UNGA Third Committee Considers Pressures on Farmland

21 October 2010: The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA)  considered unprecedented pressures on farmland, on 21 October 2010, in New York, US.

Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented the main conclusions of the inquiry he began two years ago into the relationship between security of land tenure and access to land, and the right to adequate food, noting that pressures on land and water are increasing at an unprecedented speed. He explained that every year, up to 30 million hectares of farmland are lost to environmental degradation, conversion to industrial use or urbanization. He added that the increased competition between food and energy crops have exacerbated that trend. He also underscored that for some populations, particularly forest-dwellers, certain measures adopted to mitigate climate change might also affect access to land.

In a question and answer session, the Special Rapporteur underlined that the impact of climate change on the ability to feed ourselves in the future is an essential part of his work, and that his next report would discuss this topic at great length. He noted that, by 2020, the yield of food in certain areas of Africa is expected to decrease by 50% because of changes in temperature, not even considering El Nino and other weather patterns that are becoming increasingly unpredictable and difficult to cope with. In response to questions by the Maldives and the EU on the threat of climate on food policies, he stated that the international community could help with a massive transfer of technology to allow agriculture to develop in a sustainable way. Emphasizing that agriculture is responsible for 33% of greenhouse gas (GHG), he underscored the need to support developing countries in that regard.

Walter Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, then presented his last report to the UNGA in this capacity, noting normative and conceptual advancements regarding types of internal displacement, such as those due to natural disasters and climate change, and on the process for achieving solutions. [UN Press Release]