Freetown, Sept. 5 (SLENA) – Civil Society in Sierra Leone last week presented a Position Paper on The Right to Food in Sierra Leone to the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), Justice Edmond Cowan at the Miatta Conference Hall of the CRC, Youyi Building in Freetown.
The Civil Society organizations included Focus 1000, OXFAM, Scaling Up Nutrition, UNICEF, FAO, Irish Aid, Actionaid and Christian Aid.
Among others, the Right to Food Sierra Leone recommended that guaranteeing the right to food for Sierra Leoneans means realizing the human right of all to have physical and economic access at all times to adequate food in quality and quantity or means for its production. It was also observed that Government has demonstrated willingness to address the food and nutrition security in the country by signing up to several commitments as well as establishing structures to fulfill this interest underlining that by doing so, Government has understood the need to invest in food and nutrition security in a holistic manner to ensure a healthy and prosperous nation, a development welcomed by Civil Society.
However, Civil Society holds the view that the recognition of the right to food as a human right within the Constitution will legitimize the right to food, leading legislators and citizens to abide by the right as this is recognized in the highest legal framework (law of the land) in the country.
Mr. Frank Webber of the Right to Food Coalition, in his PowerPoint presentation, revealed that the Government of Sierra Leone has showed strong commitment to improving food and nutrition security for all in Sierra Leone, adding that in 2001, the Secretariat for the Right to Food was established in the Office of the Vice President, resulting to the strengthening of the institutional capacities for the Ministry of Agriculture in addition to setting up a Food and Nutrition Directorate in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
He also disclosed that Government ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1996 that has huge significance as it binds Government to commitments enshrined in the covenant. Mr. Frank Webber furthered quoted Article 11 (2) of the Covenant which states that Governments should recognize the fundamental rights of all their citizens to be free from hunger and shall take, individually and through international cooperation, the measures, including specific programs to improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing a reforming agrarian system in such a way as to achieve the most-efficient development and utilization of natural resources.
“Government must also take into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries to ensure the equitable distribution of world food supply in relation to need,” Mr. Frank Webber concluded.
The Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), Justice Edmond Cowan asserted that he was delighted to receive the position paper on the Right to Food to be reviewed in the Constitution, stressing that the mandate of the Committee “is to try as best as possible to reach out to all Sierra Leoneans to express their views on the Constitution.”
He further stressed that the Constitution is the supreme and source of law for which it is paramount that the people are involved in the review unlike in the past when only a few people, like the educated and politicians, reviewed or wrote the Constitution, citing the first Constitution that was framed in England that the founding fathers of independence were only invited to sign.
Justice Edmond Cowan furthered that the people are involved in the review of the revised Constitution, that the people are sovereign, that the Constitution empowers the people to appoint and sack all state officials, that after Parliament has approved the revised Constitution, a referendum would be conducted before the President signs the document.
According to the CRC Chairman, the Right to Food Coalition should have examined the Constitution “holistically” as the right to food is tied and interrelated to many other issues like Land, stating that international treaties and conventions have to be ratified and domesticated before implementation and stressed that policies are not laws as they are not sanctioned by Parliament.
He also promised that the CRC would do its level best to look at the position paper to “capture some of the recommendations” affirming that Sierra Leone has very good laws but that enforcement is a challenge, citing the Sunday Observance Law that has been in existence since colonial days.
Justice Edmond Cowan continued that the CRC wants a “credible document to stand the test of time” revealing that the Committee is now collating all the position papers received from institutions, organizations and individuals, stressing that the review process is not political but national and commended the RTF for its efforts to prepare the document as the right to food is very important.
He noted that there are problems with the land tenure and mineral systems in the country as they are not clearly mentioned in the Constitution for which some individuals and institutions are advocating for a separate chapter in the Constitution dealing with land and minerals, respectively.
The CRC Executive Secretary, Mr. Sahr Kpulum, chaired the event while Julia Fofanah of the Conservation Alliance Sierra Leone, rendered the vote of thanks.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.