Why are over one billion people hungry in a world in which increases in agricultural production have consistently outstripped demographic growth? The objective of the seminar is to understand how governments have sought to combat hunger and malnutrition; why they have so dramatically failed ; and how law and governance are relevant to what can be done about this. The seminar shall build on the issues addressed in the mandate of the lecturer as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and it will be closely connected to contemporary discussions at international level (see www.srfood.org). We will discuss a range of topics linked in particular to the impacts of globalization on the right to food, including international trade, investment in agriculture, the role of transnational corporations in the agrifood sector, and intellectual property rights in agriculture; we will also address the threat of climate change to food security and the debate on the shift to sustainable agriculture ; as well as the role of institutional mechanisms aimed at protecting the right to adequate food and the recent reform of global governance of food security. While the focus will be on hunger and undernourishment in developing countries, the seminar will also address the impacts on the South of policies in the North (in the areas of agriculture, intellectual property rights, trade and investment, and food aid).
The seminar shall be of interest to students working on the links between law and development and on the challenge posed to governance by economic globalization; it can also be seen as a case study on the challenges facing the implementation of a particular human right, the right to adequate food ; finally, it will provide an entry point into the United Nations system and into the relationships between the United Nations agencies and other organizations such as the World Trade Organization or the international financial institutions. Many of the topics addressed are highly politicized and polemical. The seminar will serve to confront diverse viewpoints, and it will seek to provide the students with the tools he or she needs to form his or her own opinion. Although the approach combines law and economics, as the aim of the seminar is to understand the legal and institutional factors in the political economy of food systems, no background in economics is required, and none of the readings suggested use formalized language.
The seminar will be organized in order to combine a genealogical approach (asking where hunger comes from, beginning in the postcolonial era of the 1960s) with an analytical approach (decomposing the food system from producer to end consumer through commodity buyers, food processors and retailers, and examining the role of institutions and governance in combating hunger and malnutrition). A number of external guests will be invited to contribute to the seminar to discuss emerging issues and the current policy agenda.
The students will be evaluated on the basis of their participation in the class on the basis of prepared readings and questions to be prepared in advance of the seminar, on a rotating basis (2-3 students per seminar).