Five years since the UN Declaration on Peasants’ Rights: Time to turn it into a tangible reality for peasants worldwide

In a webinar held on December 18, 2023, the Indonesian Peasants Union (SPI) commemorated the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP). The event shed light on the ongoing struggles faced by peasants globally and emphasized the crucial role of UNDROP in addressing these challenges.

SPI also invited current and historical leaders of the movement to provide insights into the significance of UNDROP and the efforts required to ensure its effective implementation. Among the speakers were Henry Saragih, the Chairperson of SPI and a senior leader of La Via Campesina; Morgan Ody, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina; Anuka da Silva from the International Coordination Committee (ICC) of La Via Campesina for South Asia; and Zainal Arifin Fuad, SPI Chairman for Foreign Affairs, and also an ICC member.

Henry Saragih, Chairperson of SPI, commenced the event by highlighting the arduous journey undertaken by SPI, La Via Campesina, and other international movements and civil society actors to bring about UNDROP. He stressed the need for continuous efforts in the face of persistent challenges. Saragih shared that after 17 years of relentless advocacy, UNDROP was adopted by the United Nations in New York on December 17, 2018.

Morgan Ody reinforced the importance of UNDROP, noting that it has evolved beyond a mere declaration. He shared that in October 2023, the UN Human Rights Council established a working group dedicated to monitoring UNDROP’s implementation at the national level. Ody emphasized the responsibility of each country to endorse UNDROP in laws and constitutions, making it a tangible reality for peasants worldwide.

Zainal Arifin Fuad underscored the urgency of implementing UNDROP given the global challenges, including ongoing crises like the conflict in Ukraine and Palestine, and the looming climate crisis. Fuad expressed gratitude for the establishment of the UNDROP Working Group, acknowledging the support from countries like Indonesia.

Anuka da Silva provided insights into the activities undertaken by South Asian peasant movements to champion UNDROP. These activities included translating the declaration into local languages, engaging in lobbying efforts, and organizing education and training programs.

Afgan Fadilla, one of SPI’s key youth leaders campaigning for Peasants’ Rights, briefly highlighted the struggles faced by peasants in Indonesia, emphasizing the need to persist in advocating for UNDROP’s implementation. He mentioned ongoing efforts such as lobbying, producing annual reports on rights violations, education initiatives, and peaceful protests.

Ibrahim Cidibe from Mali, also part of ICC West Asia, spoke about their regional efforts to campaign for UNDROP. Cidibe expressed enthusiasm about joining the global movement, organizing meetings, and training sessions to promote the declaration in Africa.

The webinar, attended by SPI members from various regions and representatives from LVC peasants’ movements globally, highlighted the ongoing commitment to realizing the principles laid out in UNDROP. As the world marks five years since its adoption, the event served as a platform to assess progress, acknowledge achievements, and reinforce the collective responsibility to protect the rights of peasants and rural communities.

This is an edited version of a longer article that appeared on the SPI website in December 2023.