Victory for the rights of peasants at the UN: the Human Rights Council renews the mandate of the intergovernmental working group in charge of developing a UN Declaration on the rights of peasants!
The Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution allowing the continuation of the process toward the adoption of a UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (pastoralists, agricultural workers, nomadic people, fishermen, indigenous people, landless people…). Bolivia is in charge of starting informal consultations with states and civil society and to organize a second session of the intergovernmental working group in November 2014. The adoption of such a Declaration can potentially contribute to better protect the rights and improve the livelihoods of millions of peasants and other people working in rural areas.
As a reminder, this project of Declaration originated from the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, comprised of more than 164 peasant organizations across 73 countries, and that has been working on this issue for more than 10 years. With the support of the Centre Europe-Third World (CETIM) and FIAN International, La Via Campesina has presented this proposal to the Human Rights Council in 2009. In 2012, a study by the Human Rights Council Consultative Committee (a body of experts) 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 such a Declaration in order to better protect and promote their rights. In September 2012, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution tabled by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and South Africa that established an intergovernmental working group to develop and adopt a Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. This working group held its first session in July 2013 and completed a first reading of the draft Declaration.
During its 26th session, the Human Rights Council was to examine the report of the first session of the working group and to decide on the renewal of its mandate so that discussions could continue based on a revised draft Declaration. Members states of the Human Rights Council responded positively to the demands of peasants organizations and accepted to renew the mandate of the intergovernmental working group by an overwhelming majority. The resolution tabled by Bolivia was adopted by 29 votes in favor, 13 abstentions, and 5 votes against.
Uniterre, the CETIM, and l’Autre syndicat are extremely pleased with this result as it demonstrates an increasing support for the process (in 2012, the result was 23 in favor, 16 abstentions, and 9 against). We can only regret the uncompromising and nonconstructive attitude of the United States, Great Britain, South Korea, the Czech Republic and Romania, that have voted against the resolution again. However, it is important to note that countries like France, Austria, Germany, Italy and Ireland have decided to abstain although they were previously opposed to the resolution. It is not only the result of an intense advocacy workby peasants organizations of the European Coordination Via Campesina and other civil society organizations but it is also an encouraging sign that now governments look at peasant agriculture with a more positive attitude. During the session, delegations of La Via Campesina have also come to pursue the advocacy work.
We would like to congratulate Switzerland in particular which, without having the right to vote at the Human Rights Council this year, has cosponsored the resolution tabled by Bolivia and has engaged in all the discussions in a very constructive manner! It reflects the good advocacy work done by the civil society and the constructive dialogue engaged with the government.
In the coming months, Via Campesina and its allies will double their efforts to try and convince states that are still reticent to the idea of such a Declaration. A UN Declaration is essential for protecting at the international level the whole peasant agriculture that is responsible for the production of more than 70% of food while having access to barely 25% of the land. By strengthening the rights of those playing a decisive role in the global production of food, this Declaration will reinforce food sovereignty and security for the entire population. There is no gap between the Global North and South, La Via Campesina is a proof of it.
On behalf of La Via Campesina, we would like to thank Bolivia, South Africa, Cuba, and Ecuador for the efforts they have produced to facilitate a constructive work and process on this issue at the Human Rights Council.