[New publication] UN rapporteur Michael Fakhri on food systems and structural violence

Published 13 May 2024

@Hilko Visser - The Eighth Annual T.M.C. Asser Lecture by Michael Fakhri at the Peace Palace in The Hague in 2023.

In a new publication by T.M.C. Asser Press, Professor Michael Fakhri, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, provides an interesting analysis of the complex relationship between food systems and structural violence. Drawing on his experience as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Fakhri outlines the impact of food systems on intensifying poverty, vulnerability, and marginalisation.   

The new publication, based on the 8th T.M.C. Asser Annual Lecture held in 2023 in the Peace Palace in The Hague, is part of the Annual T.M.C. Asser Lecture Series by book publisher T.M.C Asser Press. The book is available as an open access publication, and in print (see details below).  

In the book, Fakhri examines the global economy’s reliance on dependency and extractivism within food systems, emphasising how these structures continue cycles of structural inequality and systemic violence. Fakhri further highlights that food systems not only produce food but also intensify forms of violence, leading to widespread human rights violations.  

''So again, discrimination shows how we all have a range of different identities, and our access to food is determined by the different degrees of privilege and oppression that operate through the intersection of all those identities.'' - Michael Fakhri

Fakhri draws attention to the war in Ukraine in order to illustrate how regional conflicts often cause global shocks by intensifying rather than decreasing violence. His observations highlight the critical necessity to solve the systemic problems with food systems in order to fight inequality and advance human rights throughout the world. 

''What I learned from the food sovereignty movement is that people have been fighting for decades to regain power in their food systems. They are trying to regain it from transnational corporations and those that serve corporate interests. What I have also learned from the food sovereignty movement is that if you change the food system, you change everything.'' - Michael Fakhri

You can download the full text, or order the printed version via press@asser.nl at EUR 10.00 excl. p&p.. 
Watch the video of Michael Fakhri’s Annual T.M.C Asser Lecture in 2023.

About Michael Fakhri 
Michael Fakhri, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, has dedicated his career to investigating environmental and policy issues across all stages of the food system. With his extensive expertise in human rights, food law, and development, Fakhri continues advocating for a more equitable and sustainable food system. 

Rethinking public interestes in international and European law  
The notion of 'public interest' plays a central yet contested role in international and European law. The Asser Institute’s research agenda ‘Rethinking public interests in International and European law’, argues for a critical re-examination of how public interest is understood and applied. By doing so, the Institute aims to reclaim its emancipatory potential.

A cascade of global crises – climate change, ecocide, transnational terrorism, unsustainable capitalism, widening social inequality, the digital divide, mass migration, and the looming threat of breaching planetary boundaries – has thrust a critical question to the forefront: How can law be harnessed to safeguard our social and natural world?

Although frequently invoked in legal and political discourse, the concept of 'public interest' remains surprisingly understudied in legal scholarship. This ambiguity is particularly troubling given its growing importance in navigating these complex challenges. The term's lack of clear definition allows international and European actors to manipulate its meaning for their own benefit, sometimes disguising private agendas as concerns for the public good. Moreover, this lack of clarity can lead to policy formulations that disproportionately favour powerful factions, perpetuating a cycle of inequality and eroding public trust in international and European institutions.

By critically examining the notion 'public interest', the Asser Institute aims to reclaim its emancipatory potential. Critical scrutiny may open up a space for alternative conceptions of the public interest to guide law- and policymaking. The goal is to help develop public interest arguments that offer pathways towards restoring trust and ensuring that international and European law functions in the best interests of society. Read more.