The right to food in international law with case studies from The Netherlands and Belgium

Bart Wernaart, Bernd van der Meulen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In this chapter, the enforceability of the right to adequate food is discussed in the context of industrialized countries. The right to food as a human right can be considered the fundament of food law. Human rights in themselves occupy a special position in the field of law. On the one hand they encompass rights of a high moral value which goes beyond the boundaries of a State or the consent of a State to be bound by it. On the other hand, human right agreements are put in the form of international treaties, whose effect is greatly depending on the willingness of its member States to act in compliance with their commitments. Therefore, enforcing an international human right in a domestic court, such as the right to adequate food, is not per se a matter of course. Two issues appear to be highly influential in determining whether an international human right can be effectively invoked in a domestic court. The first is the alleged difference between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand. Traditionally, it is assumed that the first type of rights require govern- ment abstaining and are therefore enforceable. The latter type implies government action and are not enforceable due to a margin of discretion the national govern- ments enjoy in implementing these rights. However, there are sound arguments to oppose this traditional approach in human rights typology. These arguments are frequently pointed out in the context of the United Nation's specialized institutions as well as in literature. The second issue is the working of the domestic constitution that usually regulates the effect of international law in the domestic legal order. A case study of two industrialized countries who are favorable to human rights-the Netherlands and Belgium-was conducted. Where normally the right to food is addressed in the context of developing countries, poverty and large scale hunger, the selected countries do not suffer such constraints. Instead, the circumstances within these countries would allow an enforceable right to food to work. The case study reveals that the coincidental constitutional context of a country may be of greater influence to the enforceability of internationally recognized human rights, rather than the content of the rights in itself. In both countries the right to food can hardly be enforced through the domestic courts, in contrast to what these countries communicate in the international arena.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Food Law and Policy
EditorsGabriela Steier, Kiran K. Patel
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)9783319075426
ISBN (Print)9783319075419
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2017

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