Human Rights and Healthy Diets

Human Rights and Healthy Diets. Does the food industry have a responsibility to respect the right to adequate food and diet-related health?

Time: Thursday 8 December

Part I: Open Morning Seminar 09:00 – 12:15
Part II: Technical Workshop in the afternoon (by invitation)

Where: Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Cort Adelersgate 30, Oslo

Please register here by Wednesday 7 December!

FoHRC – Food, Human Rights and Corporations, the National Nutrition Council and FIAN Norway are happy to invite you to a seminar about
Human Rights and Healthy Diets on Thursday 8 December at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights.

Speakers in the Morning Seminar include:
Julie Schindall, Senior Advisor at Shift
Professor Amandine Garde and Ben Murphy, Law and Non-Communicable Diseases Unit, University of Liverpool
Fredrik Wang Gierløff, State Secretary, Ministry of Health and Care Services
Petter Haas Brubakk, Director General of Food Drink Norway, Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises
Cathrine Halsaa, Head of Secretariat, Norway’s OECD National Contact Point
Stineke Oenema, Coordinator, UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN)

The morning seminar is open for everyone, but requires registration. Please register here by Wednesday 7 December!

The technical workshop in the afternoon is by invitation, and is intended for those with some familiarity and experience with the theme of the seminar. Read more about the workshop at the end of the page. Those who wish to participate in the workshop are invited to signal their preliminary interest by sending an email to one of the contacts listed below.

Contacts: Wenche Barth Eide: wbeide(at)
Anne Lene Løvhaug: annelenelovhaug(at)

Preliminary programme available here!

Under international human rights law, everyone has a right to adequate food and to the highest attainable standard of health.

States are obliged to adopt appropriate measures to respect, protect and fulfil these rights, which can be done in many ways, including public health regulations through food legislation or restrictions concerning the marketing of food.  But does the food industry also have a responsibility to respect the human rights to adequate food and diet-related health? It is clear that they have a duty to comply with existing regulations in the territory of the states where they operate, but does the food industry have a responsibility for healthy diets also when existing regulations are insufficient or totally absent because of the failure of the state to provide effective regulations?

Poor diets constitute the world’s leading cause of early deaths, and account for 11 million deaths annually according to the 2013 Global Burden of Disease study. Undernutrition continues to take its tolls among young children, including by contributing to deaths from common infectious childhood diseases.  With obesity on the rise, including in childhood, people are becoming further predisposed for non-communicable diseases like
cancer, diabetes 2, and cardiovascular diseases.

Which obligations do governments have to protect their populations from unnecessary poor health? And what responsibility do food companies have with regards to promoting healthier diets?

Businesses across the world are encouraged by governments to follow the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises developed by the OECD. The OECD Guidelines provide guidance for responsible business conduct in a global context. They have been updated to reflect also the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), which were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011.

This seminar will introduce the UNGP, with reference also to the national action plans that have been adopted for the implementation of these principles. The seminar will in particular focus on the subsequent UNGP Reporting Framework for companies of all kinds, as developed by Shift and Mazars in 2015, following two years of global consultation.  Many human rights can be impacted by business, and companies will wish to define and prioritise those rights at risk of the most severe negative impacts – the ‘salient risks’ – across their operations and value chains.  Will food companies agree to respect the human rights to adequate food and health – and what would this imply in practice along the food chain from
production to consumption?  How can due diligence and reporting on practices by the corporate food sector be operationalised?

The seminar will especially explore the challenges to industry and governments to mitigate the accelerating global obesity epidemic among rich and poor. The challenges include both commitments to responsible food processing and ethical food marketing practices, to children in particular.  What sector-specific frameworks and standards can guide reporting and necessary changes in the food business sector towards the consumer end of the spectrum?

Information regarding the Technical Workshop in the afternoon:

The technical workshop in the afternoon is intended for people with some pre-familiarity and experience with the theme of the seminar, be it from a legal, human rights, academic, government administration, international organisation, civil society or private sector perspective. The intention of the workshop is to discuss in more detail the issues raised in the morning session, from various angles and viewpoints of the workshop participants. The workshop further intends to explore the use of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the the UNGP Framework in relation to the human rights to adequate food and diet-related health.  The organisers hope the workshop can inspire proposals for due diligence by concerned companies in respect to these rights, and welcome a vivid discussion of governments’ obligations to protect these rights for optimal nutrition and absence of all forms of malnutrition and related diseases.  The initiative should be of equal interest for the ongoing process in the UN towards a possible Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights.

Those who wish to participte in the workshop are invited to signal their preliminary interest by contacting Wenche Barth Eide on
wbeide(at)uio.medisin.uio or Anne Lene Løvhaug on annelenelovhaug(a), and will be informed later. Please note that space is limited for this workshop.