A UN Declaration on the rights of peasants

In recent years, the CETIM has been firmly committed, together with La Vía Campesina, the international peasant movement comprising more than 164 organizations in 74 countries, to the adoption at the United Nations of a new international instrument to better protect the rights of peasants.

At the global level, there are currently some 1.2 billion peasants and together with their families they represent one third of humanity. In absolute terms, there are more peasants today than ever before in history. Peasants are victims of multiple forms of discrimination and human rights violations. 80% of the world’s people who suffer from hunger and poverty in the world live and work in rural areas, 50% are small-scale and traditional farm holders, 20% are landless and 10% subsist through fishing, hunting and herding activities.
Peasants are the primary victims of violations of the rights to food, water and sanitation or adequate housing. Evicted from their lands and repressed when they defend their rights, peasants are also amongst the primary victims of civil and political rights violations.
But peasants are key to food sovereignty and the realization of the right to food, in particular in developing countries where they provide up to 80% of the food consumed at the local level. Peasants offer a sustainable alternative to the dominant agro-industrial model and they play a crucial role in the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity. Humanity as a whole would thus only benefit from a better protection of the rights of peasants.

The need to better support peasants and protect their rights is more and more recognized at the international level. The year 2014 was declared the International Year of Family Farming by the United Nations General Assembly, to recognize the role played by peasants and small-holder producers in reducing poverty and achieving food security, sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.

After an international consultation process, La Vía Campesina adopted in 2008 a “Declaration of Rights of Peasants – Women and Men“. With the support of the CETIM and FIAN International, La Vía Campesina presented this proposal to the Human Rights Council in 2009. In 2012, a study by the Council’s Advisory Committee (its body of experts), mandated by the Council (see resolution 13/4, para 44), proved us right: it recognized peasants and other people living in rural areas as victims of discrimination and systematic violations of their human rights and recommended the adoption of a United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants and other peoples working in rural areas as well as the recognition of the right to land, among other rights, in order to better protect and promote their rights.

And in September 2012, the Human Rights Council adopted by vote (23 for, 9 against, 16 abstentions) a resolution presented by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and South Africa establishing an intergovernmental working group to develop and adopt a Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, on the basis of the draft proposed by the Advisory Committee.

This working group held its first session in July 2013 and completed a first reading of the draft Declaration. In June 2014, the Human Rights Council adopted by vote (29 for, 5 against, 13 abstentions) a new resolution to renew the mandate of the working group and gave its president, Angelica Navarro, the Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, the mandate to revise the draft Declaration and prepare a new text to be presented and discussed in February 2015 at the second session of the intergovernmental working group.

From the outset, the CETIM has been supporting La Vía Campesina in its efforts at the Human Rights Council. Those efforts have so far succeeded. After having obtained the opening of intergovernmental negotiations, the CETIM now works to facilitate the participation of peasants’ organizations at the working group’s meetings, so that their voices, demands and proposals can be heard.

For more information:

Latest news on the rights of peasants

Newsletter n°48 (August 2014)

Newsletter n°46 (December 2013)

Newsletter n°44 (December 2012)

Critical report n°5 (September 2009) on the rights of peasants

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