There is a difference between the humanitarian assistance programs and the human rights approach. The former treat lives to be saved as bare life, not as lives with a political voice. The human rights approach respond directly to this concern. One can assure that people are treated like dignified human beings, rather than like animals on a feedlot, by making sure that they have some say in how they are being treated. This is why, in a human rights system, the people must have some institutionalized remedies available to them that can address the issues whenever they feel they are not being treated fairly.
This implies that people must be free to participate in shaping the conditions in which they live. This refers not only to the quality of relationships between individuals and their governments, but also to the quality of their relationships with one another. Human rights are not only about the potentialities of isolated individuals. People must be recognized as social beings with a need and a right to share in shaping not only their individual futures but also the futures of their communities. Strictly speaking, the human right to adequate food must be seen in the context of the right to adequate livelihood.
A human rights approach thus removes the charity dimension inherent in basic needs strategies, however valuable this may be, and emphasizes rights and responsibilities. Implicit in the introduction of a rights dimension are also attitudinal aspects whose potential political impact should not be underestimated.
Introduction of a rights approach would also have important implications for the analysis of food and nutrition problems and for policy and program planning. It necessitates a multifaceted role/responsibility analysis of obstacles confronting the realization of the right to adequate food. This becomes the basis for determining who is to be held accountable for the existence of such obstacles and who would be responsible for their removal.
Given this, a human rights framework means:
- Human rights are legally binding for states, not optional.
- National law and policies need to be brought into agreement with right to food and remove all obstacles on the path of right to livelihood and hence food.
- Human rights require active and effective remedies – through courts or other procedures – whenever rights are violated.
- Rights imply accountability, both domestic and international, and thus contribute to good governance. Under international covenants, states are obliged to submit periodic reports on the human rights measures they have taken. These reports are public and accessible, now accessible even on the Internet, and can be used to hold governments accountable for non-compliance with their obligations.