Government must use its human rights toolkit to tackle food insecurity – New Zealand Human Rights Commission

Chief Commissioner for Human Rights Paul Hunt has joined community group Sunday Blessings in a call for the government to tackle food insecurity by making better use of the tools at its disposal by international human rights law.

On Thursday, Chief Commissioner Hunt put his signature to the parliamentary petition that Sunday Blessings plans to deliver to MPs.

“I am delighted to sign this petition and to see the wonderful leadership of the Sunday Blessings team. It is appalling that in a wealthy country like Aotearoa, many children and their families do not have food security,” said Commissioner Hunt.

Successive New Zealand governments have signed on to the right to food, including through the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and in Crown responsibilities under Section 3 of Te Tiriti or Waitangi. Yet a recent study on the right to food found that Aotearoa, New Zealand ranks 29th out of 32 wealthy countries.*

“I applaud the government’s work to date to address food insecurity, but the reality is that access to healthy, affordable food is disappearing for more and more people,” the official said. Chief Commissioner Hunt.

Demand for food has increased dramatically for food banks since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions, while rising levels of unemployment and economic hardship increase food insecurity. Maori Whānau, Pacific peoples and people with disabilities are more likely to be food insecure. More than one in four Tamariki Maori lives in food-insecure households, breaching Te Tiriti o Waitangi’s Article 3, Oritetanga/Equality.**

“To achieve better outcomes for people struggling with food insecurity, the government should build on the substantive frameworks set out in international human rights conventions to which we are also party.

“These frameworks exist for the simple reason of helping governments create an environment that allows people to feed themselves with dignity and establish appropriate safety nets for those who cannot.

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“Not only would this lead to better outcomes for people who are food insecure, but it would also demonstrate that the government is meeting its legally binding obligations under the ICESCR and other conventions,” the commissioner said. Chief Hunt.

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