Towards a new trade agenda for the right to food


Policy Brief No. 83

Key points:

  • Access to food is a fundamental human right. Trade plays a key role in food security but an excessive exposure to global markets also increases risks.

  • Trade policy needs to be advanced from a right-to-food perspective. This calls for the effective implementation and reform of existing World Trade Organization provisions.

  • In 2021, the fifteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the Twelfth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization will provide opportunities to incorporate the right-to-food agenda in the global trade architecture.


The Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in his interim report submitted in July 2020 to the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly, invited States to advance trade policy from a rightto- food perspective.

Noting that the Agreement on Agriculture of the World Trade Organization had been unable to provide adequate outcomes in terms of trade results and food security, the report, among others, recommended winding down the Agreement and negotiating new international food agreements.

UNCTAD is in full agreement with the ultimate goal as stated in the report, which is to ensure that everyone eats with dignity and is free from hunger. However, based on observations over the past 30 years of the negotiations on and implementation of the Agreement on Agriculture, UNCTAD considers that winding down the Agreement may risk blurring the real issues at stake, namely, related to the prolonged delay in the implementation of the provisions of the Agreement meant to address the concerns of developing countries about agricultural production and food security.

As the focal point within the United Nations system for the integrated treatment of trade and development and interrelated issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment and sustainable development, UNCTAD urges member States of the World Trade Organization to tackle four unresolved issues with regard to the implementation of the Agreement on Agriculture, to strengthen synergistic linkages between trade policy and the right to food.