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George Kent

George Kent 137 x 177In the 1970s, as a new professor of political science at the University of Hawai’i, I worked on ocean policy. The university awarded me a sabbatical for 1977-1978 to study fisheries as a model for global resource management. As I was about to start a desk study on fish businesses in the Pacific region, I got a call from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in Rome, asking me to do a field study on South Pacific fisheries management. This resulted in a consultancy with FAO from September 1977 to February 1978.

This led to publication of my first book, The Politics of Pacific Islands Fisheries, in 1980. It included a chapter on the importance of fish in the diets of people in the Pacific region. The consultancy and the book led to my being invited to Norway in 1983 to participate in an Expert Consultation on Fisheries and Nutrition organised by FAO. The meeting in Norway led to a series of consultancies on fisheries and nutrition with FAO from 1984 to 1990. This work resulted in a number of articles, and a book, Fish Food, and Hunger: The Potential of Fisheries for Alleviating Malnutrition, which came out in 1987.

Through this period I gave increasing attention to nutrition issues. My book on The Political Economy of Hunger: The Silent Holocaust came out in 1984. As I came to appreciate the close linkage between nutrition and child mortality, I began a stream of work centred on children. My book on The Politics of Children’s Survival came out in 1987, and Children in the International Political Economy came out in 1995.

I began to focus on the human right to adequate food in the early 1990s. One of my first projects was planning a small side meeting on children’s nutrition rights to be held in Rome at the time of the International Conference on Nutrition in Rome in 1992. For this purpose I created and became coordinator of the Task Force on Children’s Nutrition Rights. On learning that Asbjørn and Wenche Barth Eide and their colleagues were planning something similar, through the new World Alliance on Nutrition and Human Rights (WANAHR), we joined forces and planned the event together. The WANAHR meeting in Rome in December 1992 was probably the first public presentation of the idea of the human right to adequate food.

I was invited to speak on ‘Strategies for Implementing Children’s Nutrition Rights’ to a meeting in March 1994 of United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination/ Subcommittee on Nutrition (ACC/SCN) at UNICEF Headquarters. This became a major turning point because it led to my active participation in the work of the ACC/SCN and its successor, the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN). I worked closely with SCN’s group on Civil Society Organizations and SCN’s Working Group on Nutrition, Ethics, and Human Rights, and also with WANAHR.

I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for research on the human right to adequate food at the Norwegian Institute for Human Rights and the Institute for Nutrition Research at the University of Oslo in fall 1998. It was then that I started to write Freedom from Want: The Human Right to Adequate Food. The book did not come out until 2005, after having benefited from my teaching on the topic in various contexts, including short courses at Central European University in Budapest.

With funding from the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research and encouragement from SCN’s Working Group on Nutrition, Ethics, and Human Rights, I edited a book on Global Obligations on the Right to Food that came out in 2008.

Having explored other approaches to dealing with the massive problem of hunger in the world, I have now turned my attention to ways in which local communities might take meaningful initiatives, and be supported in that by national governments and the global community. As a result, my latest book, Ending Hunger Worldwide, is due out from Paradigm Publishers of Boulder, Colorado around the end of 2010. It explores the idea that in strong communities, where people care about one another’s well-being, no one goes hungry.

My approach centres on finding remedies for social problems, especially finding ways to strengthen the weak in the face of the strong. I work on human rights, international relations, peace, development, and environmental issues, with a special focus on nutrition and children. My work has been propelled forward by a long list of supporters, including Asbjørn Eide, Wenche Barth Eide, Ted Greiner, Sidney Holt, David James, Urban Jonsson, Uwe Kracht, Michael Latham, Arne Oshaug, Geoffrey Cannon, Margret Vidar, and many others. They supported even when they disagreed. Many students have helped to clarify my thinking as well. I am grateful to all of them.