To read this content please select one of the options below:

A regime complex for food assistance: international law regulating international food assistance

Clarisse Delaville (Faculty of Law, McGill University, Montreal, Canada)

Journal of International Trade Law and Policy

ISSN: 1477-0024

Article publication date: 31 October 2023

Issue publication date: 8 December 2023




There is no single undertaking regulating food assistance at the international level. International food assistance is regulated by a patchwork of rules emanating from different institutions and normative arrangements. This study aims to explore how international law shapes international food assistance. How is international law regulating food assistance, considering this patchwork of institutions and norms? What dominant narratives enshrined in legal agreements shape the evolution of international food assistance?


The author uses the concept of “regime complex”, which allows analyzing partially overlapping and nonhierarchical regimes governing a particular issue, shedding light on the narratives and institutional arrangements that lead to the consolidation of international rules. The author identifies two main regimes that govern international food assistance: the food assistance regime and the food trade regime.


The author shows that using the “regime complex” concept clarifies the evolution of international food assistance, highlighting that international law is a crucial element in shaping international food assistance and showing that the two main institutional regimes governing it interact and shape rules along three main themes: the centrality of donor States’ self-interests, the relationship between international food assistance and trade liberalization and the goal of achieving food security for the beneficiaries.


Using the regime complex concept, the author brings new light on the broader institutional and legal framework influencing the governance of international food assistance, showing that different regimes take part in its shaping.



This article is a refined and updated version of the master's dissertation, which the author submitted in June 2021 to complete the master's degree in international law at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland. The author is very grateful to the then supervisor, Professor Anne Saab, for the support and pertinent advice. The author also wishes to thank the South Asia International Economic Law Network for giving the author the opportunity to present the thoughts relating to this article at SAIELN's Third Biennial Conference on food security and international law in December 2022. Finally, the author thanks the Guest Editor, Professor Leïla Choukroune, and the anonymous peer reviewers who helped improve this paper with their insightful comments.


Delaville, C. (2023), "A regime complex for food assistance: international law regulating international food assistance", Journal of International Trade Law and Policy, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 167-191.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles