- Published on Sunday, 18 April 2004 03:00
International Day of Peasant Struggles 17th of April, 2004
During the Second International Conference of Via Campesina held in Tlaxcala, Mexico in 1996, 19 landless rural workers were killed by military police on April 17th ,1996, in Eldorado dos Carajás (Brazil). In commemoration of this terrible crime, La Via Campesina declared April 17th "International Day of Peasant Struggles". Every year on 17th of April, thousands of peasants, women and men, join forces to protest against neoliberal policies such as the liberalization of agricultural trade, deregulation and privatization. These policies have led to the destruction of peasant economies and to the eviction of small farmers, land workers and fisherfolk from their lands.
In the countryside, violence is ever-present. With the support of governments, large landowners terrorize landless families because they are demanding a piece of land to live on. The situation is very much alike in parts of the Americas, in Asia and Africa, and even in Europe.
Persecution, arbitrary detention and killings are only one form of violence in the countryside. It is still violence when thousands of small family farms disappear and entire families are forced to migrate to the slums of the cities. Equally dramatic are the massive suicide cases of indebted small farmers in India. Alone in the federal state of Karnataka, last year more than 10,000 desperate peasants saw no other alternative but to commit suicide.
The policies of market-led land reform promoted by the World Bank are failing in different parts of the world. Nevertheless, many governments stick to them as if they offered the only solution to rural conflicts. Governments and transnational corporations continue putting policies into practice which make the elites ever richer and condemn the majority of the rural population to lives of poverty and social exclusion.
The recipes for development of such anti-people governments are trade policies regulated by the World Trade Organization, free trade agreements, the proliferation of GMOs, dumping and consumerism. Physical and economic access to food by peasants, women and men, has worsened and food sovereignty has decreased due to the high costs of production. Land that was formerly used for planting basic food crops is increasingly being used for export crops. This decreases the availability of local food and increases dependence on imports.
On this 17th of April, we call on all members of La Vía Campesina, FIAN and other social and human rights movements to mobilize against all forms of violence and repression in the countryside and to demand land to produce, to live in dignity and to contribute to the development of our peoples.
Taking into account the above-mentioned:
We denounce the World Bank’s promotion of policies that
have initiated counter-agrarian reform processes and have concentrated land ownership in few hands; have transformed land into a mere commodity to be bought and sold to mining, tourism, industrial investors or for speculative purposes; encourage the concentration of the world food system in the hands of few transnational corporations; encourage export of cash crops, the liberalization of agricultural trade and the privatization of rural extension services.
We denounce the World Bank’s cooperation with governments that are responsible for massive and systematic violations of the peasants’ human rights. In Colombia, for instance, the policy of "democratic security" serves to systematically repress peasants and indigenous movements. Massacres of the rural population are widespread and some 3 million persons have been forcibly displaced from their lands. The World Bank is turning itself into an accomplice of such crimes by lending money to the Colombian government for rural development projects without taking the human rights situation into consideration.
We denounce the World Bank’s non-compliance with international human rights law even though most of the World Bank’s member states have ratified the main human rights treaties.
We demand from all governments responsible for the World Bank’s policies and actions:
- to stop current land and rural development policies promoted by the World Bank;
- to stop lending to governments responsible for massive and systematic human rights violations against peasants and indigenous peoples;
- to realize the human right to feed oneself and the right to produce of peasants, women and men, and the right to food sovereignty of our peoples;
- to guarantee the full enjoyment of civil and political rights of peasant’s and indigenous leaders struggling for land and agrarian reform and justice in the countryside. No to arbitrary detentions, trumped-up charges, repression, persecution and killings of peasants.
- to embark upon a debate on a new international co-operation on land and rural development policies and new institutions in order to meet landless and peasant movements’ demands, and to comply with human rights standards.