Major Win for Peasant Rights: UNHRC passes resolution adopting the peasant rights declaration in Geneva

Written by Sabrang India | Published on: October 1, 2018

In a major victory for peasants rights across the world, after seventeen years of long and arduous negotiations, peasants and people working in rural areas are just a step away from having a UN declaration that is likely to protect their rights to land, seeds, biodiversity, local markets and more.




The UN Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas was passed on Friday September 28 by member nations of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with 33 votes in favour, 11 abstentions and 3 against.

Next, the declaration will go before the upcoming 3rd Committee sessions at UN General Assembly in New York in October. The declaration will be up for voting and adoption by all Member States of the UN November 2018 onwards.

The Declaration has the capacity to become a powerful tool for peasants and other people working in rural areas so that they can seek justice and favourable national policies around food, agriculture, seeds and land keeping in mind the interests of millions of rural food producers comprising all genders and youth.

La Via Campesina- a global movement of peasants, indigenous people, pastorialists and migrant workers adopted a Declaration of Rights of Peasants- Women and Men after several rounds of international consultation process. Civil society organisations like CETIM and FIAN International supported La Via Campesina in order for it to be able to present this proposal to the Human Rights Council in 2008.

After several rounds of international consultation process, La Via Campesina – a global movement of peasants, indigenous people, pastoralists and migrant workers adopted in 2008 a Declaration of Rights of Peasants – Women and Men[1]. With the support of civil society groups like CETIM and Food First Information and Action (FIAN) International, La Via Campesina presented this proposal to the Human Rights Council in 2008.

UN Table

Elizabeth Mofu, the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina said, “"This has been a long tough path but as peasants, as people who have seen the worst of poverty and neglect, we are tough too and we never give up."

As of today, peasants and others working in rural areas are vulnerable communities which do not have recourse to sufficient procedures in the face of forced displacement and marginalization. However, this win in Geneva is likely to get them a step closer towards the recognition of their rights. "This includes the right to life and adequate standards of living, the right to land, to seeds, to information, justice and equality between women and men," she said. For her, it is a turning point for peasant struggles around the world. "Today, we are just a step away from acceptance by all member nations of the United Nations." Elizabeth added.
 
"This has been a long tough path but as peasants, as people who have seen the worst of poverty and neglect, we are tough too and we never give up", said Elizabeth Mpofu, the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina

This UN Declaration can provide a global framework for national legislation and policies to:
  • Better protect the rights of peasants – women and men – and improve livelihoods in rural areas
  • Reinforce food sovereignty, the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity
  • Take actions to implement comprehensive agrarian reform and a better protection against land-grabbing
  • Realise the right of peasants to conserve, use, exchange and sell their seeds
  • Ensure remunerative prices for peasant production and rights for agricultural workers
  • Recognise the rights of peasant women and bring about social justice for people of all origin, nationality, race, colour, descent. Sex, language, culture, marital status, property, disability, age, political or other opinion, religion, birth or economic, social or other status without discrimination
Ramona Duminicous from Via Campesina Europe said that the number of no votes and abstentions are abysmal and that the countries which didn’t vote in favour, are “not up to the protection of rights of peasants and rural populations.”

The Chairperson of Serikat Petani, Indonesia, henry Saragih said, "Our campaign for food sovereignty and people's agrarian reform in Indonesia has received an important and much-needed boost."

Once the resolution is adopted at the UN General Assembly in New York, member organisations will be able to take the message of the Declarations to their respective countries and empahsise on its significance in strengthening struggles against privatisation, criminalisation and more.

"At this point, despite producing the bulk of the food we eat – peasants are subjected to extreme forms of violence. Those who resist are either murdered or arrested. This criminalisation of peasant struggles has to stop and this Declaration is a step forward in that direction", said Diego from Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indígena (MNCI) Argentina CLOC-Vía Campesina

The adoption of this Declaration is being seen to in the light of empowering communities to better protect the rights of peasants and improve livelihoods in rural areas in the long and short run and at global level. This will fill the existing gaps in protection and should also be a step in the future to deal with emerging gaps and end discriminatory practices.