A Narrowly Focused Thought

Focused thoughtFood for a narrowly focused thought
Human Rights Reader 418
By Claudio Schuftan

IN A WORLD DOMINATED BY MARKETS, WHERE RESOURCES FLOW TOWARD POWER INSTEAD OF NEED, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF WE REALLY CARED MORE ABOUT HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION FROM A RIGHT TO NUTRITION PERSPECTIVE? (Brooke Aksnes)

The current malnutrition problem around the world is not its double burden, but its multiple burdens.

By narrowly focusing on the greater appeal of reducing hunger what do we risk?

For the hungry, there is no such thing as just a hard and dry loaf of bread. (Maria Duenias)

By narrowly focusing on hunger, we risk solely or chiefly focusing on increasing dietary energy supply/consumption. But, beware, this will not adequately address the more complex challenges that fulfilling the right to nutrition brings about. To live up to these challenges cannot be made to mean following a number of silver-bullet interventions to achieve them. Why? Because any list of selected interventions risks being reduced to a simplistic shopping list from which one can choose according to ad-hoc preferences. So, how can it be assured that the human rights (HR) principles and standards are woven into the right to nutrition? For this, we need to start a true transformative process in order to de-block some of the block-ins that obstruct change in our system and that have been allowed to grow over the past 50 years.(i) Take the high level UN panels set up to deal with the topic: they have separated the political issues from the technical ones in an effort to build a purported ‘common and shared understanding’ –but where is this leading us to?.(ii) (Biraj Partnaik)

Read moreA Narrowly Focused Thought

Privilege or Participation

Privilege or ParticipationAlthough the World Health Organization (WHO) has failed over the last 70 years at its charter mission to realise the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standards of health, it has succeeded in assuring that the WHO itself enjoys the highest attainable standards of privilege, well hidden from public view by its lack of transparency. A recent article in the Washington Post (see below) revealed that the annual travel budget of the WHO was in excess of $200 million each year, more than the total amount they spend on HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The WHO is mandated to serve first and foremost those that are the most vulnerable, the billions of poor or marginalised, and people struggling to survive life-threatening diseases or life-changing disabilities. Instead, it seems to first make sure that it serves its own interest and those of the 193 governments (Member States) that have complete control over the governance of the WHO. As the oversight of the WHO is in the hands of these Member States, including hundreds of governments with long histories of high-level corruption, a culture of  institutional impunity is allowed to go unchecked, while transparency is limited. Five star hotels and first class travel are just some of the many privileges and perks provided to long term staff, as well as substantial tax-free salaries. Meetings are held in luxury settings around the world, with a mix of the international and national elite in attendance to declare that these important gatherings are essential to improve the health and well-being of the world.

Those that the WHO should prioritise, the people most affect by health inequities and most in need of their right to health, are excluded from participating in the governance of the WHO. Their community organisations also have no say in how the WHO manages its programmes or spends its funds, which mostly come from governments through taxation of the public. As seen at other UN entities such as UNAIDS, the inclusion of representatives from these most affected communities ‘at the table’ contributes to increasing the accountability of the institution. Without the participation of the most affected communities, it’s almost impossible to fully monitor programmes or ‘follow the money’ to see what the WHO is doing on the ground, or in the air.

Read morePrivilege or Participation