How would a rights approach help?
Human Rights are universal and are afforded to everyone regardless of age, gender, or economic status. It treats everyone with equal dignity and respect. A rights-based approach requires public authorities to respect, protect and fulfil those rights, meaning that they must:
- Refrain from interfering with those rights
- Prevent the rights being breached by others
- Take appropriate positive legislative, administrative, financial, judiciary, educational and other measures to facilitate, promote and provide access to those rights
- Be non-discriminatory
Hunger and food poverty are significant causes for concern in the UK. Unfortunately unlike many industrialised countries, and despite public pressure, the British government does not currently measure household food insecurity. Recent UN figures estimate that there are currently 8.4 million people living in food insecurity in the UK. Research suggests that due to austerity-related cuts and changes to our social security system, this number is growing. People running food banks around the UK report hundreds of thousands of people needing emergency food parcels, a very high proportion of them children.
A human rights approach would put an obligation on our government to fix this situation through “progressive realisation” using “the maximum available resources” - these resources might be money, services, policies or supporting local authorities and service providers (e.g. the NHS) do to do their bit. They would also be obliged to ensure that the situation doesn’t get worse. For example, if our government incorporated the Right to Food into UK law, when passing new pieces of legislation or policies, it would have to ensure that these changes did not push more people into poverty (called ‘a retrogressive effect’).