Article 19-Right to Land and Other Natural Resources- absolutely unnegotiable

An intervention by David Jelinek of ÖBV- Via Campesina Austria, during the third session of the intergovernmental working group on a United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas

Geneva, May 19, 2016

Dear Chairperson,

As member of La Via Campesina Austria, and as a young entrant into peasant farming, I would like to express my concern about some of the arguments brought forward, which are doubting the need for article 19, the right to land. Indeed, from my perspective, from the perspective of a young person who is working and living on and from the land, I see this article as absolutely unnegotiable. In fact, I think that if we delete or weaken it in any way, we might as well dump this entire declaration as a whole, because what are my, what are our rights worth, when we cannot execute them on the soil, on our workplace. This would be like being granted the right for free movement but at the same time being surrounded by border fences. Thus l see Article 19 as it is now, as a very important and indispensable component of this Declaration.

Mr. Golay noted in his statement this morning, that the right to land is a very essential element in this Declaration, especially in order to protect some of the most vulnerable groups. Reaffirming this, l would like to add that I don’t see this article as granting us a new right, but in fact as a step to regaining some of the communal land rights which were taken from peasants in the course of the last centuries. And since the current legal instruments were not able to support us in regaining those rights until today, there is a clear need for a legislation which would bring us forward in this topic.

Furthermore it is crucial, especially in Europe, to bring more young people into agriculture. Today, more than half of Europe’s farms do not have a clear successor and are therefore on the way to disappearing, clearing the path for further agro-industrial growth. In my region the situation is even worse, with more than 80% of all farmers not knowing if somebody will take over their work. Some of the elements in this Declaration, such as Article 19, would support a different path, allowing young entrants an easier access to land and other means of production, giving them the opportunity to realize their vision of a food-sovereign agriculture, that will not only feed the world but also put many of the articles discussed here into practice.

Thank you Madame Chair