**Updates on the week-long negotiations and interventions in Geneva of the international peasant delegation of La Via Campesina and its allies for the 4th session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas**
The 4th session to negotiate a UN declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas began this week in Geneva. With this, the bottom up process to strengthen the legitimacy of the demands of rural peoples around the world has reached a crucial and decisive point. If everything goes well, the next stop could be the UN General Assembly in New York, otherwise the process could be prolonged for years.
To this end, the voices of peasants and rural communities from across the world have reached Geneva. International delegations of peasant women and men and indigenous peoples of La Via Campesina -who have invested more than 15 years in this process- are gathered this week in the UN along with allied organizations such as the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) , the International Indian Treaty Council , FIAN International , Centre Europe – Tiers Monde (CETIM) and the Comité Français pour la Solidarité Internationale (CFSI) to reaffirm the rights of peasants and rural peoples to land, water and natural resources, to seeds, biodiversity, food sovereignty, decent income and means of production, without which not only is their own existence threatened but that of the rest of society as well.
For more information on this process and the Declaration please go to the following link and don’t forget to sign the petition:
All together for the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas!
Press Conference and action in Place des Nations: Before entering the UN building to defend #PeasantsRights and their Declaration the delegation held a brief action in front of Palais des Nations explaining why a UN Declaration is needed NOW.
Genevieve Savigny, from ECVC, speaks on the importance of this Declaration:
Ndiakhate Fall from CNCR (Conseil National de Concertation et de Cooperation des Ruraux) – La Via Campesina member organization – speaks on the importance for Senegalese farmers in this United Nations process:
Inside the United Nations
Nearly 60 members comprising La Via Campesina’s delegation, allies from NGOs, attended the day long negotiations on May 15.
Peasant representatives such as Isabel Vilalba, from Sindicato Labrego Galego (Galicia, Spain) intervened in this first day of discussions. Here’s part of her intervention on the rights of peasant women and women working and living in rural areas on behalf of the World March of Women:
“We wish to recall that the study of the Council Advisory Committee mentions that gender discrimination is one of the fundamental causes of discrimination and vulnerability. I want to take a moment here, if it is one of the fundamental causes of discrimination and vulnerability, the elimination of gender discrimination is an indisputably essential element of this declaration. Language and treatment must be inclusive and incompatible with any form of de jure or de facto discrimination. We are concerned about a setback in this area which we believe would be an essential reduction in human rights protection.”
In the early afternoon a side event was held: “Collective rights: perspectives from peasants and other people working in rural areas” organized by Centre Europe – Tiers Monde (CETIM) , La Via Campesina and FIAN International. The panel presented the voices of rights holders from different constituencies, sharing their demand of recognition as political subjects and the importance of collective rights for their struggles against discriminations and the vulnerability suffered by their communities. This collective dimension corresponds to food sovereignty, to substantive elements of the rights to land, forests and fisheries’ and in general to the rights set out in the current draft text of the UN Declaration.
Day 2 :
On this second day of exchanges and discussions, delegates from the peasant movement and allied organizations shared their views on the different articles (Art. 5 through 12) of the Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (27 article in total). Here are a couple highlights.
Genevieve Savigny, from ECVC:
“Europe is a region of the world where agriculture, stock breeding and fishing have become much more industrialized. Yet in all countries, within and outside the European Union, there is an important sector of artisanal fisheries, pastoral breeding and peasant farming which constitute a reservoir of employment, the basis of quality food and the vitality of rural areas. However, farms are disappearing with the expansion of agricultural complexes and due to income too low to live, and artisanal fishing is threatened by the disappearance of the fish stock, competition with large fishing vessels, and pollution […]. “ Genevieve insisted on the urgency of adopting a declaration gathering all the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas and the importance for European countries to “make a strong and positive commitment in this direction”. You can find her complete intervention here (french only).
Ramona Duminicioiu of Ecoruralis (Romania) – ECVC- speaking on Article 10 of the #PeasantsRights Declaration : the right to participation
“We need independence in the act of the establishment and growth of peasant organizations. It’s a basic need for the representation process.” This article, among other things, asserts that “Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to participate, directly and/or through their representative organizations, in the formulation of and in monitoring compliance with food safety, labour and environmental standards, whether by private or public actors.”
The right to information with regard to production, marketing and distribution – Article 11 : HENRY SARAGIH from Serikat Petani Indonesia , La Via Campesina member
“We feel it is very important to peasants and other people working in rural areas to have right to information with regard to production, marketing and distribution. I have been in this session for negotiating the UN declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas from the beginning, and this is one of the crucial rights for us. This right is crucial to empower peasants and other people working in rural areas, promote transparency and accountability. Right to information also makes democracy tangible for peasants – our food production, marketing and distribution must be democratic. It goes without saying that an informed peasants is better for production, marketing and distribution. Moreover, States have the obligation to provide information; in an effective and feasible way for peasants and other people working in rural areas. We strongly urge to retain this article, Madam Chairperson.”
Access to Justice – Article 12 of the Declaration : Sandra Moreno, Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras (SOC) , La Via Campesina member :
“We consider that this article is very important for the peasants and workers in rural areas to access justice and judicial institutions.
In this context we need to express our concerns against the use of antiterrorist laws and criminalisation of the activities of peasant movements in the process of their peaceful protests and assembling for realization of their rights.
Although there is a general guarantee of access to justice, it is essential that the state parties ensure that the rights holders access justice by overcoming the barriers. The rural population have to overcome several barriers to access justice, such as the lack of financial means to pay for lawyers. There are also several other restrictions on free access to justice for certain categories of persons for example, migrants, undocumented persons or because of certain legal requirements namely immigration regulations. Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice which ensures the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial. Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to legal assistance. States shall take adequate measures for free legal aid to peasants and other people working in rural areas.”
DAY 3 :
The third day of negotiations surrounding the Peasants’ Rights declaration shed light on Articles 13 through 19 of the text, these included the right to food sovereignty, to land, to a decent income and to biodiversity. Here are some of the statements La Via Campesina delegates, determined to safeguard these rights :
The right to Food Sovereignty – article 15- was soundly defended by all regions of the world of La Via Campesina. In their statements representatives of rural populations from Africa, Asia, North America, Latin America and Europe asked for this right to be strengthened. Being a a precondition for other rights and a precondition to food security, this article is perhaps one of the most important ones of the Declaration. “Food Sovereignty embodies the identity of an individual and of a community,” declared in her intervention Aleyda Aragon, from ATC Nicaragua, member of La Via.
Ramona Duminicioiu from Ecoruralis , Romania, La Via Campesina : Why the right to food sovereignty is crucial for peasants in Europe and worldwide?
“In agreement with the declaration of the Dominican Republic, yes, food sovereignty cannot be replaced by Food Security. First because Food Security already exists, and secondly because they are different from each other, they don’t mean the same thing, they are not addressed to the same rights. Food Security is about economic rights, and food sovereignty is about human rights. Peasants should have the right to define their own food and agriculture systems. Peasants should have the right to produce healthy and culturally appropriate food, through ecologically sound, socially just and sustainable methods. As we are aware of the concerns of governments about the relation between food sovereignty and the global market, this is the perfect opportunity for us to clarify one more time: food sovereignty is not against the global market. Food Sovereignty is a solution to rebuild local markets which have been deteriorated by the global market economy.” Read the complete intervention here.
Valentina Hemmeler Maïga, Uniterre, La Via Campesina –Switzerland on the Right to Food Sovereignty :
“It is the right to define its own policies and food together with peasants and other people working in rural areas. It prioritizes local food systems without preventing international trade. One of the central issues is the right to participate in the development of our public policies.
Considering the food-related challenges that we will face in the future, it is essential to give every opportunity to the local agricultural systems most able to meet the needs of the populations. So far, several countries, mainly from the South have included food sovereignty in their national legislation. But without an opening of western countries to the right to food sovereignty, just and resilient, we will not be able to meet the challenges of the future!” Read the complete intervention here.
Henry Saragih of Serikat Petani Indonesia, La Via Campesina on Article 15:
“We believe that the right to food sovereignty has always been there in our document. As humanity faced the huge challenges of the food crisis in 2008-2009, food sovereignty emerged as an alternative.
Food sovereignty has been developed since 1996 as an alternative to food security and to respond to hunger and malnutrition in the world. We have witnessed that food security hasn’t been able to solve hunger and malnutrition as they were dramatically increasing when we suffered the 2008 food crisis. The international fora recognized food sovereignty especially in the World Food Summit 5 years later in 2002, and also during the UN High Level Meeting to respond to the 2008 food crisis .
Food Sovereignty has been included in the constitution of some countries. In our country, Indonesia, we have Law number 18, 2012, on food—where we have food sovereignty. Right to food sovereignty focuses on food for people, values food providers, localizes food system, puts control of food locally, builds knowledge and skills, and also works with nature. I urge the working group to constructively discuss this.”
Right to decent income and livelihood – Article 16
Vincent Delobel, goat breeder in Belgium, representing MAP & FUGEA (La Via Campesina Europe) comments article 16:
“[…]the added value of what comes out of the farm has declined, the volatility of markets has increased, the bargaining power of farmers has sharply decreased. Finally, public support for farm income is still strongly related to the size of the farm, especially the number of hectares cultivated. Unfortunately, these different trends have created poverty and agricultural precariousness, including in Europe, a source of deep feeling of abandonment and social and economic injustice in our countryside. The intense pressure towards low prices is harmful to our environment and our quality of life. Indeed, most farmers are self-employed and enjoy only a low level of social protection.
Faced with this economic suffocation, we peasants, women and men, struggle to regain more autonomy (seed, forage, energy, technical etc.). We try to organize collective bargaining, to share tools, we’ve started to transform our products on the farm, to produce food of different quality (organic in particular), to feed citizens through shorter circuits … Thus, we reappropriate the activities upstream and downstream of production […]” Read the complete intervention here
During the exchange on the right to a decent income, Ramona Duminicioiu from Ecoruralis , Romania, spoke on the need to protect peasant markets as public utility services. She pointed out the ignoble fact that “1 billion euros of public money has been given in the last decade to mega food distribution chains LIDL and KAUFLAND to settle in Eastern Europe in detriment of local food distribution systems.”
The right to Land and other natural resources- Article 17
Henry Saragih of Serikat Petani Indonesia, a pivotal figure in the Rights of Peasants Initiatives of La Via Campesina, spoke about the right to land and its links to peasants’ identity and rural economy:
“To us peasants, land is the first thing that comes to our mind when we talk about agriculture. Without land, we cannot be called peasants. When the right to land is in our hand, we see a future which is more just, equal, with strong rural economies, where peasants and other people working in rural areas can contribute more positively to communities, to our life, and to our countries.”
You can find his complete intervention on Land here .
Ubai Fahmi Al Abudi of UAWC, Palestine, member of La Via Campesina, calls for agrarian reform and demands that UN and State representatives respect and reflect the interests of the People of the world and not of corporations, neoliberal ideology or free-market mechanisms. “These are our lands, our lives and the future of our children that we’re demanding“.
Sandra Moreno Cadena, Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras (SOC), La Via Campesina Europa, on the right to Land (extrait):
“Today, in Europe, tens of thousands of peasants are expelled from the sector each year, while large agrarian and agribusiness farms are expanding rapidly. The very logic of the global imperatives of capital accumulation, which are the driving force behind land grabbing at the global level, are supporting the processes of land concentration in Europe. Large farms constituted only 3.1% of all European farms in 2013, but controlled half of the total agricultural area used. Meanwhile, three quarters of the farms, all of less than 10 hectares, controlled only 11% of total agricultural land. This puts the state of land inequality in the EU equal or even higher to that of countries that are characterized by their highly skewed land distribution patterns.”
Right to Biological diversity – Article 20
“Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right, individually or collectively, to conserve, maintain and sustainably use and develop biological diversity and associated knowledge, including in agriculture, fishing and livestock.” Peasant agriculture, not the agroindustry, can face global challenges like feeding the world and climate change, for this we need to protect biological diversity. By vertu of this, the demand was made by our delegation, represented in this issue by Guy Kastler from La Confederation Paysanne – La Via Campesina that States, in accordance to the human rights conventions they have signed, to respect their obligations to prevent the depletion and ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and genetic resources, among other things.
Public Event – Relocate our food systems, here and elsewhere: A positive contribution to the well-being of the planet and the population – 19:00
Globally, just over 10% of agricultural products cross borders to be traded on the world market. Yet our agricultural policies are moving toward this goal rather than addressing the 90% of foods that are produced, processed, marketed and consumed in the region.
Despite globalization, peasants, fishermen, agricultural workers, nomads and landless peasants all over the world initiate projects hand in hand with consumers. Sources of inspiration to value in our struggles to reappropriate our food. Is it not time to democratize our food systems and see how, at the local level, we can develop initiatives on the ground and public policies that encourage them?
Organized by Uniterre, Alternatiba Léman, La Via Campesina, World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP), World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples (WAMIP), TourneRêve, Supermarché Participatif Paysan (SPP), CETIM.
– Ramona Duminicioiu, Ecoruralis/ECVC, Romania
– Geetha Devarajan, India, La Via Campesina
– Jorge Varela, World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP), Honduras
– Fernando Garcia Dori, WAMIP, Spain
On the last day for interventions and comments on the text on behalf of civil society and States before the text is either approved or sent to another working group session, opposition was strong from the EU and other countries such as Guatemala, Japan and New Zealand who were unwilling to recognize land, seeds, decent income, food sovereignty and a safe and clean environment as HUMAN RIGHTS.
Delegates from La Via and allied organizations expressed their views on the last articles of the #PeasantsRights Declaration, which touched on the rights to seeds, to housing, to social security, to education and cultural rights and traditional knowledge.
Right to Seeds – Article 19
Geeta Devarajan representing La Via Campesina’s South Asian movements, Guy Kastler from La Via Campesina Europe and Ndiakhate Fall from CNCR (Conseil National de Concertation et de Cooperation des Ruraux) – La Via Campesina member organization from Senegal, consecutively intervened in defense of this fundamental right for peasants that, under the expansion of agribusiness and the current state of trade and agricultural policies, has been severely set back.
Ndiakhate Fall from CNCR (Conseil National de Concertation et de Cooperation des Ruraux)points to how with the evolution of the current dominant agricultural system certain traditional techniques have disappeared along with local varieties of seeds that have been replaced by commercial rigid varieties that force peasants to continuously buy new seeds. “After being undermined by several decades of industrialization and speculation, our seeds are now threatened of being definitely banned by new regulatory processes. It is important to know the rights of farmers on seeds.”
Geeta Devarajan on right to seeds:
“A Peasants right towards Plant genetic resources namely seeds, seedlings and all reproductive system of plants is a fundamental right of a Peasant. A Peasant cannot be distinguished from his plants and crops and further to the seeds of his crops and plants. If a Peasant does not have the right to seeds it amounts to saying that human beings do not have the right to their off-springs. It is like taking away the reproductive right of a woman to say the least.
In this context the right to seed is not something that is being demanded by a peasant to enrich one’s own self and family but for the protection of mother earth, protection of the health of the community at large, promote the environment of our community. The traditional seed varieties do not demand much water and thereby protects the water resources. The traditional seeds do not demand chemical fertilizers and pesticides thereby prevents air pollution and protects the health of a peasant and rural workers.”
Finally Guy Kastler addressed the suspicion expressed by certain states in regards to the scope of this Article. “Depriving peasants of their rights to conserve, exchange, use and sell their seeds, is an unacceptable attempt against human rights – The exchange of seeds between peasants is at the heart of the collective systems of conservation and renewal of local seeds which constitute the cultural identity of peasant communities.” At the same time, as a way to reassure skeptics he pointed out to the many different countries that currently allow the exchange of peasant seeds in their territory.
part 1 (French only)
part 2 (French only)
Right to education and training – Article 25
On the importance of the right to education and training for peasant communities and rural areas, Genevieve Savigny, French peasant from the European Coordination Via Campesina , shared the example of her region in France, of polyculture and sheep farming, where 40 years ago an elected official created a vocational school to help prepare young adults not coming from an agricultural background in their installation as peasant farmers. At the present moment the positive effects of this school, whose training approach stands on agroecology, can be felt in the region. New farmers have settled in the region, preserving employment and rural culture. While in the surrounding areas only 1 to 2 farmers remain, here the number of farms has remained nearly constant.
“Many rural areas in France and in Europe don’t have the chance to have training schools open to peasant agricultural systems. Many vocational schools in France and elsewhere limit themselves to intensive farming practices. Others are too expensive or too far away. This examples show that the right to education and training adapted to and respecting local knowledge and conditions has a positive effect on the life of peasants and rural development. This can’t rest on the good will of elected officials but must be a right guaranteed by public authorities. This is why we urge you to keep this article in the text of the declaration as it is. “
Cultural rights and traditional knowledge –Article 26
Preserving their culture and traditions is vital for the existence of peasant communities. Ramona Duminicioiu from Ecoruralis , Romania, underlined this and pointed to the fact that peasant culture and traditions are often disregarded and marginalized by public policies who impose surrealistic and inappropriate sanitary norms -to name an example- not adapted to local realities.
Speaking for Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI), Henry Simarmata stressed that traditional knowledge should be recognized as a right but also as a State obligation that this knowledge be allowed to contribute to the world food system. “The stakes of traditional knowledge can be found in land, seeds, biodiversity and others, it goes from communities to different levels of our society in our food systems. Acknowledging this right and the contribution of traditional knowledge (indigenous or from peasant communities) in the world food systems in turn strengthens the contribution of peasants and other people working in rural areas in addressing climate change.”
Responsibility of the United Nations and of other international organizations – Article 27
For this final article of the text, focusing on the way the Declaration will be promoted and its provisions carried out, Henry Saragih of Serikat Petani Indonesia, La Via Campesina had this to say: “It’s been contested by EU and Guatemala that we don’t need peasant participation on the implementation of this Declaration. We would like to underline the importance of participation of peasants and other people working in rural areas on issues affecting our lives.
This declaration is a bottom-up process; this declaration is the fruit from our meetings in villages all over the world. We are here now. We have been here negotiating and working for our rights for the past 16 years. For this declaration -and the rights it defends- to be effective, it cannot be otherwise. Peasant participation is essential
We also want to stress that the full realization of the declaration shall be non-discriminatory and in the spirit of respect for human rights and freedoms.”
In the final minutes of this 4th Session’s space for discussions and interventions, Genevieve Savigny addressed State representatives :
“This declaration is the tool we need to send out as a signal to our brothers, sisters, comrades and everyone in the world working in rural areas that they have not been abandoned by the institutions, not by States, not by the Capitals. We need to send out a positive sign. Particularly the EU. It dominates others because of the agricultural model that it exports. We have the responsibility to give hope to all those living in rural areas.
There are elements in this text that are fundamental. Such is the case of Food Sovereignty. This is the backbone of the Declaration. No other term captures its power and meaning. Food Sovereignty gives peasants the right and the responsibility to produce and feed people. I insist to all delegates to have a positive and constructive attitude towards a favorable outcome of this text.”
Public event “Conserving and promoting peasants’ right to seeds :
Practical experiences in the South and in the North ” 19:00 Geneva
As part of the ongoing negotiations at the Human Rights Council on an International Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas, the Geneva public has the unique opportunity to learn about the “right to seeds” from those directly concerned. Farmers and peasants are currently facing the conglomeration of three powerful actors, Dow-Dupont / Chemchina-Syngenta / Bayer-Monsanto, which hold 75% of the international seed trade. In this configuration, how do peasants and farmers organize to hold on to their right to peasant seeds?
Sandrine Salerno : Administrative Councilor of the City of Geneva
Themba Chauke : Landless people movement of South Africa – La Via Campesina
Guy Kastler : Confédération paysanne, Peasant Seed Network, France – La Via Campesina
Ndiakhate Fall : member of CNCR-Senegal- La Via Campesina International Coordinating Committee member
Ester Wolf : Pain pour le prochain
Léa Winter : Fian-Suisse
Moderator : Catherine Morand, Swissaid Geneva
Organized by.: Uniterre, Pain pour le prochain, FIAN-CH, Swissaid Genève, Cetim.
Partners: Action de Carême, Longo Maï, World Council of Churches- Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN-GIFA), HEKS/EPER, etc.
Day 5 : Deliberation on draft Declaration
On the morning of the last day of this 4th Session of the open ended intergovernmental working group, as the Chair-Rapporteur -the Bolivian ambassador- prepared the report from these last 4 days of interventions and exchanges, La Via Campesina delegates along with allied social movements and civil society organizations prepared a joint statement addressing the working group. The statement was read in the concluding moments of the Session.
An outcome of the discussions within the open ended intergovernmental working group, the decision was taken by the Chair-Rapporteur to foresee a fifth session of this working group and thus continue discussions with states, regional groups and civil society, on the basis of the proposals made during this session and the input received.
Nevertheless, for La Via Campesina and its allies these last 4 days of interventions and exchanges have helped to deepen the commitment of government, organisations, and various UN agencies for the establishment of the protections defended by rural peoples. As our delegates expressed before heading back to their home countries, “La Via Campesina reinforces its determination for this declaration to be adopted at the earliest. The world need this declaration, to end poverty and hunger, to make the earth ecologically safe to the next generation and towards an equitable food system.”
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