Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni, Gender Centre affiliate and coordinator of the DEMETER (Gender, land and the right to food) research project, participated as part of a panel in a side event on “Exploring the economic and social dimensions of the right to life” during the Human Rights Council.

The purpose of the discussion was to examine the socio-economic dimensions of the right to live with dignity and to explore the potential of the interpretive General Comment no. 36, adopted by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2018, to advance understandings of economic, social and cultural rights as components of the right to life.

Dr Bourke Martignoni’s presentation focused on the contribution of recent Asian and African jurisprudence on the right to life and the way in which social movements and activist judicial bodies have used this right to protect, promote and fulfil the rights to food, land and natural resources. Of particular note in this respect has been the role of the Indian Supreme Court, which has used the right to life to develop and enforce a wide range of policies and programmes designed to implement and monitor the realization of the right to food at different scales. The growing body of jurisprudence from numerous jurisdictions on the right to food as a component of the right to life has also highlighted discriminatory policies, laws and social norms that limit the equal access to food, nutrition, land and other resources for women, peasants and traditional local communities, older persons, persons with disabilities, people from particular caste groups, migrants and children.

The discussion concluded with a number of reflections on the way in which individual complaint mechanisms under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights might be used to improve the implementation of socio-economic rights globally.