the human right to food in Canada: Social policy and the politics of hunger, welfare, and food security. Agriculture and Human Values, 16(2), 203-211.

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