Building the Path Forward

(Bogota, December 7, 2023) On Wednesday, the 6th of December, hundreds of La Via Campesina (LVC) representatives gathered in Bogotá, Colombia to debate the movement’s strategic priorities for the next four years. The articulation of this action plan emerged directly from the deliberative discussions and critical analyses of regional realities that have been the focus of the first few days of the 8th International Conference. But the plan has deeper roots, emanating from an International Coordinating Committee (ICC) meeting held in Bogotá in May 2023, which sought to synthesize diverse regional experiences from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

That preliminary ICC debate sought to begin exploring what can LVC concretely achieve in the next working period. At that ICC meeting, a small working group formed of regional LVC representatives to synthesize these experiences into a draft action plan. The May 2023 ICC meeting intersected with two other processes: the LVC Youth Articulation Action Plan, which was forged during the Youth Articulation meeting in June 2023, and the virtual Women’s Articulation meeting that took place in October, which itself advanced an action plan. Bringing together these diverse discussions—themselves the product of a deeply participatory process of deliberation—the principal tasks of LVC can be seen as 1) Building unity in diversity, 2) Building international solidarity, 3) Struggling together to defend peasants, and 4) Being the international voice of peasants and workers.

Morgan Ody, the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina and a small-scale vegetable farmer from Brittany France, who is a member of the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) and the French Peasant Union Confederation Paysanne helped to articulate areas of success that the movement must continue to advance, from strengthening internal communication, and political formation, to broadening alliances with popular movements. She also identified emerging challenges and possible actions, such as the need to send small delegations that would go to countries in challenging times to provide support, solidarity, and exchange.

Morgan also expanded upon the possibilities for international solidarity, highlighting the need to give visibility to local struggles, and confront the growing criminalization of social movements. She also discussed how the movement is positioned to be a change agent in the world, through massifying peasant agroecology, advancing institutional processes, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), and struggling against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and free-trade agreements.

She also highlighted the thematic priorities coming out of the Youth Articulation, including addressing the crisis of generational renewal in farming, climate change and agroecology, and the emerging crisis of digital agriculture, as well as the working priorities, which included developing internal bylaws for the Youth Articulation, making visible the youth struggle as a communicative priority, and strengthening and deepening the political education process. She concluded by highlighting the priorities coming from the Women’s Articulation, which included implementing parity, denouncing violence, and a commitment to peace, and advancing feminist formation as a critical tool.

Later in the day, representatives from each region presented their input on the action plan. Returning to the discussion of values and principles from the day before, the Africa region emphasized that “the question of dignity, the question of the principles of justice are key to our struggle. The principles of La Via Campesina are key. The youth are key to this process.”

One of the cross-cutting perspectives from various regions was the need to strengthen the international solidarity process. As the Southeast and East Asian Region argued “the strategy of solidarity brigades is key; international solidarity is incredibly important.” While the solidarity brigades have been widely successful, various comrades, such as those from the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC) region added that “the brigades systems, which has been incredibly successful, should be increased to include solidarity with those that are struggling with environmental crises.” While there was broad agreement on the need to expand the brigades to attending to environmental crises, representatives from the European region offered that La Via Campesina at an international level needs to be attentive to the desires of the local level movements that are navigating crises. In addition to augmenting the solidarity brigades, the Arab Region and North Africa (ARNA), the 10th new region of LVC, argued that “we need to amplify our voices, increase our presence in international organizations, and our alliances with international institutions, by visibilizing the Sudanese struggle, and creating new spaces for solidarity in terms of boycotts.” In the words of the African representatives “solidarity will be more felt by all of us if we prioritize listening to our comrades, so we need to share information.”

Another cross-cutting theme was commitment to advancing political formation. As the CLOC representatives underscored, “we need to strengthen the agroecological schools (Latin American Institute of Agroecology – IALAs), and strengthen the campesino-a-campesino processes. Strengthen both political and technical process; we need to create new IALAS.” The North American representatives picked up this thread, offering that “We are committed to training and formation processes. We are creating an agroecological school in the Northeast focused on political education. Part of the mandate of this school is that it will be relevant to the needs of our communities.”

Regional representatives recommended recognizing several days as critical to the global struggle. First was the recommendation from the CLOC representatives to mark the 5th of June, which can be used at a global level to mobilize in terms of defense of nature and the environment. The South Asian representatives recommended that November 26 be recognized as the day of farmer mobilization.

The diversity of priorities that regional representatives voiced was clearly grounded in a deep understanding of grassroots demands and regional realities. From the South Asian representatives call to cancel Sri Lankan and Pakistani debt, to the various regions’ calls for increasing international solidarity with comrades in Palestine, Sudan, and wherever environmental crises strike, a clear takeaway of the day was the deep learning and dialogue that has characterized the 8th International conference.