MSV Side Event at Climate COP 16: Food Security and Human Rights in Small Island Developing States and the Arctic

This side event will address the links between climate change, food security and human rights from the perspectives of people in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States.

Halibut drying from traditional racks in
Uummannaq, Greenland
Photo: Lawrence Hislop

The «ultimate objective» of the UNFCCC is to stablize greenhouse «at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system» and that these levels should «ensure that food production is not threatened….”

At last year’s COP in Copenhagen, Olivier De Schutter, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said «[c]limate change is a ticking time bomb for global food security». De Schutter went on to say that global warming disproportionately affects some of the poorest countries – especially the most vulnerable, including small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples who depend on the land for their livelihoods.

The right to food has been recognized since the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights in 1948. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has defined food security as a situation «when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life». Food security, it says, is «a pre- condition for the full enjoyment of the right to food».

Fundamentally, food security is influenced by weather and climate and so the question of how climate change will affect it, and how society will adapt is critical. Sir Nicholas Stern recognized this when he wrote in his 2007 landmark analysis, The Economics of Climate Change:

«Climate change will have a wide range of effects on the environment, which could have knock-on consequences for food production. The combined effect of several factors could be very damaging.»

Climate change affects not only food security but food quality and quantity, as well as health, culture, transportation, infrastructure, and trade.

Identified in the IPCC IV report as being among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will be forced to address food security sooner than many other areas of the world. Working through the Many Strong Voices (MSV) program, they have already come together to address a number of climate change challenges. How they respond to this food security challenge may help provide valuable direction to others.

Coastal communities in the Arctic and in Small Island Developing States face common challenges due to a rapidly changing climate. Both regions continue to rely on the environment and natural resources for their livelihoods. Both have a wealth of indigenous and local knowledge which can be brought to bear on the challenges of a changing climate.

For further information, contact: John Crump ( phone +1 613 255 3840, or Petter Haugneland ( phone +47 982 34 699.