Our petition was born out of 4 Auckland University of Technology Bachelor of Laws students; Danielle (Sunday Blessings co-founder), Carlina, Jessie and Vinay, where as part of group research, we wanted government accountability as a signatory of international declarations and covenants guaranteeing food security.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was signed on December 10 (now international Human Rights Day) 1948, declaring food a human right. In the process of creating our formal petition document, Parliament's office refused our original request that our government make a domestic declaration that food is a human right. They stated that "article 25 of the UDHR already declares food as a human right, so NZ does not need to declare this again."
We found this bizarre, because despite this declaration made decades ago, thousands of people every day across NZ are food insecure.This denial of a domestic declaration led us to get creative, also to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which came into force in 1978.
New Zealand undertook to take steps to realise the rights set out in the covenant, including: ensuring adequate food (Article 11); the highest attainable standard of health (Article 12); and protection and assistance to the family (Article 10). As LLB students taught to respect (and have faith in!) the constitutional make up of NZ law, this had us even more perplexed.
Despite the undertakings given in 1948, 1978 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, 1 in 5 children are reported to live in food-insecure households, and women, Māori and Pasifika have particularly high food insecurity rates. Not only are many New Zealanders food insecure, but certain demographics are struggling with food security at disproportionate rates, meaning our food systems are also discriminatory.
Did this mean that New Zealand was not bound by international law? International law created by the establishment of the United Nations of which NZ played a valuable role in founding? Members who signed the United Nations Charter in 1945 resolved to work together and "find solutions to the social, economic and cultural problems of the world".Hunger is not only a problem worldwide, it is a problem right here in front of us in Aotearoa, NZ.
Like the United Nations Office of The High Commissioner and International Human Rights instruments, we believe "the right to food is the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access—either directly or by means of financial purchases— to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensure a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear."
So with this international framework in mind, why is it still legal to have more food waste than food required to feed our hungry children go to the bin? Why do people have to line up for food from charities or beg? Why are there not more spaces for communal food growth in a country marketed internationally as "clean, green and friendly"?
Legally and morally, successive governments have had the responsibility to further up-step resources and actions to tackle the food crisis. Also to utilise it's domestic legal framework, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, Human Rights Act 1993 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi to create non discriminatory food systems. Because food is not just a human right, it is a necessity that no demographic should be experiencing at a higher rate.
As law students, as kiwis, we need our faith in the New Zealand legal system restored as well as the elimination of food poverty in Aotearoa, NZ.
Danielle, Carlina, Jessie & Vinay (2021 AUT Law Student Team)
May 2022 Update: Petition being tabled 17 May by Green Party of NZ and 2022 AUT Law Student Team Kirra Havemann, Emma Moon, Teresa Tawara, Jasmine Wright, Jackson Somers, Don Kusalei Mudara Beneragama and Danielle LeGallais.