Header image for news printout

“Paraguay produces food for 60 million people, yet parts of its own population face hunger and malnutrition” – UN expert


GENEVA / ASUNCIÓN (10 November 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, today warned that 10 percent of Paraguay’s seven million people face hunger and malnutrition despite a decade of impressive economic growth and the fact that it produces food for almost nine times its population.

“Paraguay has struggled to address inequalities -higher than in most neighboring countries- and important segments of society are still excluded from the country’s economic development and suffer from food insecurity,” Ms. Elver said at the end of her first official visit* to the country. “Rates of extreme poverty are three times higher amongst rural and indigenous communities than in urban areas,” the expert stressed.

In Paraguay, the agricultural sector contributes to about 25% of gross domestic product, and it has succeeded in transforming this sector from a net importer towards a large–scale exporter. Yet development has left small holder farmers behind. Only 6% of agricultural land is available for domestic food production, whilst 94 % is used for export crops. An estimated 300,000 small holders and their families completely lack access to land.
Like inequality, land distribution in Paraguay is also one of the most unequal in Latin America. Between 60 to 80 per cent of the land belongs to 2-3 % of the population. “It is of vital importance to fully implement the long over-due Agrarian Reform,” the expert added.

Unequal land distribution is exacerbated by lengthy and bureaucratic procedures in order to resolve legal land disputes. This has given rise to social tensions and even violent confrontations.

“It is imperative that national strategies incorporate human rights principles in order to protect small holder farmers and their livelihoods,” the Special Rapporteur said. “During my visit, I met with several small holder farmer communities and received complaints regarding a severe lack of Government support, in relation to access to land, seeds, much-needed capital, as well as access to markets to commercialize their crops.”

The expert underlined that, without necessary support and an increase in competitiveness of large agribusinesses, small holder farmers often find themselves forced to abandon their livelihoods and move to urban areas, where many live in marginal situations.

The country’s agricultural development model, which is based on intensive mono-cropping and livestock production, has also resulted in the highest rate of deforestation in the world, exacerbating existing environmental problems caused by transgenic crops and the extensive use of agro chemicals.

The expansion of soy cultivation has been accompanied by excessive use of pesticides, which can have very dangerous impacts on human health. The lack of monitoring and redress could amount to human rights violations if not addressed properly.

“It is vital that development plans and policies take into account the true cost of industrial farming methods on soil and water resources, as well as the social and economic impact on people rather than focusing only on short term profitability and economic growth,” Ms. Elver said. “No one should be left behind.”

While Paraguay has not seen a significant drop in under-nutrition, rates of overweight have increased significantly and now affect over 50 per cent of the population, putting them at risk of a variety of obesity-related diseases. In that regard, Ms. Elver commended the new measures adopted by the Health Ministry to counter this alarming trend, and urged that nutrition policies should be based on human rights principles, targeting all forms of malnutrition, including obesity and micronutrient deficiency. 

The Special Rapporteur urged the Paraguayan authorities to establish a comprehensive legal framework on the right to adequate food, with clear guidelines to promote and implement this right.

During her seven-day visit, the Special Rapporteur met, among others, senior Government officials, representatives from the UN system, civil society members, indigenous representatives, representatives of the private sector and communities in various locations throughout the country.

The Special Rapporteur’s observations and recommendations will be reflected in her final report, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20842&LangID=E

Ms. Hilal Elver (Turkey) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the right to food by the  Human Rights Council in 2014. She is a Research Professor, co-director of the Project on Global Climate Change, Human Security and Democracy housed at the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies, and global distinguished fellow at the University of California Los Angeles Law School (UCLA) Resnick Food Law and Policy Center. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Food/Pages/FoodIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Paraguay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/PYIndex.aspx

For more information and press inquiries, please contact:
In Asunción (during the visit):
Javier Chamorro (+595 21 607 904 / +595 971 986 360/ jchamorro@hchr.org.py)
Viktoria Aberg (+ 41 79 752 0483 / vaberg@ohchr.org)
In Geneva: Frederike Jansonuis (+41 22 917 9339 / fjansonius@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:
Twitter: @UNHumanRights
Facebook: unitednationshumanrights
Instagram: unitednationshumanrights
Google+: unitednationshumanrights
Youtube: unohchr