On Human Rights Day, let’s not forget that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness rest on even more basic human rights — including access to healthy, nourishing food.


On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR includes a list of 30 articles that outline basic inalienable rights and freedoms all human beings on the planet share, from education and healthcare to freedom from discrimination. Seventy-one years later, we still recognize this accomplishment, and debate how to continue to resolve human rights abuses on December 10 by observing Human Rights Day. People in countries throughout the world celebrate the day with events, speeches and celebrations around all aspects of human rights — and, I would imagine, refreshments ranging from snacks to feasts.

That would be apropos, because what right is more basic to human life and dignity than healthy, nourishing food? In fact, Article 25 of the UDHR specifically mentions this necessity: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…”

The UN also directly links human rights to its Sustainable Development Goals: “Human rights are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as in the absence of human dignity we cannot drive sustainable development. Human Rights are driven by progress on all SDGs, and the SDGs are driven by advancements on human rights,” the UN states on its website. Of course, at the top of the SDG list is “Zero Hunger.”

Unconscionably, 821 million people still are hungry today, and the UN estimates that 2 billion more will join the ranks of the undernourished by 2050.

What can meeting professionals do about it? I outlined a few ideas in this post, including donating leftover conference F&B to right-sizing your BEOs.

Still, the enormity of the human rights challenges we still face in 2019 can seem daunting. I take heart from this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

In our personal lives and in our work, we have an opportunity to make a difference in those “small places” — even when those places are as big as a convention center — to respect the human rights of our staff, attendees, suppliers and vendors, and to make small changes that could bring this most basic of human rights to those who still suffer the ignominy of being food insecure.