A Turkish woman as the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food
The United Nation’s special rapporteur on the right to food since 2014 has been a Turkish woman named Hilal Elver. Prof. Elver, who was a legal expert at an Environment Ministry institution, was the second woman rapporteur selected from Turkey in the history of the U.N. The first was Yakın Ertürk, who was the special rapporteur on violence against women from 2003 to 2009.
Elver has been working at the University of California in the fields of social justice and climate. Since 1996 she has been lecturing at several universities in the U.S.
Her book, titled “Reimagining Climate Change” was recently published, co-edited with Paul Wapner from American University in Washington, working on global environment policies and ethics. The book consists of 10 articles ranging from technology, literature, right to food and climate justice and questions why climate change policies fail.
I recently came across Elver, who I have known for years, in Bodrum in southwest Turkey. She spends a couple of months a year in Bodrum with her husband, Prof. Richard Falk, a prominent international law expert. We talked about her position at the U.N.
What are the activities of the special rapporteur on the right to food?
Some of the fields she covers are famine, food prices, agricultural production, the monopoly of seeds under major companies, the relationship between food prices and climate change.
Elver visits various countries, including the Philippines, Morocco and Poland, to examine their food policies.
She also recently presented two separate reports on gender equality and climate change from the perspective of food rights to the U.N.
Elver is now preparing a third report about the right to nutrition.
In the first of these reports, she investigated which contributions were made to family and children when women can reach financial sources and have access to property rights over agricultural lands. The report concluded that inner-family welfare will flourish and children can be better fed in such cases.
Elver also unleashed the negative effects of climate change over the right to nutrition.
“Humans who live in adverse geographical and socioeconomic conditions are negatively affected from today’s agricultural policies and agricultural system,” she said.
An effective migration policy and an environmental policy which was sensitive to human rights will avert such negativities, she added.
Regarding the chronic hunger which affects roughly 1 billion people in Africa, she noted: “The support by a bunch of major food giants for more production to make more profits will never resolve the hunger crisis.”
She noted that food products do not reach those who are in need, but are being accumulated by other hands.
“It is not sustainable to increase production. This will bring nothing but water and soil consumption. If we can separate the profit from the produce, then we can conduct much healthier agricultural policies,” added Elver.
This vicious circle can be avoided as long as local populations are trained to be self-sufficient, she noted. “We can start with supporting the small farmers, teaching them how to market their produce and compete with others, developing their infrastructure and building roads or storages in rural areas,” she said.
One of the things she recommended for Turkey, which is known as an agricultural country, was to create a master agricultural plan and inventory.