We all need food. It's a human pleasure, it's a human necessity, it's a human right. 

Food is critical to each and every one us, both as individuals and as a society.  It is an essential component of the human right to an adequate standard of living, which allows each of us to live a life of dignity.  

Watch our latest animation, produced in partnership with Nourish Scotland, on what the right to food means in Scotland and how we can make the right to food real for everyone. 

The Right to Food in Scotland

Scotland, as part of the UK, is signed up to international human rights laws protecting the right to food. 

However, the right to food is not incorporated into Scotland's domestic laws, which means it cannot be directly enforced in court. There is also no formal mechanism to ensure the right to food is taken into account systematically by the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament. 

In April 2019, the Commission called for the right to food to be incorporated into Scots law in our response to the Scottish Government's Consultation on Good Food Nation Proposals. 

To inform our response, the Commission also held a workshop with people who experienced barriers accessing their right to food.  Read the workshop report here.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission is calling on the Government to take action to incorporate the right to food into Scotland's laws as part of its work to make Scotland a Good Food Nation. We want to see the Scottish Government showing human rights leadership in a practical way. Bringing this kind of law into force would respond directly to recommendations from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Judith Robertson
Chair, Scottish Human Rights Commission

Elements of the Right to Food

The right to food can be broken down into different elements. 

Availability - food should be available for sale in markets and shops. Food should be available from natural resources.

Accessibility - food must be affordable. People should be able to afford food for an adequate diet without compromising on any other basic needs, such as school fees, medicines or rent. Physical accessibility means that food should be accessible to all, including people who are physically vulnerable.

Adequacy - food must satisfy dietary needs. Food should be safe for human consumption and free from contaminants including residues from pesticides, hormones or veterinary drugs. Adequate food should also be culturally acceptable so religious and cultural taboos must be accommodated.

Fulfilling these outcomes requires that states respect, protect and fulfil the right to food.

International Human Rights Laws

The right to food in international law is part of the right to an adequate standard of living, first laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article 25, and in treaties such as the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 27.  The key international provision on the right to food is article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Article 11(1) of ICESCR stipulates that state parties recognise the "right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.  The State Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realisation of this right."

In addition, article 11(2) provides that States Parties recognise the "fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger."  Moreover, it sets out that States shall take measures to improve methods of food production, conservation and distribution.