Incorporating Socio-economic Rights in World Trade
: A Comparative Study of the Impact of Trade Liberalisation on the Right to Access Food in the European Union and Sub-Saharan African Countries

  • Grace Chinyere Young

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


One of the greatest challenges facing the world today is to achieve food security among
severely undernourished populations by reducing poverty while liberalising trade to ensure
sustainable access to food across the globe. This study critically examines this challenge in
view of the impact of trade liberalisation on access to food as a fundamental aspect of the legal
right to food. It examines the RtF as access to food in SSA, comparing it with the situation in
the EU to highlight the dire situation of food insecurity in SSA, and establish the impact of
trade liberalisation on the realisation of RtF and how the progressive realisation of RtF could
be facilitated by incorporating socioeconomic rights into international trade regimes. This
study adopts the socio-legal research methodology, examining the impact of international trade
on the wellbeing of the people- particularly on the right to an adequate standard of living,
including food. It also adopts the comparative research methodology, comparing the situation
in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) with the situation in the European Union (EU). It compares the
extent of the realisation of the right to food and how this is impacted by regional trade in both
Using SSA as the primary research area and contrasting with the EU, this study
examines the structural indicators of the RtF, including the extent to which this right is
protected and enforced in the regional and domestic laws of the respective Member Countries.
It examines the outcome indicators, including the prevalence of poverty and food insecurity in
these regions. It also examines the process indicators of the RtF, including the impact of trade
liberalisation agreements of the World Trade Organisation on access to food in the region. A
comparative analysis of the impact of world trade rules on both regions demonstrates that
certain agricultural trade policies such as domestic support, tariffication, export subsidy and
comparative advantage tend to limit the capacity of developing countries (including all SSA countries) to fulfil their obligations for the progressive realisation of the right to food. This
study further compares the EU and S
SA regional approaches to trade. It establishesthat the EU tends to adopt a more holistic
approach to trade, integrating the world of human rights into the world of trade and
incorporating elements of the rights-based approach to food security into trade through
enhanced public participation, wellbeing considerations in trade, and periodic impact
assessment inter alia. Through this analysis, this study demonstrates areas of possible legal
transplant and practical ways of incorporating socioeconomic rights into trade by integrating
the elements of the Rights-Based Approach to food security into trade liberalisation regimes to
enhance access to food in SSA through trade.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University

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