New UN report highlights challenges to ensuring food security in Timor-Leste

16 December 2008

Timor-Leste faces a number of challenges in its quest to ensure that all of its citizens have access to adequate food, such as poor infrastructure connecting villages to local markets, according to a new report by the United Nations mission in the country, known as UNMIT.

The report on the right to food, launched today by UNMIT’s Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section, also cites challenges in the areas of pre- and post-harvest handling, transportation, and knowledge on nutrition.

It examines the various efforts made by the Government, members of the international community and civil society to help realize the right to food, which the UN says is achieved when every man, woman and child has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.

“When most people think of human rights, they think of civil or political rights. What they don’t realise is that the right to food is a basic human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is also one of the key pillars for a sustainable nation,” said UNMIT’s Human Rights and Transitional Justice Section Chief, Louis Gentile.

“The right to food in this sense does not mean an entitlement to food. What it means it that every person has the right to have access to the means necessary to provide for themselves and their families,” he added.

“Food security,” explained Joan Fleuren, Representative of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), “can only be reached when all the three main aspects of food security (availability, accessibility and nutrition) are adequately addressed.”

Mr. Gentile also welcomed the recent Government decision to propose an increase in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries budget for 2009 as well as making food security and rural development national priorities for 2009.

“If effective measures are made to compliment the Government’s decisions, this would mean that Timor-Leste will be on its way to fulfilling the right to food for all its citizens, particularly for the most vulnerable.”


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