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Call for respect of the right to food at the WTO Ministerial Conference

10. November 2009

    The 7th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference will be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 30 November to 2 December 2009. The general theme for discussion will be “The WTO, the Multilateral Trading System and the Current Global Economic Environment”. World leaders will review WTO activities, including the Doha Work Program and discuss the WTO's contribution to recovery, growth and development.

    This high level meeting comes as other world conferences, such as the World Food Summit, address the critical issue of the global food crisis. Thus, this is an important opportunity for us to speak to WTO members to include the protection, respect and fulfillment of the right to food in their commitments. The FAO 2009 Report on the State of the World Food Insecurity estimates that over 1 billion people live with constant hunger.  It is thus essential for us to call for the right to food within the WTO so that countries are allowed to produce and have access to an adequate supply of food.  Achieving this entails minimizing the impact of dumping of cheap subsidized food. Safeguard measures need to address import surges and price volatility so that all countries have the right to ensure their food self sufficiency.

     What can you do?

    Sign on to the EAA letter below to call for the inclusion of the respect for the right to food and adoption of just and sustainable trade practices in the Chair’s final Text for the Ministerial Conference. The deadline for signatures is 19 November 2009.

    The final letter with all the signatures will be sent back to you for sending to your WTO delegates. The EAA will send the letter to the WTO Director General & General Council Chair.

    Organizational signatures (organization name and the country in which you are based) are preferred

    By e-mail to:    amunzara@e-alliance.ch

    By fax to:         + 41 22 710 2387

    10 November 2009


    Pascal Lamy, Director-General

    Ambassador Mario Matus, General Council Chair

    World Trade Organization
    Centre William Rappard
    Rue de Lausanne 154
    CH-1211 Geneva 21


    Dear Mr Lamy, dear Ambassador Matus,


    Call upon WTO members to respect the right to food as enshrined in human rights instruments at the 7th Ministerial Conference


    We, the undersigned religious and faith-based organizations, and civil society organizations call for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to respect the right to food, including as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).  We hope to see the inclusion of the right to food in the concluding Chair’s Text of the outcome document of the 7th WTO Ministerial Conference as part of the solution towards addressing the current food crisis.

    We are committed to actions that promote justice for all people and as part of fulfilling this mandate we have joined together to call for:

        * The recognition of  the right to food in the WTO negotiations
        * Just and sustainable agricultural production and trade systems
        * Safeguard measures that address import surges and/price volatility and the right of all countries to produce for domestic consumption and ensure their food self-sufficiency

    We believe it is important for WTO members to uphold a common vision of the right to food, which allows countries to produce and have access to an adequate supply of food while ensuring a fair income for their food producers.  This will entail minimizing “dumping” in developing countries. Trade liberalization through the World Trade Organization has required countries to open their markets to food-exporting countries. Even today, the negotiation on exclusion of “Special Products” from trade liberalization (which developing countries need as a means of protecting their food security) is blocked by the powerful donor states.

    According to the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, it is essential for trade rules to allow States to limit their excessive reliance on international trade so as to ensure their food security, favor their greater self-sufficiency and maintain flexible measures and programs that will promote food price stability while protecting domestic markets from the volatility of prices on the international markets. These rights should be afforded to developing countries who suffer most from the food crisis and from dumping of subsidized food from rich countries. Escalating food prices have led to a food crisis that in turn puts in danger the Millennium Development Goals target of reducing hunger by half by 2015.

    The right to food is only realized when food is available, accessible, affordable and acceptable  We ask you in the preparations and decisions around the 7th WTO Ministerial Conference to put into place tangible actions that will realize the commitments governments have made to the Millennium Development Goals and the right to food.

    Food, for life, is a matter of justice and should not be treated like any other tradable commodity. .. “Give us this day our daily bread” is a petition repeated by millions of Christians around the world every day as they pray the Lord’s Prayer. This calls us to care for humanity and all of Creation, leads us to provide food to those who are in immediate and dire need, and simultaneously work to expose and eradicate the causes of hunger. We believe that recognition of everyone’s right to adequate food is an important part of reaching this goal.


    Yours in faith

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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