Absence of framework law impeding attainment of right to food

Malawi has a wide range of well-formulated,  well-intended policies and strategies but it has no overarching framework law to articulate rights and obligations to create an environment to facilitate the attainment of the Right to Food.

Christian Balslev-Olesen

Christian Balslev-Olesen

Wilfred Lipita

Wilfred Lipita

Tamani Nkhono-Mvula

Tamani Nkhono-Mvula

Conference delegates in a group photo

Conference delegates in a group photo

The absence of the overarching framework law is singled out as challenge towards the implementation of the Right to Food to offer protection to all citizens to have access to safe and nutritious food.

This came to light at a national dialogue conference organised by the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) in collaboration with Danchurchaid, ActionAid Malawi, CADECOM and Oxfam. The conference was held on Thursday under the theme: Towards Food Security for All at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe.

CISANET National Director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula while closing the one-day conference said the objective of the conference to arouse national and stakeholders interest in the Right to Food and develop a road map for institutionalising the Right to Food in Malawi has been achieved.

Regional representative of Danchurchaid Malawi Christian Balslev-Olesen noted that it was pleasing that civil society organisations have come together in solidarity to a common cause, to improve the life of the poor vulnerable households especially in rural areas to ensure that such families are supported to achieve their right to food.

“You are aware of the fact that the challenge of food security and right to food for the majority has been a major issue economically as well as politically. I might also add, socially. We have seen statistics almost yearly that indicate that a significant segment of the population living below US$1.00/ day, and many of these face food deficit in the lean months of the year from October to March with no immediate alternative livelihoods.

“A critical look at the underlying causes of the situation reveals a variety of structural barriers which discourages or impinges on accelerated achievement of food security and right to food for the majority of the population. These include access to adequate land, lack of productive resources, lack of meaningful employment, lack of reliable markets, and skewed policies, just to mention a few,” said Balslev-Olesen.

Balslev-Olesen added the attainment of food security and the right to food is a challenge in the absence of an overarching framework law that can articulate each party’s rights and obligations to create an environment that operates on systems that would be respected by all to facilitate the attainment of everyone’s right to food.

“However as observed in Malawi, there is still a lot that needs to be done, and to be done quickly, in order to make food security and the right to food a sustainable reality in Malawi,” said Balslev-Olesen.

“We believe one of the ways that this can be achieved is for Malawi to have a consistent strategy on implementation of right to food, because so far, Malawi has tried to implement many of the issues contained in voluntary guidelines to realisation of the right to food.

“But these have not been able to achieve the intended goal because they have been done without an overarching legal framework for proper implementation and accountability,” he said.

Controller of Agricultural Extension and Technical Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Dr Wilfred Lipita said Government is aware of the visit by UN Rapporteur on Right to Food in July, 2013 and the recommendation for government to establish a framework law on the Right to Food.

“This proposal was made with a view to ensure intersectoral coordination, transparency, accountability and inclusiveness, involving all players concerned with food security. The Government is also aware of the draft bill that CSOs drafted on the Right to Food and I should point out here that the bill has not been officially received by the Ministry for its views on the contents of the document. We hope that in due course the Ministry will be provided with a copy of the bill,” said Lipita.

He added: “It should be pointed out that there is currently little understanding of the concept of right to food as to under what circumstance does the access to and provision of food becomes the sole responsibility of Government as a duty bearer? What should be the role of the citizens in ensuring that this right is achieved? We therefore appreciate for such stakeholder engagements as these. We believe that such meetings will raise the understanding of the Right to Food and therefore properly advise the Government on what needs to be done.”

Lipita stated that Government will be keen to receive a report from the outcomes of the dialogue noting that the conference will provide some direction as to how the institutionalize the Right to Food in Malawi can be achieved.

Dr Henry Chingaipe, a CISANET consultant presented on the Right to Food in Malawi, National Context and Policy Gaps. In his presentation, Chingaipe said Government has in the last ten years seriously attempted to implement and deliver on five of the seven guidelines or outcomes on the Right to Food.

But he was quick to point out that Malawi has not yet set monitorable benchmarks in relation to the right to adequate food.

“This is the case because of the absence of a comprehensive law framework for the right. Consequently, the Malawi Vulnerability Committee (MVAC) and Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net) monitor food insecurity and vulnerability,” he said.

Others that made presentations include Neal Gilmore, Senior Human Rights Adviser to the UN. He presented on the Global Context of the Right to Food and UN Rapporteur’s report in Malawi.

Billy Mayaya and Victor Mughogho presented on the Right to Food Bill and Progress, Opportunities & Challenges, while Harry Migochi presented on the Role of Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on the realisation of the Right to Food.

The Special Rapporteur to Malawi on right to food, among others, recommends that the Government establishes a framework law on the Right to Food, with a view to ensuring inters- sectorial coordination, transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness, involving non-governmental stakeholders in policy-making.

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7 thoughts on “Absence of framework law impeding attainment of right to food”

  1. Moyenda says:

    Finally, we have started to talk about the “right to food and adequate nutrition”. FAO already developed Voluntary Guidelines for the Progressive Realization of the Human Right to Food, which Malawi promptly signed 19 years ago. That is the starting point. Since then, Malawi has been a part of several workshops and conferences. But when the workshop participants returned home, they chose to keep quiet. Most so-called human right defenders chose to talk about other “sexy” human rights – like political freedoms and what else you know. So I am very very happy indeed for my country. CISANET must lead, rather than just following money.

  2. Moyenda says:

    Finally, we have started to talk about the “right to food and adequate nutrition”. I am so happy. I believe my old friends, Wenche and (was it Bad?), at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights will also be happy. Since 10 December 1997, the voices of CISANET was muted and the people that claim to be human right defenders chose to talk about other “sexy” human rights – like political freedoms and what else you know. So I am very very happy indeed for my country.

  3. Black Market says:

    Are you telling me that anyone without food in his house will go to the neighbour and snatch any food he sees there without being sued? Is that you are calling Right to Food? Why do we keep on wasting money on useless workshops and create blank and never-used documents when the needful is clear on the wall?

    Are you telling that it is because of the legal framework gap that is making us poor and hungry every year? Are we serious? You need to come on TV and face these questions head-on and clarify what you are saying for the whole nation to understand you otherwise to our shallow understanding it is zero pa 10.

    Under Bingu, we had a period of plenty food, did we have legal framework that time?

  4. Makito says:

    Maybe I am old fashioned, I just see repackaging of the same issues . What will the law achieve? Those who go hungry will sue the government? The money you have just use it to support the smallholder farmers, rather than wasting on a law that will have no implementation modalities.

  5. Watu says:

    This is garbage I repeatedly hear, legal framework. What is magic of legal framework? What have we benefited from legal frameworks? Nothing of course. Better worst resources on socialization rather than proven useless legal framework tactics. Policy is not practice. Malawi has more legal frameworks that are just absorbing dusty or selective implemented for selfish ends. Then why continuing add more useless and lifeless documents. Moreover, right to food cannot be monitored or enforced exclusively. Right to food is one of the second generation of human rights, economic and social rights. These rights cannot be enforced effectively owing to the concept of progressive realization. The duty bearers are merely obliged to show efforts towards realization of the rights nothing more. This entails that realization of the rights heavily rely on rights holders. Socialization is the antidote not legal framework. Increased public awareness campaigns is the way. More resources should be channelled towards activities that promote human rights culture and responsive government, abandon the paper tiger. Needless to say, Malawi has adequate legal frameworks to address human rights and responsive government issues. Human rights commission and Ombudsman offices are capable of doing the work provided they are adequately strengthened. In short, there is no absence of legal framework. All that is needed is norm structure that reasonably meshes well with human rights culture and some little strengthening of existing democratic accountability institutions.

    1. Elizabeth says:

      I am kind of disappointed type of attitude to say the least. I am even not surprised now, why Malawi is not making progress in achieving food security because we are very comfortable in the status quo. The Framework Law is supposed to institutionalize systems that will regulate Right to Food (RtF) implementation and governance. Are you not surprised that for the past 50+ years, even though Malawi has tried to invest to implement RtF programmes, It still finds itself in the same situation year in year out? Progress cannot come if we keep on the same ways over and over again and expecting different results. This “business as usual” attitude will not get Malawi anywhere. You might change the ship’s captain but if the navigation map remains the same, we can be assured of heading towards the same pitfalls.
      The proposed framework law would create the opportunity for continuity of RtF programmes in a manner that protects all by changing administrations because they would be obligated by law. It would also ensure that all policies regarding RtF do not contradict but are well coordinated, which makes sense when you talk about development.

      1. Watu says:

        I don’t think there is any issue that can make one get angry or disappointed here. The point I am advancing here is that you can’t institutionalize a thing that does not exist. First thing first, let people embrace human rights culture (right to food including) and government be responsible and responsive first then institutionalization should later. The idea that institutions including policies work anywhere, once supplanted or imposed, is misleading. Precisely, that is western mentality and academically liberal institutionalism. Institutions are not magic bullets in all situations. Institutions work majestically and magically only in situations where assumptions behind their creations are evident. In the case under discussion here there are no conditions for effectiveness of the legal framework. Malawians have no human rights and accountability cultures. Bureaucrats are not statesmen. Politicians are pure power maximizers. These conditions constitute no good foundation for institutions thriving. Let us build the foundation first instead roofing. All in all I still insists that Malawi has adequate and underutilized legal frame works, and what we lacking are appropriate norms and values. Let us build value and norm structure, and maximize utilization of the institutions we have first and establish more institutions once the existing institutions are overwhelmed rather than more paper tigers.

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