Read the latest blog entries from our experts in the field.
Integrating law and nutrition in Zambia
Posted on behalf of: Jody Harris; Ruth Stirton
Last updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2023
Why nutrition, why rights, why a workshop?
Zambia remains a country with a high burden of malnutrition, and diets low in diversity of nutritious foods: a place where a third of children are stunted; a third of women are anaemic; and a third of men have high blood pressure. Zambia is also a place that has progressed legal action on human rights, food and nutrition further than most other countries in the world. So there is a clear rationale for exploring further action on a right to nutrition in Zambia.
The original research project “The ‘right to nutrition’ in its social, legal and political context”, funded by SSRP and Johns Hopkins, drew on the expertise of multiple interested stakeholders to understand the issue of human rights in nutrition. The research explicitly engaged with the views of legal, ethics and policy communities alongside the more usual nutrition stakeholders such as programme designers, implementers and funders. This bringing together of different constituencies generated some important insights into the meaning of human rights in nutrition practice, framing them as having rhetorical, legal and practical significance. What is now needed is for those same varied stakeholders to come together to understand what those findings mean for Zambia, and how working together might advance the cause of nutrition in the country through integration of policy, practice and law.
The different constituencies working on rights and nutrition are very separate in Zambia – that is one clear finding from the original research. They would not come together organically, so they need to be brought together with a clear rationale, to share their knowledge and approaches. Using SSRP Impact Funds, a workshop was convened in Lusaka, Zambia, in June 2023 with the aim to hold a catalyzing event to share the findings of the research and what it means for Zambia; and to enable conversations among these groups to strengthen action on a right to nutrition.
The full-day workshop brought twenty participants from the law and nutrition communities in Zambia together with represetantives from across:
- government, including National Food and Nutrition Commission and Ministry of Health;
- the UN, including UNICEF and World Food Programme;
- academia, including Institute of Development Studies, University of Zambia, Cornell University, Southern African Institute for Policy and Research and University of Sussex;
- and NGOs, including the Legal Resources Foundation, FIAN International, Transparency International, and the Zambian Council of NGOs.
Participants were first facilitated in separate groups – legal and nutrition – to draw out what individuals and organisations are already doing on nutrition and rights, and to enable blue-sky thinking sectorally on actions to advance a right to nutrition. Then a long plenary session brought the groups together to explore where there were synergies in their thinking, what would be priority actions, and what would be needed to advance these options.
Priorities and next steps
Across the groups, there was plenty of synergy, and a lot of new information to enable the groups to move forward together on a legal basis for a right to nutrition. Options for next steps ranged from the very high-level to the very locally-grounded; and from research through to action.
- Option: Incorporate Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (including food, health and nutrition) into the Constitution, to make them justiciable.
- Option: Support strengthening of the nutrition component of the 2019 Mwanza and Beene ruling on a right to nutrition in Zambian prisons.
- Option: Work towards strategic litigation in support of a right to nutrition, building on the 2019 Mwanza and Beene case focusing on nutritionally marginalized groups, particularly women and children.
- Option: Use education to catalyze policy change, including rights training for different groups.
- Option: Use lobbying and communication, from ensuring that key stakeholders are aware of the current research, to using the expressive function of law to signal rights duties to key duty-bearers (government and business).
The workshop participants were also keen to continue research and engagement, and are actively looking for funding to enable background research to be undertaken in support of a potential strategic litigation case, building on the Mwanza case and working towards a child nutrition case.
Beyond Zambia, the research and workshop are contributing ideas to others working on human rights, food and nutrition. In particular, the People Centered Food Systems project aims to foster and integrate human rights into food systems policy and action, and will draw on some of the ideas and findings generated in Zambia.
Zambia has emerged as a leader in human rights and nutrition action – watch this space for more!
The Johns Hopkins and Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) funded project “The ‘right to nutrition’ in its social, legal and political context” was active from January 2018 to January 2020. The project culminated academically in an open access peer-reviewed paper reporting the findings and their relevance both for global approaches to human rights in food and nutrition, and for the case-study focus country of Zambia.
Jody Harris Ruth Stirton
This blog post was originally published on the School of Law, Politics and Sociology "LaPSe" Blog and written by Jody Harris (Honorary Associate at the Institute of Development Studies) and Dr Ruth Stirton (Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Law at the University of Sussex). Their work is also integral to the IDS Food Eqity Centre. The piece reports on a recent workshop convened in Lusaka, Zambia, which shared the findings of the SSRP-funded research project “The ‘right to nutrition’ in its social, legal and political context” and what it means for Zambia, and enabled conversations to strengthen action on a right to nutrition among stakeholders including legal, ethics and policy communities as well as programme designers, implementers and funders.