The fruit of decades of struggle : Eastern European peasants join international demand for their rights be recognized
Bucharest, November 16, 2017 – After a day of informative discussion, debate and reflection, the public Conference „The Rights of Peasants: The role of Eastern Europe in the negotiation process for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas’ drew to a close yesterday in Bucharest, Romania. The event, hosted by Eco Ruralis Association and the European Coordination Via Campesina, brought together a robust crowd from across Eastern Europe and beyond. Speakers included the State Secretary of the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Daniel Botănoiu, the Deputy State Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Péter GÁL, the representative of the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, Ms. Darya Alekseeva, the Counselor of the Permanent Mission of the Plurinational State of Bolivia in Geneva, Ms. María Natalia Pacheco Rodriguez, as well as civil society organizations, and Romanian peasants from across the country. The conference sought to send a wake-up call to Eastern European states, introducing the peasant rights declaration process, demonstrating its relevance and importance for Eastern Europe, and demanding that their governments engage constructively în the process.
Tremendous responsibility lies in the hands of Eastern European governments, as the region contains the largest population of peasants in geographical Europe. For Romania, this is particularly the case, as it hosts 4 million active peasants, half of the number present in the entire European Union. Failure to act would be giving the blind eye to the systematic discrimination suffered by peasants and rural workers, and deepen rural poverty and underdevelopment, accelerating rural depopulation, and destroying vibrant local and national cultures and traditions. It would also leave Eastern European landscapes vulnerable, as peasants have time and again proven to be the superior stewards of healthy rural environments. All of these factors endanger the food security and food sovereignty of Eastern European states.
“Considering that the adoption of the Declaration will be by vote, it is of extreme importance to ensure positive support from as many countries as possible. States need to be convinced of the importance of all the issues faced by peasants, so that they support the Declaration. There is a lot of work to do in Europe and Eastern Europe.”, declared Mrs. Maria Natalia Pacheco Rodriguez.
“Peasant producers in Eastern Europe are the backbone of regional food systems, and of rural society. Without peasants, our national food sovereignty is under serious threat, and so is the cultural heritage of our rural communities. Our governments in Eastern Europe must step up their game at the international policy level. They must show that they are serious about protecting the rights of their civilians by sponsoring the declaration of peasant rights.”, declared Ramona Duminicioiu – Coordination Committee member of Eco Ruralis and the European Coordination Via Campesina.
The conference concluded by demanding that Eastern European states engage more actively with the Declaration’s process. They must be active in Geneva, as well as in reaching out to civil society to better understand the relevant issues on the ground in their countries. Partnerships also need to be forged between states in the region, in order to take a stronger and more coordinated regional stand. Civil society must be active in spreading knowledge on the process, and must unite to form a solid network pushing for the recognition of peasant rights. They must also actively link up with governments in order to help them engage in the process in an informed and effective way. Peasant producers from across the region demand that their rights be recognized and respected, and therefore demand that their state governments sponsor the peasant rights declaration in Geneva.
On behalf of the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Péter GÁL, declared that Hungary is still formulating its position on the topic, but it is committed, several members of the Ministry being highly engaged, and with high chances for the country to have a positive position.
The State Secretary of the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture concluded that as almost half of the Romanian population is rural and peasants represent a significant part of it, supporting the peasants is needed. He added also that the rights of peasants is an important issue and ensured the audience of a big yes from the Ministry side.
For further information about the event and the UN process towards a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas, please contact:
· Ramona Duminicioiu – member of the Coordination Committee of Eco Ruralis Association and the European Coordination Via Campesina : +40 746 337 022 / firstname.lastname@example.org
· Genevieve Savigny – member of the Coordination Committee of the European Coordination Via Campesina : +33 625551687 / email@example.com
Note to editors:
The current draft of the Peasants’ Rights Declaration is the product of a lengthy struggle for justice, initiated in 2001 by the global peasant movement La Via Campesina. The Declaration aims to improve the promotion and protection of the rights of the world’s peasants and rural workers, who despite producing 70% of the world’s food, face systemic discrimination and human rights violations and abuses.
Negotiations on the Declaration are chaired by Bolivia at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Council, through its Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIWG) on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, hosts negotiations involving UN member states, inter-governmental agencies, civil society organizations and social movements representing peasants and other rural peoples. So far, no Eastern European states actually participated in the OEIWG.
1) OHCHR information on 4th session of the OEIWG: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RuralAreas/Pages/4thSession.aspx
2) Report of the 36th session of the United Nations Humand Rights Council (September 2017): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_x-9XeYoYkWcXlOSXBpQkt2YWM/view
3) La Via Campesina Press Release October 2016: https://viacampesina.org/en/new-step-forward-process-un-declaration-rights-peasants/
 International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (2016). Peasants give life to biodiversity. URL http://www.foodsovereignty.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/IPC-Agricultural-Biodiversity-Brochure.pdf
 ETC Group (2017). Who Will Feed Us? The Industrial Food Chain vs. The Peasant Food Web. URL http://www.etcgroup.org/sites/www.etcgroup.org/files/files/etc-whowillfeedus-english-webshare.pdf