Government through the Department of Nutrition in liaison with civil society organisations has developed a framework law, the Food and Nutrition Bill, which seeks to effectively guarantee the right to adequate food and nutrition.
The Bill also is also providing for labelling and fortification of food; provision of nutrition in schools; the establishment of the National Nutrition Council and the Food and Nutrition Fund.
The draft Food and Nutrition Bill was presented at a national stakeholders meeting on Friday in Lilongwe by Dr Redson Kapindu, a consultant, as a further step in ensuring that a consultative approach, involving key stakeholders, is adopted in concluding the draft Bill.
The stakeholder meeting was supported by the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) which is implementing a Right to Food project in coordination with other civil society organizations notably ActionAid, Oxfam, Right to Food Network, Cadecom, and the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) with financial support from the Flanders Government through UNDP.
The development of the Bill is responding well to the Special Rapporteur Oliver De Schutter to Malawi on the right to food who among others, recommended that the Government establishes a framework law on the Right to Food, with a view to ensuring inter- sectorial coordination, transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness, involving non-governmental stakeholders in policy-making.
When enacted into law, every person will have the right to adequate food and nutrition which includes the right to freedom from hunger and food security.
The proposed law states that food must be available, adequate and of good quality; and that the quality of the food must be in line with the specific needs of specific categories of persons.
Vulnerable persons are specifically provided with guarantees in line with international standards on the right and the provision precisely prohibits discrimination.
The proposed law has placed obligations on the State with regard to the right to food, consistent with Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The CESCR is the UN body set up by the Economic and Social Council (one of the Principal Organs of the United Nations) to monitor and supervise the implementation of the ICESCR.
According to the Bill, “The State shall take steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of the right to adequate food, including freedom from hunger and adequate nutrition, by all appropriate means.”
The proposed law also explicitly obliges the Government to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to food.
The draft bill provides for the enforcement of the law whereby any person may bring an action in the court to prevent or stop any act, omission or other conduct which is deleterious or injurious to, or impairs the enjoyment of the right to adequate food and nutrition, or otherwise threatens the enjoyment of the right, or is likely to accelerate unsustainable depletion of food resources.
In his concluding remarks after presenting changes made to the previous Food and Nutrition Bill and Food Security Bill, Kapindu explained the bill has taken into consideration desirable international human rights standards, local Malawian circumstances and the pragmatism of what is likely to pass the political test of politicians.
“Ultimately, the goal has been to achieve a law that will effectively guarantee the right to adequate food and nutrition,” he said.
Director of Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS, Ministry of Health Felix Pensulo-Phiri asked stakeholders to the meeting to submit comments by Friday August 4.
He also informed stakeholders that the Department—in consultation with the civil society—plans to hold regional consensus meetings thereafter the Department will start the process to present the Bill to Parliament for enactment.