People's Stories Advocates


Human rights around the world are currently under major attack
by Andrew Gilmour
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights
 
Oct. 2017
 
Statement by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights to the 2017 Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders - Hosted by Front Line Defenders, Dublin, Ireland
 
Human rights around the world are currently under major attack. I feel it even in the rarefied atmosphere of the UN in New York and Geneva, where High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, my colleagues and I are criticized from many quarters, and attempts are made to silence us, slash our budgets and reduce our capacities. So if we feel it, even there, you on the frontline surely feel it far more acutely. An antagonistic nationalism is on the rise, with mounting levels of racism and xenophobia. We are seeing a form of populism that is often demagogic, cheap and xenophobic, with leaders and the media claiming to speak “on behalf of the will of the people”. This form of populism tends to be anti-foreigner, anti-minority, and seeks out victims to blame who are usually from the most vulnerable groups in society.
 
As High Commissioner Zeid put it not long ago: "The bellowing of hatred I heard around the world sends us back to a time when women, sexual minorities, and racial and religious groups had far fewer liberties”.
 
And that is precisely the point of many of the populists who want to return to some idyllic age when rights were privileges reserved for only a few.
 
I joined the human rights movement at the end of the 70s, as a naďve enthusiastic teenage volunteer. Not that we knew it then, but it was the start of a human rights revolution that lasted more than three decades. A period when enormous progress was made. But now we are seeing a backlash, or the pendulum swinging in the other direction, with many influential people questioning, and trends going against the values of human rights, freedoms and tolerance.
 
The shrinking of civil society space is not an accident of fate, but is usually the result of intolerant, and at the same time insecure, leaders (whether politically, militarily or sometimes psychologically insecure), who cannot bear the fact that NGOs might question their infallible decisions, and speak up for the rights of those being targeted. In the last few years, we have seen bans against NGOs passed in many countries, including Russia, Turkey, Israel, India, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya.
 
The backlash takes many forms. We see it in countries like the Philippines, where thousands of people – both petty criminals and bystanders – have been mercilessly gunned down in the streets and their homes by state agents, with a President who boasts of having personally participated in some murders, and encourages his soldiers to rape village women.
 
Millions of people around the world were shocked to hear talk from some leaders about actually “liking torture”, believe it or not, and claiming that “torture works”. Such glorification of torture is profoundly troubling, beyond a reluctant condoning, though even that would be bad enough.
 
The backlash continues to be felt also in connection with efforts to fight terrorism. While of course an important goal, we have however seen that these efforts have been used as a blanket justification to silence critical voices, clamp down on civil society, arbitrary detention in huge numbers and even execution of innocent people.
 
Some of these measures, which are in total contravention of human rights, have been observed in places like Nigeria, Bahrain and Egypt. What we find time and again – Governments simply refuse to learn this lesson – is that when you fight terrorism in a way that abuses the civilian population and leads to communities feeling more marginalized, then you end up with more terrorists than there were in the first place. This is something we in the UN are really trying to do something about now.
 
We have also seen entire groups unjustly vilified – immigrants and minorities, whether Roma, Muslims or Mexicans.
 
And we still have a long way to go in our struggle to fully realise the rights of women, including their right to equality and to be free from discrimination, violence, and sexual harassment (though the enormous brouhaha about the conduct of Harvey Weinstein suggests that we may at last be at some welcome tipping point on that).
 
What human rights need to survive and to push back against the backlash is a strong civil society, in the form of courageous NGOs and human rights defenders. And what we in the UN know – and must do more to acknowledge – is that you play a fundamental role in consistently standing up for human rights, tolerance and justice. You open space for debate, and help shape opinion. You are key in driving local decision-making processes for reform.
 
And as you know all too well, interrupting the status quo is often not well-received. Standing up for the rights of others and for what is right can mean exposing what powerful interests do not want exposed. When it involves the redistribution of power, and access to valuable resources, it can cause a violent response. Indigenous and environmental rights defenders are often the target - as I learned just last week when I was in Colombia, and before that in Honduras. And women human rights defenders too are exposed to specific risks.
 
We at the United Nations rely on cooperation with civil society actors around the world. You provide indispensable on-the-ground insights and information, alert the UN system to developing situations, and push for the right action to be taken.
 
For the work of the UN Human Rights Office – our advocacy with governments; our technical cooperation and training programmes for law enforcement, government officials, justice and security personnel, civil society and more; especially our monitoring and investigating reports of human rights violations – all this would be without foundation if we could not count on your courage, your expertise, your sense of principle, and your voices.
 
We have prioritized support to civil society in some of the following ways: we provide legal advice and capacity-building; we share lessons learned and best practices, and produce practical tools; we facilitate civil society engagement with UN Special procedures, treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review; we foster dialogue with State actors, and support legal frameworks and effective access to justice.
 
At times – as some of you have experienced or witnessed – engagement with the UN on human rights can lead to reprisals and intimidation. This has been a long-standing concern to the Organization, and we are distressed at the increasing number of such acts.
 
These range from travel bans, threats and harassment, smear campaigns, surveillance, restrictive legislation, physical attacks, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, denial of access to medical attention, and even killings.
 
Intimidation of human rights defenders is happening all the time. The purpose is to penalize individuals who have already spoken out, thereby also sending a signal to many others from speaking out in future.
 
Recognising the gravity of this issue, last October the Secretary-General announced that he had asked me to lead efforts to strengthen UN-wide action for prevention of, protection against, investigation into and accountability for reprisals. Many Governments are very supportive, and have offered resources for this endeavor. Our host country Ireland is very strong in this regard. We are trying to get as much information about what is going on, and for this we need your input, and will circulate our email address to help us get it.
 
Last month I presented the annual report of the Secretary-General on reprisals to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
 
I am normally suspicious of the type of people who quote themselves. But I hope I may be forgiven – in light of the direct relevance to what I am talking about today – if I recount a few lines of what I said in my speech to the Human Rights Council three weeks ago as I presented the Secretary-General’s report on reprisals:
 
We believe the significance of this report goes far beyond the individual cases contained in it. I think we should see these individuals as the canary in the coal-mine, bravely singing until they are silenced by this toxic backlash against people, rights and dignity – as a dark warning to us all.
 
It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases to you, the UN membership, of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their respective Governments – was to cooperate with the UN institutions and mechanisms whose mandate of course derives from you, the UN membership.
 
"I salute the extraordinary courage that it sometimes takes for the victims and their families to come forward and share their stories with us, and also the dedication of the civil society organizations who act on behalf of those affected."
 
But since the report I presented was limited to reprisals against people cooperating with the UN, the cases covered in it represent only a small portion of the far more generalized backlash against civil society, especially human rights defenders.
 
So we are reaching out to you and other defenders, and also doing more to sensitize governments to this issue. We are working on establishing a more coherent way at the UN system to deal with this issue. We are largely working through quiet diplomacy but go public when warranted. I have already taken up numerous specific cases with Governments concerned.
 
But there too, we feel the backlash. Certain Member States are unhappy with this mandate entrusted to me and are seeking to overturn it, or at the very least undermine it. Those Governments called out in our report tend to be those more vocal in criticizing it – which must come as a surprise to precisely nobody.
 
But let there be no mistake. Whether they succeed or not in pushing some hostile response in the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly, they cannot and will not stop us doing what we believe we have a moral obligation to do, explicit mandate or no explicit mandate: which is to defend the defenders and – at a very minimum – point out the hypocrisy that is involved when some UN Member States punish people cooperating with mechanisms that were established by UN Member States themselves.
 
On the overall questioning of human rights in the world, I do not know when the pendulum will swing back again. A historian by training, I never subscribed to the view that human history necessarily moves in a progressive direction. My fervent hope is that what we are seeing is just a temporary blip in the progress towards deeper fulfilment of human rights, and not a lasting reversal.
 
But it will only be so – the backlash will only be halted and the pendulum only reversed – if the human rights movement works together in an even more focused and coordinated way, to garner additional popular and political support for rights. That is the challenge.
 
You at the frontline have done by far the most to deliver the progress that we been lucky enough to see in the past few decades. And you on the frontline are the most at risk during this backlash. It’s the business of us in the UN – in particular OHCHR – to deliver the support you need. Also to both salute and to draw attention to the inspirational courage and commitment to principle that so many of you demonstrate, day after day.
 
If I may again repeat something I told the Human Rights Council: “I can conceive of no higher or self-evident duty – either of Council members or of Secretariat staff such as myself – for us to do more to defend the defenders of human rights.”
 
That is why it is truly an honour for me to stand before you today, hoping to make my own contribution to strengthening further the vital alliance between the United Nations and civil society. Thank you for giving me that chance.


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Inequality, Hunger, and Malnutrition: Power Matters
by Naomi Hossain
Global Hunger Index
 
Oct. 2017
 
In the same world where over 800 million people go hungry and 2 billion suffer from some form of malnutrition, more than a third of the adult population is obese and a third of all food produced is lost or wasted. So while the problems in the world food system are vast, they are also unevenly spread.
 
Typically, groups with the least social, economic, or political power suffer hunger or malnutrition - whether they are barely eking out a living in remote rural areas of poor countries or residing in marginalized communities in the big cities of wealthy states.
 
This uneven distribution of hunger and malnutrition in all its forms is rooted in inequalities of social, political, and economic power. Therefore, the first step in tackling the inequalities of hunger is to understand how they are embedded in and magnified by the inequalities of power at work in the food system.
 
It is not easy to make sense of power relations. They often operate out of sight and in such complex webs that even the most sophisticated and advanced solutions to hunger may fail to make long-term gains. Policies that do not take into consideration the underlying power dynamics—no matter how practical, technical, or scalable - are unlikely to succeed.
 
How do inequalities of power lead to unequal nourishment? Power is defined as “the degree of control over material, human, intellectual and financial resources exercised... in the social, economic and political relations between individuals and groups”.
 
Power may be an abstract concept, but its impact is tangible. In food systems, power is exercised in a variety of ways and spaces, by a variety of actors: through concentrations of capital and market share that allow agri-food corporations to influence the price of food and food inputs as well as their supply or quality; by government offices, international organizations, or public-private partnerships that can influence, implement, or block food policies and, with their intellectual or organizational resources, can shape debates and mobilize public opinion; or through the authority of individuals over decisions about household expenditures and family meals.
 
As Olivier de Schutter, UN special rapporteur on the right to food from 2008 to 2014, writes in the 2015 Global Nutrition Report, “food systems are defined by political decisions and the differential power of actors to influence those decisions”.
 
In the food system, this differential power appears in various forms, levels, and spaces, ranging from who has the cash to decide what to get for dinner tonight, all the way up to whose voice gets heard in debates about international regulations and policy frameworks.
 
Global policy debates are increasingly acknowledging the power relations that drive and maintain the inequalities underlying hunger and malnutrition. But they do so unsystematically, in ways that draw attention to the power of men over women in poor households, for instance, while sidelining the power of big firms over national food policies, local markets, and individual food choices.
 
This is particularly problematic because power, measured in terms of financial heft and geographical reach, is highly concentrated among large transnational food companies.
 
This concentration of market power has also been associated with rising levels of overweight and obesity in countries transitioning from low to middle-income status. It is therefore critical to draw attention to the spaces in the food system where power imbalances can be and are being challenged, resisted, and shifted.
 
In 2016, the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into force to guide efforts over the next decade and a half “to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind”.
 
SDG2, the second of 17 SDGs, aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”. Yet it draws no attention to the different ways in which different groups are affected by malnutrition.
 
SDG10, meanwhile, targets economic, social, health, and political inequalities, but makes no mention of hunger and nutrition even though groups that experience hunger, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity are concentrated among the economically, socially, politically, and geographically disadvantaged.
 
Interweaving Inequalities
 
The intersection of malnutrition with other forms of inequality reflects how the food system amplifies the economic, social, and political disparities that already divide societies. In 2016–2017, the most dire manifestations of inequality in the global food system were the acute food crises and famine affecting 108 million people, heavily concentrated in East Africa and the Middle East.
 
The “new famines” of the twenty-first century have stemmed mostly from armed power struggles, in which combatants have used hunger as a weapon. The 2016–2017 food crises, though linked to the East African drought, have afflicted people who were already hungry or undernourished because of violence, displacement, climate change, or high food prices.
 
Gender inequality is widely recognized as an axis of nutritional inequality. Many forms of chronic malnutrition are closely associated with low birthweight and child and infant nutrition status, which are linked to women’s lack of power in the household and society. Gender relations influence which children go hungry, as families forced to ration meals often favor boys, who are seen as future breadwinners, over girls, who are considered burdens on the family until they marry and leave.
 
Gender equality and women’s empowerment tend to correlate with better nutrition status in most contexts. Yet women’s empowerment is generally treated as a matter of strengthening their purchasing power and control over household decisions, rather than one of redressing women’s lack of collective power in higher levels of the food system - where, for example, debates about agriculture and food-trade policy take place - that directly affect hunger and nutrition.
 
Socioeconomic class and geography intersect with, and often surpass, gender as an axis of inequality. As a recent report notes, “Power imbalances, often stemming from economic inequalities, are... a key factor in the way food systems operate”. Families’ income, social status, and location often appear to play a greater role in determining whether children are stunted than does gender, as data for East Africa show. In Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda, for instance, children are less likely to be stunted if they live in the capital city, close to the centers of power.
 
To see how power intersects with the food system, one need only look at the poor nutrition outcomes - such as low weight-for-height (wasting), low height-for-age (stunting), and micronutrient deficiencies - among indigenous peoples, who often face both poverty and sociopolitical marginalization.
 
In Latin America, many countries suffer severely from the double burden of malnutrition - the coexistence of undernutrition and overnutrition. According to one study, almost half of all children in Guatemala are stunted, but the double burden of malnutrition is highest among indigenous peoples in the highland regions: more than a quarter of families there have stunted children and overweight mothers.
 
The kind of access people have to changing food markets also shapes hunger and nutrition inequalities. In urban settings, marginalized people often find themselves integrated into market-based food systems on adverse terms, stuck in “food deserts” (areas where fresh whole foods are unavailable) or unable to afford healthy foods even when they are available.
 
It is therefore unsurprising that in high-income countries, including Australia and Canada, the risk of obesity among indigenous people may be as much as 1.5 times higher than for non-indigenous people in comparable areas. In the United States, obesity rates are highest among people with the lowest incomes, racialized and marginalized groups, and those living in poor areas marked by social division.
 
Understanding Power
 
The uneven distribution of hunger and malnutrition reflects wider inequalities of power in society. Yet power dips in and out of view in global food and nutrition policy debates. These debates tend to focus on the power of individuals (usually women) to feed families well, and on government commitment to food and nutrition security, while overlooking power exercised at higher levels or in forms that are difficult to measure.
 
Although power is not the subject of the Global Nutrition Report, for example, the concept recurs throughout the 2016 edition, illustrating power’s integral role in nutrition outcomes: throughout the text are references to “female empowerment”; purchasing and political power in Brazil’s Fome Zero movement; the need for a “more political approach to nutrition” that could “help tip the balance of power to eliminate malnutrition in all its forms”; the power of policy makers and others to effect policy change; the power of marketing to children; and the power of the infant-feeding lobby in the process of Brazil’s passage of a law limiting the marketing of breast-milk substitutes.
 
Power is inescapable in any analysis of hunger and malnutrition. Yet without systematic and purposeful analysis, key issues go missing from the conversation, such as the consequences of the central role played by transnational corporations in the global food system.
 
Power in the global food system is now so concentrated in the hands of these corporations that they largely determine how and which food moves from producers to consumers. This system is often visualized as an hourglass: food is grown by millions of farmers worldwide, and every person in the world eats. But getting food from “farm to fork” is increasingly mediated by a few large commodity distributors, suppliers, retailers, and processing and packaging firms.
 
Three transnational firms - Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta - dominate commercial seed transactions globally; another three - ADM, Bunge, and Cargill - are responsible for most international grain trade.
 
The biggest 100 firms control 77 percent of processed food sales worldwide, a share that is growing. Why does this matter? One key reason is that when food systems open up to global trade, people often turn to cheap processed foods, leading to the double burden of malnutrition.
 
Analyzing the role power plays in creating nutritional inequalities means making sense of its different forms, not all of which are quantifiable, and of the multiple levels and spaces in the food system where power is at play, not all of which are obvious.
 
Policy makers would benefit from such analyses - which can highlight gaps in thinking, areas for action, and possible allies - in formulating realistic nutrition policies and interventions.
 
Asking questions about power in the food system can help in diagnosing its inequalities and in identifying realistic opportunities for addressing them. For instance, is it realistic to expect billions of individuals to eat healthier diets when an onslaught of advertising and a glut of attractive, affordable new food items are urging them otherwise.
 
Similarly, is breastfeeding really just an individual choice? The decision to breastfeed or not is often dictated by other factors - whether maternity-leave provisions are in place for working mothers or regulations prohibiting breast-milk-substitute samples are enforced - that are beyond the control of new mothers.
 
Framing breastfeeding as an individual choice lets the multibillion-dollar breast-milk-substitute industry off the hook for its concerted efforts to get mothers to buy their products. Information on the benefits of breastfeeding alone is not a sufficient counterweight to this industry’s great marketing power.
 
Thus initiatives encouraging breastfeeding would do well to target some efforts toward the spaces in which the producers of breast-milk substitutes make their decisions. For now, however, most behavior-change communications programs focus on changing individual behaviors rather than the structures that determine them.
 
Spaces for Change
 
Initiatives such as the Hunger Reduction and Nutrition Commitment Index aim to create and sustain pressure for reform and national political accountability by gathering data for hunger and malnutrition and monitoring policy change.
 
Power is not monolithic and immovable. It is exercised in a range of forms (from consumption to advertising to policy making), at various levels (global, national, and local), in multiple spaces (from farmers’ unions to UN committees), offering myriad opportunities for campaigners, activists, practitioners, and policy makers to advocate, devise strategies, and build coalitions for change.
 
The vast inequalities in the food system have generated a similarly wide range of efforts to resist and redistribute power. A necessarily selective sample of these efforts highlights both their potential to redress imbalances of power as well as the challenges such efforts face.
 
The last decade has seen an unprecedented expansion of “invited spaces” for dialogue and advocacy around nutrition between mutually acceptable parties. In principle, these spaces offer champions of change opportunities to challenge or hold the powerful to account.
 
For instance, the global Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which involves 59 national governments as well as representatives from business, civil society, donors, and UN system networks, aims to “end malnutrition in all its forms” by initiating, supporting, and monitoring progress on nutrition. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), meanwhile, aims to “find and deliver solutions to the complex problem of malnutrition” through forging alliances among the public sector, private sector, and civil society.
 
Both SUN and GAIN take multistakeholder partnerships seriously. But with power so weighted against hungry and malnourished people and so concentrated among transnational corporations, are power relations in the food system likely to be shifted through decisions and alliances made in such spaces?
 
Are the rules of entry and the agendas for dialogue open to proponents of alternative views who seek to shift control over the food system from big corporations to producers, consumers, and advocates of agroecological agriculture? These questions deserve a closer look.
 
Much work remains to be done to create equitable spaces for policy dialogue, in which the interests of those with little power and at greatest risk of hunger and malnutrition have a real chance at meaningful participation in global policy debates. Invited spaces can, however, create opportunities for “speaking truth to power,” particularly with respect to the performance of national governments, which still have the authority to shape their food systems and the duty to ensure food security.
 
Initiatives such as the Hunger Reduction and Nutrition Commitment Index aim to create and sustain pressure for reform and national political accountability by gathering data for hunger and malnutrition and monitoring policy change.
 
For such efforts to be effective, they must have “teeth” - that is, the power to bring sanctions or enforce change. But “naming and shaming” will only work on actors that can be shamed and are likely to have little effect on governments that are unaccountable to the hungry. Thus better nutrition-related data alone cannot guarantee greater government commitment to fighting hunger and malnutrition and may overshadow the experiences of those affected.
 
Meanwhile, agrifood corporations may be insensitive to their public image or immune to demands for accountability for hunger and nutrition, and can only be punished where it hurts most - the bottom line.
 
Popular Movements for Food Sovereignty and Food Rights
 
Invited spaces tend to give some civil society activists and scholars some access to powerholders. But there are numerous movements rooted in struggles around agriculture, peasants’ rights, poverty, and hunger operating at the grassroots level that have little access to these spaces.
 
Transnational food-sovereignty and food-justice movements aim to radically redistribute power in the food system. These movements organize people disempowered in the global food system and also aim to demonstrate viable agroecological alternatives to current agricultural practices.
 
Spearheaded by the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, the food-sovereignty movement seeks to shift control away from transnational corporations toward small-scale producers and consumers, giving them “sovereignty” - that is, more power to take decisions over what food they grow and eat.
 
The food-sovereignty and food-justice movements believe that returning control - over land and inputs, local markets, and national policies - to those with limited power in the food system will make it more ecologically beneficial and better able to provide nourishment.
 
In the past decade, these movements have played a key role in opening the debate about the human and ecological costs of food-system globalization and demonstrating alternative models.
 
National right-to-food movements and their supporters, such as the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition, articulate popular demands for action on hunger and nutrition, often outside of invited spaces.
 
These movements confront power directly, but within the international human-rights framework. They seek to tackle accountability for hunger by combining evidence-gathering and publicity campaigns with grassroots efforts to mobilize for, secure, and uphold rights.
 
Such movements sometimes manage to claim policy spaces once closed to them - shifting the power dynamics in unexpected directions - as was the case with the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), now deemed the UN’s “most inclusive body.”
 
Popular struggles over power in the food system also include food riots, quite apart from food-sovereignty or right-to-food movements. History has shown that food riots tend to break out when food prices spiral out of control, as they did during the global food-price spikes of 2008 and 2010–2011.
 
Between 2007 and 2012, riots erupted in more than 30 countries, shaping the political and policy responses to food crises during these years. Some of the most violent struggles took place in middle-income countries such as Algeria, where 800 people were injured in clashes with police.
 
Protests against high food prices in the Middle East and North Africa helped trigger the Arab Spring. Rebellions over food prices are often linked to wider contests over economic injustice and inequality, and are deeply rooted in shared perceptions of the morality of food systems and related struggles over wages, working conditions, and civil and political rights.
 
Such outbreaks of violence intrude into the policy space, borrowing the power of mass media to grab the attention of political elites and get their concerns on the policy agenda.
 
Between 2007 and 2012, fears of unrest and loss of political legitimacy led many political and policy elites to respond to public anger, taking high-profile action against speculators, stabilizing local prices through market interventions and food grain reserves, establishing cash or food transfers to the most vulnerable, and investing in domestic agriculture. Food riots are the undesirable but likely consequence of people’s loss of power over their food systems, but in some cases they prompt a rebalancing of those systems.
 
Leaving No One Behind
 
The uneven distribution of hunger and nutrition reflects the unequal distribution of power in the food system. In its hourglass shape, the power at the center amplifies poverty and marginalization at both ends of the system: at one end, small-scale farmers and low-paid food producers suffer hardship; at the other end, those excluded from or adversely incorporated into globalized food markets face hunger and malnutrition.
 
Transnational corporations’ growing control over what we eat - which often deepens existing inequalities - has generated a wide range of spaces and forms of resistance.
 
Power analysis encourages us to look beyond the obvious and the measurable, to trace the effects of interests operating at multiple levels of the food system, to find opportunities where and when they arise, and to enter spaces where that power can be challenged, resisted, and redistributed.
 
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’ aim of “leaving no one behind” demands approaches to hunger and malnutrition that are both more sensitive to their uneven distribution and more attuned to the power inequalities that amplify the effects of poverty and marginalization in all forms of malnutrition. Power analysis can help equalize change in the food system if:
 
Researchers and analysts use its conceptual tools to name all forms of power that keep people hungry and malnourished, helping draw attention to forms of power that are hard to see because they are exercised, for example, in complex webs of supply chains and distribution networks or through the “soft power” of marketing, advertising, and research funding.
 
Intervention design focuses more strategically on where power is exerted, highlighting how and when policies and interventions aimed at changing people’s eating habits should be accompanied by actions to address influences on those habits that operate higher up the system - for instance, real power would derive from women organizing to demand the enforcement of breast-milk-substitute regulations, food-security programs that are fair and provide nutritious food, and a seat at the food-policy table.
 
Activists, practitioners, policy makers, and all champions of eradicating hunger and malnutrition can identify and exploit spaces for change in the food system, highlighting obstacles to reform, changing the rules by which decisions get made, devising sanctions with the “teeth” to hold the powerful to account, and empowering the hungry and malnourished to challenge and resist loss of control over the food they eat.
 
* Naomi Hossain has researched elite perceptions of poverty, accountability in education and social protection, and women’s empowerment in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the UK, and led cross-country research in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. She was the research lead on the Institute of Development Studies/Oxfam GB project: Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility. Access the 2017 Global Hunger Index via the link below.


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