Worldwide, climate change is already affecting directly and indirectly the agricultural productivity and ecology of some organisms because of changing patterns in crop production, livestock intensification, changing rainfall patterns, increased drought and flooding, and the geographical redistribution of pests and diseases, as well as altering the transport pathways of chemical contaminants.
Consequently, climate change is expected to aggravate feed and food safety problems during all phases of food production and supply. M.C.Tirado, R. Clarke, L.A.Jaykus, A.McQuatters-Gollop, J.M.Frank stated in their research entitled “Climate change and food safety: A review” published in Food Research International (Vol. 43, Issue 7):
“Climate change and variability may have an impact on the occurrence of food safety hazards at various stages of the food chain, from primary production through to consumption. There are multiple pathways through which climate related factors may impact food safety including: changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, ocean warming and acidification, and changes in contaminants’ transport pathways among others. Climate change may also affect socio-economic aspects related to food systems such as agriculture, animal production, global trade, demographics and human behavior which all influence food safety.”
As human health inescapably relates to the consumption of safe and sufficient quantity of foods, climate change is expected to have considerable impacts on human health as a consequence of serious food contamination and food scarcity. Food hazards, including germs and chemical contaminants, can enter the food supply at any point from farm to table. Most of these hazards cannot be detected in food when it is purchased or consumed. In addition, consumption of insufficient amount of food due to food scarcity may lead to malnutrition and several foodborne diseases. Therefore, climate change by way of temperature increases, changing patterns in crop production, changes in rainfall patterns, toxic contaminations, food scarcity, increased drought and flooding etc. is resulting in worldwide increased water- and food-borne diseases and malnutrition. M. Herrera, R. Anadón, Shahzad Zafar Iqbal, J. D. Bailly, Agustin Ariño stated in their research entitled “Climate Change and Food Safety” published in Selamat J., Iqbal S. (eds) Food Safety. Springer, Cham (2016):
“Temperature increases and changes in rainfall patterns will have an impact on the persistence and patterns of occurrence of bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and harmful algae and the patterns of their corresponding foodborne diseases and the risk of toxic contamination. Chemical residues of pesticides and veterinary medicines in plant and animal products will be affected by changes in pest pressure.”
Therefore, incidences of water- and food-borne diseases are increasing globally. Water- and food-borne diseases are the result of ingestion of foodstuffs or water contaminated with microorganisms or chemicals, or diseases caused by malnutrition. These diseases encompass abroad spectrum of illnesses causing morbidity and mortality worldwide and their real overall health impact on the world population is yet unknown. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (“FAO”) stated in its research in 2008 entitled “Climate Change: Implications for Food Safety”:
“Evidence of the impact of climate change on the transmission of food and waterborne diseases comes from a number of sources, e.g. the seasonality of foodborne and diarrhoeal disease, changes in disease patterns that occur as a consequence of temperature, and associations between increased incidence of food and waterborne illness and severe weather events.”
Following the recurrence of serious events of food contamination and scarcity across the globe, food safety has become a matter of ever increasing international concern and the World Health Organization has defined foodborne diseases as a global public health challenge. Protecting global health from foodborne hazards is a compelling duty and a primary interest of both States and non-State actors; it calls for enhanced proactive cooperation between national and international institutions. Moving from the consideration that food safety issues and the enhancement of health security are of growing international concern, it is interesting to inquire whether the international community is provided with the appropriate legal instruments to face foodborne hazards globally. Unfortunately, the present state of international law on food safety regulation and governance is still unsatisfactory and reforms are desirable in many respects.
The “Right to Safe and Sufficient Food” in International Law
For the reasons stated above, international food safety is perceived as a global challenge. In the wake of a trend towards more efficient food safety policies, the 2007 Beijing Declaration on Food Safety gives voice to the global community’s concern that a comprehensive and integrated approach be adopted, prompting all stakeholders to take cooperative and concerted actions and strengthening links between the different sectors involved. The Declaration, in fact, recognizes that “integrated food safety systems are best suited to address potential risks across the entire food-chain from production to consumption” and that “oversight of food safety is an essential public health function that protects consumers from health risks”. In this perspective, it mainly urges States to develop transparent regulation to guarantee safety standards; to ensure adequate and effective enforcement of food safety legislation using risk-based methods; to establish procedures, including tracing and recall systems in conjunction with industry; to rapidly identify, investigate and control food safety incidents and to alert the World Health Organization (WHO) of those events falling under the revised international health regulations. In short, the Declaration expresses the need to understand food safety as both a national and an international responsibility.
Although emphasis is increasingly being placed on the concept of food safety, legal literature has seldom expanded on the status of a “human right to safe food” in international law. The right to safe food in human rights law is encompassed by both the right to health and the right to food. It is so closely interrelated with these fundamental human rights – being at the same time one of their integral components and an element upon which their realization is dependent.
Article 25, paragraph 1, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) affirms that “[e]veryone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”, while article 12, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”) enunciates the right to health as “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. In its General Comment No. 14 on the domestic implementation of article 12 of ICESCR, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“the Committee”) interprets the right to health, as defined in article 12.1, as “an inclusive right extending not only to timely and appropriate health care but also to the underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe and potable water and … [a]n adequate supply of safe food” (Comment No. 14, para. 11). As far as legal obligations are concerned, the Committee makes it clear that States Parties are under the obligation to adopt domestic laws aimed to ensure “the underlying determinants of health, such as nutritiously safe food and potable drinking water” (Comment No. 14, para. 36) and to provide for implementation of such legislation.
Moreover, the Committee reiterates the view expressed in General Comment No. 12 that guaranteeing “access to the minimum essential food which is nutritionally adequate and safe, to ensure freedom from hunger to everyone” is one of the core obligations incumbent upon States Parties to grant satisfaction of minimum essential levels of the right to health. In this context, obligations of immediate effect would encompass the duty to guarantee that all individuals under the jurisdiction of the State have equal access to safe and nutritious food; the duty to enact food safety and consumer protection legislation, including accountability measures; the duty to take all necessary steps to implement international regulations and standards.
In its general comment on the right to adequate food, the Committee underlines that “the right … is indivisibly linked to the inherent dignity of the human person and is indispensable for the fulfillment of other human rights enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights” (Comment No. 12, para. 4). While recognizing that the right to adequate food is crucial for the enjoyment of all rights, the Committee considers that the core content of this right implies “the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances” (Comment No. 12, para. 4).
Moreover, the relevance of food safety to the realization of the right to food both at national and international level is further emphasized by the Committee when it stresses that domestic policies of implementation of article 11 of ICESCR “should address critical issues and measures in regard to all aspects of the food system, including the production, processing, distribution, marketing and consumption of safe food” (Comment No. 12, para. 10), and that States and international organizations have a joint and individual responsibility to ensure that “products included in international food trade or aid programs … be safe” (Comment No. 12, para. 10).
Within the United Nations, the General Assembly has long adopted the same approach as the Committee, in resolution 63/187 of 18 December 2008 on the right to food the Assembly “reaffirms the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger”. The Human Rights Council has repeated the same formula in its Resolution No. 7/14 on the right to food of 27 March 2008, the first adopted by the Council so far.
In different contexts, several international declarations and other soft law instruments have reaffirmed the individual right to adequate and safe food. The World Declaration on Nutrition, adopted by the FAO International Conference on Nutrition in December 1992, asserts that “access to nutritionally adequate and safe food is a right of each individual” (para. 1); the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security includes the States’ commitment to “implement policies aimed at eradicating poverty and inequality and improving physical and economic access by all, at all times, to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food and its effective utilization [World Food Summit Plan of Action, para. 21 (b)]” and the Declaration adopted at the FAO World Food Summit: five years later in June 2002 confirms “the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food” (preamble).
From this legal framework it can be inferred that in the human rights perspective it is generally recognized that every individual is entitled to food that is safe and of good quality, since safe food is functional to achieving freedom from hunger and enjoyment of the best attainable state of health; hence it is crucial for protecting life and human dignity. Clarifying whether this entitlement shapes an autonomous right, separate and distinguishable from the rights to adequate food and to health, and whether it can be considered a fundamental human right, will probably be the subject of further insights by future legal scholarship. It is worth considering, however, that food safety has been already defined “an inalienable right of each individual” (WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety: Safer Food for Better Health).
The Need to Move Forward
It is generally acknowledged that due to their transboundary dimension and their potential widespread impact on human health, climate change and food safety challenges demand close international cooperation and global governance. Following in the wake of a clear trend in international law and practice, we are now witnessing the emergence of a general principle on food safety, underpinned by the progressive affirmation of a human right to safe food, which requires that international standards and guidelines be voluntary complied with, legal obligations be fulfilled in good faith and all stakeholders at different levels play their proactive role in enhancing the international community’s preparedness and capacity of response to food safety threats.
It is in fact common view that protecting world health from foodborne illnesses and similar hazards is to be seen as a compelling duty and a primary interest of both States and non-State actors. While food safety governance at the global level calls for multi-sectoral approaches and multi-level cooperation to minimize the effects of food safety related public health events, international law can still count on a limited set of legal instruments.
In fact, in the wake of climate change, the present state of international law on food safety regulation has faults and drawbacks, as authoritatively confirmed by Professor Francis Snyder:
“Food supply insecurity and unsafe food are tolerated, encouraged or even positively promoted by many aspects of current international law. Serious reform is essential if we want to create an international law for (and not just ‘of’) adequate food”.
Therefore, it is to be hoped that the joint efforts of the major international organizations involved at both the universal and the regional level (WHO, FAO, WTO) – which point towards the prospective enhancement of the degree of cooperation among international actors, State authorities and private stakeholders – will succeed in shaping an improved legal framework for food safety governance, which may benefit from the commitment of both international and national institutions. In such an evolving and interdependent scenario, national initiatives concerning targeted domestic legislation can indeed be welcomed as positive steps forward whenever they substantially contribute to realizing the right to safe and adequate food, introduce accountability measures, and strengthen foodborne disease monitoring and surveillance systems.
By focusing only on international law norms and obligations, this essay aims to offer a contribution to the current debate on food safety, with the awareness that it represents only a starting point for further analysis and more in-depth reflections on the innovations and developments needed in food safety regulation to achieve the compelling objective of protecting world health.
Democracy at Risk: The Global Challenge of Rising Populism and Nationalism
Authors: Meherab Hossain and Md. Obaidullah*
Populism and nationalism represent two discrete political ideologies; however, they may pose potential threats to democracy. Populism is a political ideology and approach characterized by the emphasis on the interests and concerns of ordinary people against established elites or perceived sources of power and privilege. Populist leaders often portray themselves as champions of the “common people” and claim to represent their grievances and desires. It is a political stance that emphasizes the idea of “the people” and often contrasts this group against “the elite”.
Nationalism, on the other hand, is an ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests. It represents a political principal positing that there should be congruence between the political entity and the nation-state. While populism emphasizes the idea of “the people,” nationalism emphasizes the idea of the nation-state.
In what ways can populism pose a threat to democracy?
While some argue that populism is not a threat to democracy per se, others contend that it poses a serious risk to democratic institutions. Populism can become a threat to democracy by undermining formal institutions and functions, discrediting the media, and targeting specific social groups, such as immigrants or minorities. This threat arises from its potential to confer a moral legitimacy upon the state that it might otherwise lack. Consequently, it can jeopardize the defense mechanisms established to safeguard against tyranny, including freedoms, checks and balances, the rule of law, tolerance, autonomous social institutions, individual and group rights, as well as pluralism. Populism imposes an assumption of uniformity onto the diverse fabric of reality, distorting not only factual representations but also elevating the attributes of certain social groups above those of others.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s populist rhetoric and policies have led to the erosion of democratic institutions, including the judiciary and the media. Populism in Turkey can be traced back to the era of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s regime, during which Atatürk’s elites, who had limited commonality with the broader society, assumed the responsibility of educating and guiding the masses. This phenomenon, often referred to as ‘regime elitism,’ has rendered Turkey susceptible to populism, which fundamentally revolves around the conflict between the elites and the general populace.
In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s populist government has been accused of undermining the rule of law, limiting press freedom, and targeting civil society groups. He has established a repressive and progressively authoritarian state that operates under the guise of democracy.
In media discourse, he has been designated as a populist leader. Empirical analysis reveals that Hungary is currently governed by a form of political populism, characterized as conservative right-wing populism. The salient features of Hungarian political dynamics encompass the government’s claim of challenging established elites, a lack of a clearly defined political agenda, the utilization of propaganda as a prominent tool in its political communications, advocacy for the preservation of a Christian Hungary, intervention in areas traditionally considered independent from state interference such as education and jurisdiction, the implementation of mass clientelism to reward its supporters while exerting pressure on critics, and overt criticism of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Consequently, this trajectory underscores the ascendance of authoritarianism within Hungary.
How Nationalism can be threat to Democracy?
Nationalism can pose a potential threat to both democracy and international relations when it manifests in forms of discrimination, violence, and the exclusion of specific groups. The ascension of nationalism may jeopardize the established efficacy of multilateralism, which has historically been instrumental in preserving lives and averting conflicts. This can result in unilateral actions by certain nations, thereby undermining the collaborative approach to the peaceful resolution of disputes.
Nationalism can serve as a catalyst for conflict and division, fostering tendencies toward exclusivity and competition that impede the resolution of common global challenges. The ascent of economic nationalism has the potential to undermine global collaboration and policy alignment, resulting in a resurgence of nationalist economic strategies in many regions worldwide. Such strategies often prioritize individual national objectives over the collective global interest. Unrestrained nationalism can pose a threat to stability by inflaming ethnic tensions, thereby increasing the likelihood of violence and conflict.
In Europe, nationalism has historically been a significant catalyst for conflict and division, spanning from the emergence of Nazi Germany in the 1930s to more recent upsurges of nationalist movements in various countries. Nationalism tends to foster exclusivity and competition, thereby complicating efforts to address common global challenges. Under nationalist ideology, exemplified by Hitler, instances of extreme cruelty and inhumanity have been documented.
Another instance of nationalism, which presents a significant challenge to democracy, is the ascendance of Hindu extremism and nationalism in India, resulting in communal tensions. Since the Hindu nationalist BJP came into power, there has been a heightened sense of insecurity among Muslims in India, with the situation reaching unprecedented levels of concern. The government has actively employed media, television, and the film industry to propagate Islamophobia among the Hindu majority. In 2018, the Indian High Court rendered a judgment advocating for India to be declared a Hindu state, citing the country’s historical religious divisions. Nonetheless, it is crucial to emphasize that, in accordance with its constitution, India is mandated to maintain a secular state. Needless to say, the rise of Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of fueling sectarian tensions and undermining the country’s secular democracy.
Indeed, while populism and nationalism are distinct concepts, their simultaneous global rise poses a considerable threat to democracy. These ideologies frequently favor specific groups over the broader population and can corrode democratic principles. They tend to exacerbate polarization and undermine vital democratic institutions. Hence, many countries are grappling with substantial challenges to their democratic systems, which puts their stability and effectiveness at risk.
*Md. Obaidullah holds both a BSS and an MSS degree in Public Administration from the University of Barishal. He is currently employed as a Research Assistant at the Centre for Advanced Social Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His writing expertise spans various subjects, including Public Policy, Politics, Governance, Climate Change, and Diplomacy, on which he frequently contributes
Principles of International Relations as Homo Sapiens
After listening to Hariri’s Home Sapiens, I grasped, with a new perspective, the state of our humanity. I deeply realized that indeed we are the last human species. Our closest relative and competitor, the Neanderthals, were long gone. So how do we, as homo sapiens (“wise men”), wisely ensure the well-being and future of our species? The question seems too general or even irrelevant to many considering that everyday life on Earth continues despite the horrors of war, the devastation of calamities, and the forebodings of apocalypticism. But let’s not toy around with the destructive propensity and capability of our species which could have played a significant role in the demise of the Neanderthals and could also threaten our very own existence.
Life on Earth now is multifaceted and more complex than when we were still cohabiting our planet with other human species. The ancient “us and them” have become the modern and ironically complicated “among us,” and consequentially “us versus us.” We have become the only remaining human species—but the only remaining species that wants to destroy itself for self-interest.
Reflecting on the implications of our being the only human species left on Earth, I deduce the following principles for our international relations.
As one human species living on one planet:
The principle of cohabitation
We all have the rights to peacefully and productively cohabit on planet Earth without the sequestration of others due to superficialdiversity such as geographical locations, skin color, social ideology, and culture; or because of national or corporate resource exploitation.
The principle of mutual survival
We cannot survive without the human ecosystem. Human life is a multidimensional ecosystem. It cannot survive and thrive with only one feature or characteristic in one locality. It necessitates global diversity and mutuality. For our species to survive, our relations need to be based on mutual universal survival.
The principle of co-thriving
We cannot thrive secluded from the universal life system. Regression and destruction of one geographical locus, one ethnicity, or one natural feature impacts the whole bio-societal system. Inversely, the flourishing of one locus, one ethnicity, or one natural feature in conjunction with others, furnishes the whole human system to thrive.
The principle of developmental competition
We have both the latent propensity for destructive bouts and a penchant for developmental competition. International relations based on destructive bouts eventually inflect global crises. Global relations based on developmental competition advance our civilization. Each progress in a varied sphere, though will not be the same, complements the whole progression.
The principle of common home protection
We only have one home, one present habitat for our species to live and thrive, and one human family. Allowing these to decay will not only result in our degeneration but also the eventual risk of our survival.
As homo sapiens, we are at the top of the food chain and intolerant. We want to devour everything we can see and irrationally have the delusion of grandeur of being the only predator left. But the prey and the predator are one and the same. It’s not so naïve to outline what can be tagged as an idealistic theoretical construct. But let’s also accept the fact that the most influencing factors in our international relations are either commercially exploitive or ideologically invasive. And these are not sustainable and globally beneficial—for they are calculated goodness intended for the temporal benefits of the very few. The principle of the common good will enable us to see more beyond our present state and ensure the well-being and future of our species.
UN 2.0: Reimagining our global organization for a world in flux
Working towards better results on the ground and focused on the future, the UN family is undergoing a reset that will give rise to more agile, tech-savvy and impactful UN organizations.This transformation in skills and culture, encapsulated in the Secretary-General’s vision of a UN 2.0, is focused on fostering cutting-edge capabilities in data, digital, innovation, foresight and behavioural science – to deliver stronger results, better Member State support, and faster progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
During a roundtable with Member States, a group of UN leaders and experts explained the potential and strategies of UN 2.0. They highlighted early success stories, that, when replicated, will boost on-the-ground impact of a stronger, more flexible and modern UN.
This event came before the launch of the Secretary-General’s policy brief on the issue of a UN 2.0 revamp.
At the core of UN 2.0 is the so-named ‘Quintet of Change’, a powerful combination of data, innovation, digital solutions, foresight, and behavioural science solutions.
Opening the discussion, Melissa Fleming, the Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, emphasized the need for change, highlighting that the progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as a blueprint for peace and prosperity – is currently not on track.
Responding to the growing demand for reform, UN 2.0 represents a shift in how UN system organizations operate, aiming to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Guy Ryder, the Under-Secretary-General for Policy, who brings extensive experience from his decade-long tenure leading the International Labour Organization (ILO), explained that the purpose of UN 2.0 is to equip UN organizations with the contemporary expertise required to be an effective partner for Member States in the twenty-first century.
A transformed UN leaves no one behind
Catherine Pollard, the Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy, and Compliance, explained that the primary beneficiaries of UN 2.0 are the people the UN serves in its 193 member countries. “But equally important, UN 2.0 is about UN organizations themselves, because they will develop new skills, new talent, new purpose to better deliver our mandate.”
The UN continues to be a relevant player in the multilateral arena. To maintain this relevance, Ms. Pollard said, the Organization will develop employees’ skills, offer more training, attract new talents, and improve human resources policies.
Like many things in the modern world, UN 2.0 will be driven by digital solutions and cutting-edge technologies. Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer of UNDP, the UN agency promoting international development, advocated for the potential that new technologies offer and contemplated on what the future can bring.
“AI is the current challenge, but there will be quantum computing and other breakthroughs around the corner, what we haven’t even anticipated,” he said, adding that when the ‘Quintet of Change’ is successfully implemented across the UN system, the Organization’s agility in responding to new challenges and in helping Member States will increase dramatically.
Data, digital innovation, foresight and behavioural science play key roles
The UN is actively supporting Member States in their pursuit of new solutions. A network of innovation labs has been established in more than 90 countries, serving as platforms for sharing new expertise in technology, data and other areas.
One notable success story comes from Indonesia, explained Faizal Thamrin, Data Scientist at UN Global Pulse Asia-Pacific. He illustrated how his team collaborated with the Government and thousands of small and medium enterprises to prepare for the future. Additionally, the team’s data analytics skills, combined with Indonesia’s experience, helped replicate early warning systems for natural disasters across the region.
UN 2.0 extends beyond data and digital solutions. Behavioural science, a multidisciplinary field that integrates insights from psychology, economics, communications, data science, sociology, and more, plays a crucial role in the ‘Quintet of Change’.
Claire Hobden, an ILO expert on domestic work, provided an example from Argentina’s informal sector. With support from UN colleagues, the Government was able to significantly expand social security coverage to domestic workers, such as nannies and caregivers, who are often hard to reach.
“Through a very small intervention we hope to be able to give more people access to social security, realizing their rights and access to decent work,” said Ms. Hobden noting the huge potential of replicating these methods, as there are 75 million such workers around the globe.
‘With new tools, we can do better’
In conversation with senior diplomats, Mr. Ryder emphasized that UN 2.0 is about potential of doing our job better “if we take a fresh look at some of the things we’ve been doing for a long time.”
Commenting on the journey ahead for UN colleagues, Mr. Ryder said “What you’ve done has been great. Now we have new tools. Let’s pick up those new tools, use them and maybe we can improve on what we’ve done before. It’s not saying what happened in the past was bad. It’s saying what we do in the future can be better”.
The event was co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Norway and the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations in partnership with the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.
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