Feeding the Hungry


Michelle Jurkovich

Michelle Jurkovich is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a Visiting Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Her research interests include international food security, ethics, economic and social rights, and human security.

Who is to blame for hunger? On Wednesday, November 4, Professor Michelle Jurkovich spoke about her book Feeding the Hungry: Advocacy and Blame in the Global Fight Against Hunger which explicates the nature and shape of international anti-hunger advocacy. To set the state, Professor Jurkovich noted that the issue of hunger is well-established and the right to food is clearly codified in international law. Despite this, Professor Jurkovich explained that there are a wide array of different anti-hunger campaigns that have very different understandings of blame and responsibility — some advocacy organizations blame the private sector or international financial institutions, others blame different countries for emitting greenhouse gasses linking hunger and climate change. 

To explain the disjointed nature of anti-hunger advocacy, Professor Jurkovich argues that not all human rights, like the right to food, have norms. And, without norms advocacy can become fragmented. Professor Jurkovich also put forward the ‘buckshot model’ which is useful to visualize the chaos that results from a lack of centralized blame in anti-hunger advocacy. From this, Professor Jurkovich sets forth that normative environments are important in explaining the nature of advocacy and important issue areas, and that there are particular implications when norms are present or absent. When norms are present, it can help focus advocacy efforts. And, when norms are not centralized, pressure for social change is less likely. Lastly, Professor Jurkovich emphasized that codifying rights in international law does not automatically translate into a norm. As is the case with anti-hunger advocacy, the right to food is enshrined in international law, yet there is no centralized norm on hunger. Professor Jurkovich concludes by noting that promoting rights solely through international law is insufficient without a correlating norm.