Hidden Hunger in Peacetime and Wartime: Retailoring the 'Responsibility to Protect' to Food-Power Discourses in Burundi and North Korea, Between International Politics and International Law

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Abstract

The framework known as ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (“R2P”) has afforded legal endorsement and codification to the doctrine that States hold responsibility under public international law for the protection of their own citizens and of those who reside within their prescriptive jurisdiction. This holds true in peacetime and wartime alike, and it is shaped by an understanding of ‘security’ which increasingly calls for comprehensive and multifaceted assessments (human security) to replace the traditional ones centred on military protection. Within the human security paradigm, the right to food stands at the forefront of a reconceptualization which proceeds beyond the quantity of available (or accessible) food, up to scrutinise its nutritional value more pertinently, and human capabilities in context. ‘Hidden hunger’—the chronic insufficiency of nutrients intake that
victimises hundreds of millions of children worldwide is currently dismayingly unaddressed in legal scholarship, despite representing a proven trigger of violent spirals which turn countries to conflict and frustrate their Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”). It is therefore essential to analyse the chances to successfully invoke the R2P framework as to intervene in countries whose ruling classes can be identified as the major cause of protracted hidden hunger (either because those regimes keep their population in a condition of civil conflict, or due to those rulers’ individual greed and unconstrained authoritarianism). The case studies of Burundi and North Korea respectively are enlightening to this end, and surprisingly illustrate that whereas, strictly legally, the R2P provides (modest) enhanced room for perpetrators accountability, its political impact restricts the options available for the international community to argue that the wilful production (or passive acceptance) of hidden hunger violates the internationally recognised ‘right to food’, and intervene accordingly whenever necessary.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)181-234
Number of pages54
JournalNorth Carolina Journal of International Law
Volume46
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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