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Olivier De Schutter

Olivier De Schutter (born 20 July 1968) is a Belgian legal scholar specialising in economic and social rights. He served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food from 2008 to 2014.[1] He is a Professor of international human rights law, European Union law and legal theory at the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, as well as at the College of Europe. He is also a visiting professor at Columbia University. Additionally, he was a visiting scholar (2010–2012) at American University Washington College of Law's Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.


The son of a diplomat, his primary and high school education took place in Bombay (now Mumbai), India; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Kigali, Rwanda. He studied law at the Université catholique de Louvain, Panthéon-Assas University and Harvard University, before obtaining a Ph.D. from Louvain-la-Neuve. His doctoral thesis was published in French as Fonction de juger et droits fondamentaux. Transformation du contrôle juridictionnel dans les ordres juridiques américain et européens, Bruxelles, Bruylant, 1999, 1164 pp. His subsequent publications are in the areas of governance and human rights, with a particular focus on the issue of globalization and human rights and economic and social rights more generally, and on the protection of fundamental rights in the European Union. Among his books on human rights are International Human Rights Law. Cases, Materials, Commentary, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010. In his work, he seeks to link the human rights principles of participation, accountability, and non-discrimination, with the idea of learning-based public policies, that are permanently tested and revised in the light of their impact on the poorest and most vulnerable. His current work focuses on transition towards sustainable societies, in which he mobilizes various disciplines including economics, social psychology, political science, and feminist theory.

Since the mid-1990s, Olivier De Schutter has been involved in various capacities in the debates on improving governance in the EU, and on fundamental rights in the EU. In 1995-1997, he co-organized a seminar on reforming governance in the EU with the Forward Studies Unit of the European Commission, a seminar that later, following the fall of the Santer Commission, was influential in shaping the White Paper on Governance published in July 2001 by the European Commission. Between 2002 and 2007, he coordinated the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights, a high-level group of experts established at the request of the European Parliament to provide recommendations to the EU institutions on the implementation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and to report on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU. In 2013, he was appointed a member of the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency's Scientific Committee.

Work as Special Rapporteur

As the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, De Schutter presents reports to the UN Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly on various aspects of the right to food. He also conducts official visits that lead to reports being prepared to the attention of the governments concerned and to the international community: such missions took place, inter alia, in Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Guatemala, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, South Africa and Syria. He works mainly in developing countries, but has also taken an interest in advanced economies such as Canada, conducting an 11 day formal investigation in Canada during 2012. As Special Rapporteur he has released official reports on agroecology, nutrition, contract farming, fisheries, gender and other key issues tied to securing the right to food, and throughout has advocated the need for smallholder farmers to be at the centre of food security strategies and urged countries to reinvest in their agricultural sectors rather than rely on imports from volatile world markets. He has also been critical of large-scale land acquisitions and biofuel production in food insecure countries. De Schutter is featured in Marie-Monique Robins 2012 documentary Crops of the Future, where his encouraging study of agro-ecology and the solutions to our planet's food crisis is presented.[2] [3]

International Federation for Human Rights

Before being appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, De Schutter was the General Secretary of the International Federation for Human Rights, and international human rights non-governmental organisation based in Paris focused on the issue of globalization and human rights (2004–2008).


In 2013, Olivier De Schutter was awarded the prestigious Francqui Prize, in recognition of his contributions to the theory of governance, EU law, and international and European human rights law. The Prize was awarded by an international jury chaired by Harvard Professor E. Maskin, Nobel Laureate in Economics.


Family life

Olivier De Schutter is married to Anne Carlier, with whom he has three children.


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