Geneva, 1st September 2012 – It is with immense satisfaction that the small-scale farmers union Uniterre, representing in Switzerland the international peasants movement La Vía Compesina, and its partners in this undertaking, the Europe – Third World Centre (CETIM) and FIAN Switzerland, announce that the Human Rights Council has deemed it necessary to better protect the rights of small-scale farmers throughout the world. Switzerland abstained from voting.
After many long years of work, civil society, supporting the initiative of the union of peasant families, La Via Compesina, has succeeded in convincing the majority of member states of the Human Rights Council, of the absolute necessity of a new international legal instrument that will take the form of a United Nations declaration. It will have as its objective bringing together in a single document the specific rights of peasants, including new rights such as the right to land, to seeds, to means of production and to information relating to agriculture.
The Human Rights Council – taking into account that 80% of those suffering from hunger live in rural areas and that 50% of them belong to the peasantry – has come to the conclusion that they deserve particular attention. By committing itself to protecting their basic and specific rights, it intends to contribute to reducing hunger in the world.
The Human Rights Council has thus decided to set up an intergovernmental working group mandated to draft a declaration on the rights of peasants and other persons living in rural areas. The working group will build on the project presented by the Advisory Committee in March 2012. The first working group meetings will take place starting in 2013, and they will be carried out over a period of several years before the final text is adopted by the Human Rights Council then by the United Nations General Assembly. Civil society and representatives of peasant families are called upon to participate actively in this process, an additional highly positive point.
Uniterre, CETIM and FIAN Switzerland profoundly regret the abstention of Switzerland on an issue of such importance, which ought to have had the full support of a country that has made human rights a basic element of its foreign policy.
Uniterre, the CETIM and FIAN Switzerland deplore, further, the negative vote of a certain number of European Union states as well as the United States, which opposed specific protection for peasant farmers. These states, probably subjected to pressure from certain powerful lobbies (major economic groups, speculators, agribusiness and extractive corporations) did not dare support their small farmers, ignoring elementary rights and the general interest of their citizens faced with these stakeholders that continue to violate the rights of small-scale farmers throughout the world.
For further information on this subject:
CETIM Bulletin n° 44 (soon available , December 2012)
CETIM Bulletin n° 40 (2011)