George Kent
University of Hawai’i
July 18, 1999

Two months after beginning her service as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson observed that

…the gap in perceptions of what we mean by human rights is even wider than I had thought. It is a gap that must be narrowed if there is to be a shared commitment at the international level to further the promotion and protection of human rights (Robinson).
An essential element of human rights work is the steady expansion of our shared understandings of the meaning of human rights. One approach to building that consensus is through the systematic articulation and discussion of brief propositions on human rights.


Learning about human rights should not be viewed as a simple unidirectional teaching exercise centered on the transmission of well established knowledge. Rather, the communication should be dialogical, with learning taking place on all sides, rather than being offered as a gift from one to the other. There are many different approaches to and views of human rights. Certainly there is a core of basics that might be regarded as important "objective facts": the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the two covenants, the UN treaty bodies, and so on. But what do the words in those documents really mean? And what should these bodies really be doing? There are important differences in views on such questions, and thus there is much room for discussion.

This ought to be fruitful discussion. If I take a posture of telling you how you must think about the issues, and I insist that my answers are the right answers, that will end our talk before it begins. Your listening respectfully should not be mistaken for real discussion. It would be much more useful for me to explain how I see things, and invite you to say how you see things, and then talk about it with you to see if our views can be harmonized in some way. Maybe what we had thought at the outset were important differences really resulted from the fact that we had been thinking about different kinds of rights or different kinds of situations. Maybe we just need to make our assertions less sweeping. Maybe we need to consult sources we both recognize as authoritative.

Having real communication is important because the more we can talk and harmonize our views, the stronger the human rights system will be, and the stronger we will be as advocates for it. Communication about human rights, whether in the classroom or anywhere else, should be viewed as an important part of the larger campaign for realizing human rights.

The human rights system is based on having clear global norms, and some latitude in application depending on local circumstances. Where the state has latitude in interpreting its human rights obligations, this is a controlled latitude. It is controlled through the accountability of the state to the rights holders themselves, to the United Nations treaty bodies, and to other agencies as appropriate. As the European Court of Human Rights has put it, there is a "margin of appreciation" for local circumstances that permits variation in the application of human rights (Advisory Council).  The norms must be interpreted and applied at the local level through democratic processes. Then, through legislation or through other means of policy articulation, governments should specify how they will interpret and apply their human rights obligations.

Differences in views should be taken as opportunities to explore important issues. The United States began its policy of international "constructive engagement" on human rights issues in the Reagan era, under the guidance of then-Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker (Donnelly, p.105). Constructive engagement is the policy of the human rights treaty bodies in the United Nations, although they call it "constructive dialogue" (Alston, p. 506). They do not emphasize the detection and punishment of violations, as some nongovernmental organizations advocate, but instead try to get countries to engage in serious dialogue about the issues. Their premise is that in the long run this is likely to be more effective. Human rights advocates too should put more emphasis on constructive dialogue among themselves, as part of a strategy of building stronger alliances among them.

There are many different ways to facilitate discussion. The standard pedagogical form is to center discussion around a specific lecture, article, or book that presumably all participants have heard or read. A variation is to focus on particular situations or incidents in the news. Or one could set up fictional scenarios for discussion, or conduct simulation exercises that would later be discussed. Or one could organize a group effort to design a product, e.g., "Suggest a draft resolution to be considered by the United Nations General Assembly regarding the human rights situation in country x."

One good way to stimulate discussion, and thus carry out the teaching-learning/dialogue/harmonizing effort, is to present a series of propositions on the topic for discussion. A proposition is nothing more than a short assertive statement, usually no more than a sentence. A few concrete propositions are raised for discussion. If you and your dialogue partners agree on them, you move on until you encounter some that raise difficulties. These difficulties may be due more to ambiguities and uncertainties about the meanings of the words rather than to real, substantive disagreements. Where there are doubts or differences regarding a proposition, you and your partners should spend more time on it. See if there are ways in which you can rewrite the proposition together so that is clearly acceptable to all of you. For example, you will find that a proposition such as "All indigenous peoples have a right to self determination" means different things to different people. By discussing it for a time, you may find there is a way to restate it that makes it clear and agreeable to all of you.

Or you may clarify the exact nature of the disagreement between you. As I have suggested elsewhere, "Before asking parties to a difficult conflict to come to an agreement, it might prove useful to ask them to come to a clear disagreement (Kent)." That too is progress. When you have two people talking past each other in a debate, it may be useful for each of them to write a few propositions about their positions, and ask the other to say where and how he or she disagrees with those points. Even if discussion does not lead you to rewrite a proposition, you may come to new shared understandings of it. Together, you make meaning. This work to establish common understandings, whether about agreements or disagreements, helps to establish a shared framework for communication.

If I ask whether a proposition is true or false there is an implied message that I, the questioner, know whether it is "really" true or false. It implies that if you give the "wrong" answer, I will judge you to be defective, ignorant, inferior. The tone of our interaction is quite different if I ask whether you agree or disagree with the proposition. If you and I differ in our answers we have discovered a difference between us, but there is no value judgment implicit in it. The only implication is that it might be useful for us to discuss how we came to our different perspectives. We address each other as equals, with equal opportunities to convince one another of the merits of our views. Thus, rather than ask whether individuals view particular propositions as true or false, I prefer to ask if they agree or disagree. Every disagreement on a proposition is a potential learning moment. I do not use the more common expression, "teaching moment," because "teaching" suggests an exercise of authority. "Learning" suggests sharing.

Put this another way. If we have a difference in views on a point, and I sense that you are coming at me in the attack mode, I will tend to defend and harden my position. However, if you approach by saying you have a different view that you would like to discuss, I will sense an opportunity for learning something, and open up. My openness is based on my understanding that you too are open to learning. Our discussion then becomes a collaboration, not a collision.

Propositions can be used in several different ways in teaching about human rights. For example, each student can be asked to write a proposition or two on the blackboard, and then the group can discuss them in turn, identifying and analyzing their views on them. I like to ask students to take blank transparencies home and write propositions on them for discussion the following day. They are asked to write two propositions on human rights generally and two on a particular country or issue they are studying. The resulting discussion is always stimulating.

It can also be useful to discuss provocative propositions, known to be divisive, such as "Abortion is a human right" or "Spanking children violates their human rights". Analyzing propositions about them can help in discovering the source of the division. Advanced classes can use propositions to do more systematic research on peoples views on human rights, on themselves or on outside groups. They might, for example, try to systematically characterize their own or any other country’s views on human rights by determining the extent to which they share common views of the country’s positions. The approach is discussed below, under "Country Analysis". The students’ task should include formulating the questions as well as offering answers.


When asked to write human rights propositions, some individuals might wonder whether they are supposed to write something "objective" about what is so in the world, or whether they are to be "subjective", stating their own personal opinions. In my view, there is not a sharp line between the two. The two are hardly distinguishable for an individual in isolation. In society, views are regarded as subjective when they are diverse—different people seeing the same thing differently. When there is a strong consensus among observers, we are much more confident that we are saying something that is "objectively true". But these are matters of degree. In a fuzzy area where there is often lack of consensus, as in human rights work, rather than talk about what is true and what is false, it is more sensible to talk about whether we agree or disagree with particular statements. We can sometimes conclude that particular statements are "true", but usually only as a result of first establishing that there is broad consensus on it.

Thus, while direct evidence to the senses is important, our truths—the meanings we put on things—are socially negotiated. Through discussion and debate we come to agreements on how things should be understood. We tend to test for "truth" on the basis of consensus in the community—whether in a community of specialists related to technical matters or in the society at large. Indeed, a community might be defined and demarcated by its shared, distinctive framework of meaning. One important implication of this perspective is that there can be different communities with different frameworks of meaning and different truths.

We tend to accept as true those points on which there is consensus in our reference groups. But this must be handled with caution. Before Copernicus, most Europeans believed the sun revolved around the earth, but that did not make it so. However, it was "true" in the sense that the sun revolving around the earth was the mental premise on which people ran their lives and made their decisions. Our actions are based on what we believe to be true.

It was only after certain anomalies became apparent that the geocentric consensus began to break down and this old orthodoxy was questioned. We see comparable challenges to well-established paradigms even today. Fighting upstream against the prevailing common sense, we now have people questioning whether HIV really causes AIDS, whether milk is really a good thing after all, and whether it is true that placebos have no real therapeutic effect. Comparable transformations in the realm of morality and human rights are possible as well, as suggested by the changes in attitudes toward slavery. There are regularities in the ways in which paradigms shift in the sciences (Kuhn). Perhaps shifts in our moral universes have comparable forms.


Propositions about human rights can be used to stimulate discussion in classroom or other group settings. An illustrative list is offered in Figure 1.

For each of the following statements, please indicate to the left of the statement’s number whether you agree (A), disagree (D), or have no opinion (N).

___ (1) Free primary education is a human right.
___ (2) People in different regions of the world have different human rights.
___ (3) All nations have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
___ (4) Food is a human right.
___ (5) Voting for government leaders is a human right.
___ (6) Breastfeeding is a human right.
___ (7) Protection against racial discrimination is a human right.
___ (8) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the king of England in the 18th century.

Figure 1. A brief questionnaire.

Once the individuals in a class or any other group note down their answers, they should be ready to compare and discuss them. One of the first points likely to come up is the distinction between what individuals feel ought to be recognized as human rights, and what are recognized human rights. Then there is the issue of how does one determine which are recognized human rights. Leaning toward legal positivism, I take the view that international human rights agreements constitute the definitive statements of what are the recognized, established human rights. Of course there is room for debate about this. The point of this exercise with the propositions is precisely to stimulate that sort of discussion. The objective is not to find out who is right or wrong, or to force students to adopt the teacher's perspective, but to carry out a joint learning exercise.

Discussion of different people's views on a list of propositions like this would augment, not replace, basic readings on human rights. The central purposes of working with the propositions would be to systemically uncover and clarify points on which there are differences in views, and through that means to formulate an increasingly large pool of meaningful statements about human rights that are acceptable to the entire group. The group can begin with rather obvious propositions, and then move progressively to more difficult ones. Where there are differences, the group should try to rewrite the propositions until they become acceptable to all. Appendix 1 shows some illustrative propositions that have been refined after many discussions, and now arouse little disagreement.

Some propositions—especially the more creative ones—will arouse discomfort and disagreement. That’s fine. These differences should be viewed not as signs of deficiency on the part of either the reader or the writer, but as opportunities for constructive dialogue. That dialogue is the very essence of human rights work. So long as you and I are in full agreement, we are not doing anything to expand the core of common understanding. Our task then is to venture out to the edge and find some area at which we can work to help build that core. We need to endlessly expand the list of propositions and expand the circle of people who participate in the discussion.

Learning about any specific category of rights, and the development of those rights, can progress through such exercises of formulating and discussing basic propositions. To illustrate, Appendix 2 offers some propositions that could be used to focus discussion on the human right to food and nutrition. The propositions here have not been discussed nearly as widely as those in Appendix 1, so they are much more likely to arouse disagreement. Discussing those disagreements and refining the propositions accordingly is important human rights work.

Focused lists of propositions can be used to examine specific problem areas in human rights discourse such as the nature of universality and cultural relativism or the relationships between entitlements and rights.


Imagine that we have asked members of a group to say whether they agree or disagree with each of a list of propositions. We can now construct a table of their answers like that in Figure 2, with one row for each proposition and one column for each person responding. The responses can be recorded by inserting an "A" or a "D" in each cell.

Number Agree 
Number Disagree
% Disagree

  Figure 2. Grid for Analyzing Responses to Propositions

The data can be analyzed in a variety of ways. For example, as the figure suggests, we can count across each row and say how many people agree and how many people disagree for the proposition in each row. With one more step we can say what proportion agree or disagree, expressed as a percentage. These figures would be listed in the last two columns of the table. The percentages would not always add to 100 because there are cases in which respondents say they have no opinion or do not answer.

We are likely to find that some propositions generate a high proportion of agree and some generate a high proportion of disagree. A high proportion either way indicates consensus within the group.

The propositions that draw a middling level of agreement--say, 25 to 75 %--are the ones that generate the least consensus. The differences in responses may result simply from ambiguous phrasing. Or there may be real differences in views among different people. For example, a proposition saying "Abortion should be regarded as a human right" is likely to generate a great deal of dissensus. That would not result merely from differences in understandings of the words. Many positions on rights are not universally acceptable.

Why is it that some people agree while others disagree with particular propositions about human rights? One way to explore this is to see if people with different characteristics have systematically different positions. For example, one could do separate analyses, with separate matrixes, for one group of people from richer countries and another group from poorer countries, and see if, say, people from richer countries are more likely to favor particular kinds of rights. In general, people with different ideological positions may be expected to have different views on human rights issues. The extent to which they are actually different can be measured through systematic analyses of the sort suggested here. While different groups may have sharp differences on particular points, there is likely to be a very broad core of common views on human rights issues even among very diverse groups.

A group facilitator could ask a number of individuals to respond to a list of ten or twenty propositions, compile their answers into a single matrix, and then show the matrix to the entire group. Individuals will be interested in comparing their own answers with those of other members of the group. Every difference in answers between two individuals can be used to trigger interesting discussion between them and in the group as a whole.

There is an important ongoing debate about the claim of universality of human rights. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said "It was never the people who complained of the universality of human rights, nor did the people consider human rights as a Western or Northern imposition. It was often their leaders who did so." In principle, these points could be investigated by comparing the views of leaders and citizens on propositions relating to the universality issue.

The question of which rights are in fact universally accepted, and thus should be recognized as human rights, is partly a philosophical and ethical question, but it is also partly an empirical question. To illustrate, the fact that governments representing well over five billion people have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child is persuasive evidence that its principles are, for all practical purposes, universally accepted. Moreover, the two countries that have not yet ratified it--the United States and Somalia--have not explicitly rejected its principles.

The processes of soliciting endorsements for human rights declarations or of seeking ratifications to international treaties can be viewed as particular forms of surveys to determine the extent to which there is widespread consensus on human rights propositions. These are the established means for determining which of the many human rights claims that might be made are in fact universal.

A draft declaration or treaty is an elaborate collection of propositions. The negotiation process undertaken in their drafting are dialogues on propositions of the sort we have been discussing. In other words, processes of dialogue and assessment of human rights propositions of the sort advocated here already are in place and are widely accepted.


Our discussion so far has been about the global human rights system. Propositions also can be formulated to characterize the human rights situation in particular countries. Propositions can be formed by finding narrative accounts of the human rights situation in a particular country and then breaking them down into elementary statements. Or experts could be consulted and asked how they would characterize the country’s human rights situation.

The validity of any proposition could be estimated by exploring to see if there is consensus about it among experts. Of course there may be differences even among knowledgeable people. Sometimes the differences may be systematic. For example, opponents of a current regime are likely to have different understandings of what is so than supporters of that regime. The general rule is that we can have more confidence in the validity of a proposition the more we get agreement on it from a diverse variety of observers. The most credible observations are those for which heterogeneous, uncoordinated observers give homogeneous reports.

Another more analytical approach would be to formulate a series of general propositions that could characterize the human rights situation in any country, and then use them as a basis for profiling specific countries. If many countries are profiled on the basis of the same set of propositions, we can create a matrix like that discussed earlier, but now with countries rather than individual respondents in the different columns. This sort of presentation would facilitate comparison across countries.

Charles Humana has done work of this sort (Humana). He formulated a list of 40 statements about human rights derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two covenants. On the basis of his own research, he then said whether the propositions were true (yes) or false (no) for 104 countries. For example, his first proposition, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13(1), was that "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state." Although he does not do so in his book, the answers could be arrayed in a 40 by 104 matrix, and then analyzed in various ways.

What if we don’t trust the judgment of Humana or any other expert? Instead of depending on any one person’s views, we could ask a number of people to respond to propositions about the human rights situation in a particular country. Each of these respondents could fill in a matrix of propositions versus countries, saying how they think each country would respond to each proposition. This now produces a three-dimensional data matrix: propositions by countries by respondents.

If we have a diverse group of respondents, and they are in consensus about a particular aspect of the rights situation in a particular country, we can be reasonably confident that that is so. If there is no consensus, we would remain uncertain about the situation. In general, where there is a convergence of answers, we feel we are learning something about the country. Where respondents give divergent answers, we are probably learning more about the respondents themselves.

Rather than simply ask respondents to agree or disagree, it may sometimes be useful to guage the intensity of their feelings by offering a judgment scale such as: (1) disagree strongly, (2) disagree moderately, (3) neutral, (4) agree moderately, (5) agree strongly. With scaling of this sort, it would be possible to distinguish between cases in which middling averages results from middling individual scores or from polarized but opposing scores. If answers are strongly polarized at opposing ends of the scale, as they would likely be on questions such as abortion rights or free trade rights, we know we have included two very different types of people within the group. These people live by very different truths. If we had included only one of these types in the group (e.g., only devout Catholics, or only devout capitalists), we would not find any such division. The discovery of distinct groups with very different views helps us to appreciate the meaning and reality of multiple truths.

Formats and procedures like those described here could be used to supplement reporting by States Parties to the United Nations treaty bodies. Consider, for example, the guidelines for reporting to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In the present sixteen-page reporting guidelines, the questions are broad, and generally require a narrative response. They cannot all be reduced to simple questions or propositions of the sort we have been discussing, but some elements might usefully be cast in that format, to accompany the deeper narratives. To illustrate, the following questions might be used to help assess the status of the human right to food and nutrition in any country:

Debating the appropriateness of different questions is a way of clarifying the meaning of those rights.


The ways in which human rights are understood might be mapped in the following way. There is a core area in which there is widespread agreement among human rights specialists about what is so. This core area has a boundary, somewhat fuzzy, where there is some degree of vagueness and disagreement. Beyond that fuzzy transitional area there are sharply different views of human rights.

Our voyages of discovery and exploration operate mainly in that fuzzy boundary area. We have quarrels here, but these are productive quarrels. Slowly we work out shared understandings. Our most productive work is in this fuzzy area where, through processes of dialogue, we slowly expand our area of widespread agreement. Through that dialogue we not only formulate agreements on particular concepts but also reinforce our common framework of understanding.

The distant zone of sharply different views is terra incognita, only dimly perceived and generally avoided. Nevertheless, it is tempting to go there to explore. Some might go with the hope that it can be tamed, and brought into the area of common understanding in which they themselves are grounded. Usually, however, they are forced to retreat.

The dominant worldwide human rights system, the one in which many of us are grounded, is largely western in its origins. Most of us westerners, knowing little of other rights systems, tend to view and promote our own as universal. But there are other areas of shared rights understanding, different from ours, in those distant uncharted waters (cf. Bauer and Bell). They correspond to other civilizations. Other ways of dealing with rights may be found, for example, in the Muslim world, the Chinese world, and the world of the Australian aboriginal. Historically there have been many others as well, on every continent.

Thus there are other ways of grounding understanding of rights, other landmasses in the terrain of understanding. We know little of the perspectives of these others, and tend to view them as somewhat barbaric. We should acknowledge that there are other ways of being civilized.

We face here the issue of cultural relativism in human rights. Does the modern human rights system really express universal understandings, or does it express only a particular bias? Is the perspective of westerners like that of Europeans before the age of exploration, when they knew nothing of the uncharted territories far beyond their shores? We know from history that arrogant Europeans may want to go out to these unknown areas not to learn but to dominate and capture. We should be very cautious about urging the universality of the western human rights system. That urging can become just another component of the overwhelming globalization process, so intolerant of diversity, that we are now witnessing. Human rights advocates, usually defenders of minority interests, should not be so intolerant as to insist their approach must be the universal one.

The question of whether the dominant human rights system expresses universal understandings should be taken as an empirical question, not an ideological one. We can find out how others feel about issues such as torture or freedom of religion by asking them. If virtually everyone agrees that, say, torture should be regarded as a violation of human rights, then it is universal. If they don’t agree, it is not universal. Whether you and I think torture ought to be universally condemned is an altogether different question.

The diverse landmasses in the terrain of human rights understanding are only dimly visible to us. They may eventually be joined. However, we should be sure that that does not result from processes of domination and capture, but from processes of dialogue and partnership. We should acknowledge that there is space for coexistence of different localized systems of rights alongside the body of universally recognized human rights.

While it is not always necessary to reconcile differences, it is generally useful to explore and try to understand them. The analysis of patterns of agreement and disagreement on specific human rights propositions, as suggested here, can serve as a means for bringing similarities and differences into clearer view. The propositions are like little sailing vessels that can be used to explore different understandings of human rights.


Advisory Council on International Affairs, Universality of Human Rights and Cultural Diversity (The Hague, The Netherlands: AIV, No. 4, June 1998).

Alston, Philip, "The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights," in Philip Alston, ed., The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1992), pp. 473-508.

Bauer, Joanne R. and Bell, Daniel A., eds., The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Donnelly, Jack, International Human Rights, Second Edition (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1998).

Humana, Charles, World Human Rights Guide, Third Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Kent, George, "Analyzing Conflict and Violence," Peace & Change, Vol. 18, No. 4 (October 1993), pp. 373-398.

Kuhn, Thomas S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Third Edition (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

Revised Guidelines Regarding the Form and Contents of Reports to be Submitted by States Parties Under Articles 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. ECOSOC, Official Records, 1992, Supplement No. 3 (E/1992/23)

Robinson, Mary, "Realising Human Rights: ‘Take Hold of it Boldly and Duly …’", Romanes Lecture, Oxford University, November 11, 1997. Press Release HR/97/75, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Appendix 1


1) Human rights are described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). All persons have these rights by virtue of their being human.

2) Human rights are elaborated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and many other international instruments.

3) There are treaty bodies in the United Nations to monitor the implementation of several of the international human rights agreements.

4) There are two Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The purpose of the first Optional Protocol is to allow the Human Rights Committee (the UN treaty body overseeing implementation of the ICCPR) to receive complaints from individuals. The second Optional Protocol is aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.

5) The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the UDHR, the ICCPR, the ICESCR and the Optional Protocols.

6) Some international instruments, such as declarations and resolutions, are not legally binding. International agreements (covenants, treaties, conventions) that require ratification (or accession in some other form) are binding on those states that ratify them. Those that ratify them are described as States Parties to the particular agreements.

7) The UDHR, being a declaration, is not binding. ICCPR, ICESCR, CRC, and many other international human rights agreements are binding on those States Parties that have ratified them.

8) There are also regional human rights agreements and regional bodies to monitor their implementation in Latin America, Africa, and Europe. There is no regional human rights agreement or body in Asia.

9) Primary responsibility for assuring the realization of  human rights rests with the state.

10) States are represented by their national governments. Thus the primary obligation to assure the realization of human rights falls on national governments.

11) The state may, through its legislative process, impose legal obligations on other actors under its jurisdiction to help assure the realization of human rights.

123) International governmental organizations such as United Nations agencies serve as agents of their member states. Thus these agencies are obligated to honor international human rights.

13) States are obligated to respect, protect, facilitate, and fulfill human rights.

14) Respect means the state must respect the individual’s freedom to take the necessary actions and use the necessary resources—alone or in association with others--to satisfy his or her own needs.

15) Protect means the state is obligated to protect the individual’s freedom of action and the use of resources against other parties.

16) Facilitate means the state has the obligation to facilitate opportunities by which the rights can be enjoyed.

17) Fulfill means the state has the obligation to fulfill the rights directly, under some conditions, through the direct provision of basic needs such as food or shelter.

18) While international instruments describe the basic principles of human rights, states are expected to elaborate these rights through national legislation.

19) The elaboration of the state’s obligations in national law should include specifications regarding:

a) The rights themselves;
b) The corresponding obligations of the state;
c) The implementation mechanisms through which the state will carry out its obligations;
d) The means through which accountability will be assured, including in particular the remedies available to rights holders.
20) Individuals must have effective remedies in case they feel their rights are not being realized.

Appendix 2



1) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts in article 25(1) that "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food . . . "

2) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in article 11 says that "States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing . . ." and also "recognizes the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger . . . "

3) In the Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 24 says that "States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health ..." and shall take appropriate measures "to combat disease and malnutrition" through the provision of adequate nutritious foods, clean drinking water, and health care. Article 27 says that States Parties "shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing, and housing."

4) The World Food Summit of November 1996 reaffirmed "the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger."

5) Food and nutrition rights are part of the body of international human rights. They are recognized directly and also indirectly through recognition of the rights to health and to life.

6) Food rights focus on the importance of food in good nutrition, but should give attention to the importance of care and health services as well.

7) Nutrition rights are implied in the recognition in international human rights law of food rights, health rights, and the right to life.

8) States are obligated to protect, respect, facilitate and fulfill food and nutrition rights.

9) If a nation’s efforts to protect, respect, and facilitate nutrition rights are inadequate to meet needs, the state must recognize that at least under some conditions it is obligated to fulfill nutrition rights directly through the provision of food, care, and health services.

10) The state has a duty to spell out how it will meet these commitments through national legislation.

11) The international community, acting through appropriate international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, may assist national governments in formulating their national legislation regarding food and nutrition rights.

12) National legislation should specify entitlements of individuals to particular services relating to food, health, and care.

13) Women have the right to breastfeed.

14) Infants have the right to be breastfed if their mothers choose to breastfeed.