- Published on Thursday, 13 November 2008 00:20
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) turns 60 on the 10th of December 2008. As the declaration represents the worldwide expression of the rights which all human beings are inherently entitled to, it is important for the peasants to also commemorate this occasion.
Peassants represent almost half of the population on earth and we are the basis of the world's food system. We are working hard to fill people's plates every day—but we face the hard reality of the food, energy, climate and financial crises. Thoses crises also create massive and systematic violations of the rights of the peasants. The current crises occurred because the old modes of production and consumption have been disastrous to people and the planet. In the agricultural sector, it came with trade liberalisation, support for chemical fertilizers and industrial seeds, green revolution, food aid, and rapid expansion of agrofuels. At the grass roots level, these policies manifest in the expropriation and privatisation of land, the destruction of the integrity of rural public services, food imports, and the lack of protection of local markets. These policies and practices lead by neo-liberal governments, transnational corporations (TNCs), and individuals have also hurt women peasants—who suffer double marginalisation: as women and as peasants.
In Indonesia, on the 29th of January 2008, 35 security guards of the National Plantation PTPN IV Adolina backed by 70 police officers from Deli Serdang district destroyed 30 hectares of land planted with corn and cassava belonging to small farmers. Seven farmers were arrested trying to defend their crops (they are now released). The company has cleared the land in order to grow palm oil.
In Mexico, free trade policies have led to massive low cost corn imports from the US. Local farmers, unable to compete, have lost their livelihood. The recent rise in corn prices on the world market has drastically increased the number of hungry people in Mexico.
Meanwhile, small farms are disappearing all over the world. In Turkey, one farming family leaves the land every 50 seconds. Two years ago farmers unable to repay their bank loans started to commit suicide; this situation has dramatically increased since.
In Brazil, it is estimated that 4,340 families have been expelled from their land by private companies in 2007, 28 people were assassinated and 259 people received death threats in land conflicts. In November 2007, Valmir Mota d'Oliveira, a peasant leader from Via Campesina Brazil was assassinated during a land occupation by the security guards employed by the TNC Syngenta.
The peasants all over the world have to put an end to the the corporate takeover of our land, water, and territory. We want a clear condemnation of the
governments, TNCs and individuals that are responsible for these crises, and for the violations of human rights they have conducted in the name of greed and capital accumulation.
Enough is enough! We have to keep struggling and be more organised to uphold our rights as peasants. That is why in light of the 60th anniversary of the UDHR, we demand our own convention. The future convention on the rights of the peasants will contain the basic values which will have to be respected, protected, and fulfilled by governments and international institutions. Among the basic rights are the right to live and proper living standard, right to
the agrarian resources, right on the seed and agriculture, right for capital and means of agricultural production, right to access the information and agriculture technology, right for freedom in determining price and market for agricultural production, right for protection of agriculture values, right for biological diversity, right for environmental preservation, and right for freedom of association. These rights are now getting recognised and
presented to the UN human rights system by La Via Campesina and its allies. These respective rights are also essential in order to accomplish people's food sovereignty.
We are committed to take this initiative at national, regional and international level in order to raise awareness, mobilise support and build alliances with not only peasants, but all of the people. We are sure that the rights of the peasants are fundamental for the sake of humankind in the planet.
We call all members of La Via Campesina and their allies to get mobilised in your respective countries to demand the institutionalisation of the rights of the peasants!
Uphold the rights of the peasants! Food sovereignty based on agrarian reform now!
For more information go to www.viacampesina.org