Graham Frederick Dumas
Right to Food, Economic and Social Rights, Climate Change, Human Rights and Climate Change
This paper discusses the use of human rights, specifically the right to food, as tools for political leverage to encourage states to act on climate change. The right to food is especially appropriate because of the direct impacts it suffers from climate change; as the climate shifts, much scientific research suggests that food production will incur certain deleterious effects. Yet, as the example of India shows, the right to food has been difficult to adjudicate in the past. Indeed, despite favorable caselaw from India’s Supreme Court, and despite an intensive Court-run program designed to force Indian states to distribute food according to the welfare schemes in place, little progress has been made. This is due in part to the unwillingness or inability of the political branches of government to ensure food security to certain segments of the population. At the same time, Brazil has shown a marked improvement in the implementation of the right to food; it has done so well, in fact, that the FAO has held up Brazil as a model for other states. Much of Brazil’s success on the right to food comes from the fact that the program is almost entirely political, rather than judicial. Indeed, buy-in from the political branches of government is arguably the essential component of a successful program to ensure less-justiciable rights like the right to food. For that reason, I suggest that the connection between climate change and the right to food be used by domestic and international activists to increase political pressure on the governments of large, greenhouse-gas-producing states, in an effort to make some of the costs of inaction visible to politicians through the ballot box and the media. Such campaigns are not perfect, and they should not be used to the exclusion of court-focused activism; they should, however, be the backbone of a comprehensive assault on the political status quo regarding climate change.
(2010) 43 New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 107.