Food Sovereignty and Solidarity: A Historic Moment to Advance Our Peasant Struggles

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEASANTS’ STRUGGLE: DECLARATION BY LA VIA CAMPESINA, HARARE, ZIMBABWE: 17 APRIL 2021

This April 17th, our international Day of Peasants’ Struggle, is a moment to reflect on our vision of food sovereignty, and strengthen further our solidarity against the increased criminalization of our struggles, and killing of peasants, indigenous peoples, and those fighting for the rights of their communities,  for dignity and equity globally. As we join our hands for solidarity demanding full respect for our rights and the end of impunity, criminalization, and killing, we are alert to the current difficult social and economic context facing many peasants and peoples globally.

Firstly, the continuing COVID19 pandemic, a health crisis that started in 2020, has led to over two million deaths globally. Measures to mitigate and stop the spread of the pandemic have caused a profound social crisis with severe setbacks in workers’ rights, unemployment, corruption, misery, hunger, and violence. This health crisis occurring in tandem with the prevailing climate crisis only worsens the social and economic condition of the masses.

Secondly, the agribusiness and corporate lobbies increased their efforts to capture democratic global governance spaces. Citing the worsening hunger, some called on governments to lift the ban on the use of GMOs. While some big businesses, under the cover of the pandemic, worked with policymakers to relax laws that protect natural resources. We witnessed deliberate attempts to close civil society participation in global policymaking processes and UN spaces. Shifting Human Rights Council meetings and other events online meant limited participation from peasants and indigenous communities.

Thirdly, the current realignment of the geopolitical forces and actors – exemplified by increased tensions between the economically advanced nations (United States/EU versus China and Russia; etc), the on-going heightened militarisation in tandem with repartition of global markets among these big nations, and the re-introduction of trade tariffs to fence off the foreign competition among allies (US vs. EU) are distress calls of a capitalist system in decay. The competition for sources of raw materials particularly rare minerals and the repartition of world markets is the inevitable cause of armed conflicts and devastating wars. This has worsened the migrant crisis in Africa, Middle East, Latin and North America, and Europe.

The multiple crises confronting the world are not new but a political moment to advance the food sovereignty agenda

The food, climate, environmental, economic, democratic, and health crises that culminated with the Covid-19 pandemic show clearly to all humanity that a transformation of the current agricultural and food model is vital. Each crisis, be it COVID-19 pandemic or food shortages, has shown us the importance and resilience of the same local food systems which neoliberalism continues to erode and weaken.

Since its birth in 1993, La Via Campesina has been developing and promoting food sovereignty as an alternative to the dominant capitalist relations of production, particularly in agriculture. Over the twenty-eight years, food sovereignty has gained more ground among social movements, civil society organizations, and others.

Thus, for us, food sovereignty and peasant agroecology continue to triumph in each crisis as solutions to strengthen localized food systems critical in the fight against hunger and to cool the planet, preserve biodiversity, and respect peasants’ and workers’ rights. Moreover, food sovereignty promotes solidarity, a key aspect of humanity – rather than individualism as promoted by capitalism – that has strengthened our collective will to survive. People and not profits matter the most! Now is the time to transform and build a value-based society.

UN Declaration on Peasants’ Rights is our main political tool to strengthen the global peasant struggle

We, La Via Campesina, believe that the time is ripe for governments to formulate and implement urgently the radical public policies to bring relief, dignity, and equity to billions of people whose survival is hanging by a thin thread. Without radical public policy changes, the desperation will increase, so are the unintended outcomes, for instance, the current rise of extreme right-wing, fascism, and other forms of regressive nationalism in different countries. Food sovereignty continues to offer the only coherent solution—a solution that benefits rural families as well as consumers, in our countries.

After much work over the last 28 years generating proposals, accumulation of experience, and building of alliances, we have a historic opportunity to achieve good policies with the support of some progressive governments, UN Special rapporteur for the right to food, Committee on World Food Security (CFS)-Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM) processes, and using the UN declaration of the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP). UNDROP must be a tool for the worldwide promotion of urgently-needed agrarian reform programmes, as essential components of public policies that countries should implement in their respective territories for decent living and working conditions in rural areas. We will work with progressive governments and like-minded rural and urban movements, as well as with other organizations to monitor and ensure proper implementation of public policies. It’s an opportunity that we cannot let pass us by. Even the current attempts by the World Economic Forum initiative to organize and hijack the UN Food System Summit should not hinder our progress. Only peasants and their active participation in shaping the food policies lead to lasting a solution – public policies based on food sovereignty. We must gird ourselves as peasants to fight and resist transnational corporations, agribusiness, large landowners, and imperialism.

To take advantage of the political moment, to regain control over food La Via Campesina together with our allies, call upon governments to define and refine public policy proposals to achieve food sovereignty at all levels. This means the recovery of national productive capacity, rooted in the peasant and family farm sector, through public sector budgets, guaranteed prices, credits, and other forms of support—including support for direct marketing between producers and consumers, and genuine land reform.  We call for genuine comprehensive agrarian reform programs to strengthen peasant and family agriculture, food and farming systems that respond to both urban and rural necessities and should reconstitute improved versions of research and technical assistance systems based this time on the principles of the “campesino to Campesino” (peasant to peasant) model.

We, as peasants, also fight for health to be treated as a human right, especially in the global COVID-19 pandemic. As La Via Campesina, we demand the Right to public and free health care for all peoples as defined in Article 23 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNDROP), including the processes of prevention, vaccination, and long-term treatment. Vaccines should not be patented neither should they be left under the control and profit of large transnational corporations. If patented, it allows the market further to commodify life. All members of society must have access to information and be able to evaluate the treatments offered. We affirm that health care must begin with a healthy, sustainable diet that strengthens the immune system, as proposed by Food Sovereignty, a way of caring for the well-being of both people and the environment.

The time to transform is now!

It is unacceptable that in the 21st-century hundreds of millions are hungry when there is enough food for all; inequalities and human rights violations are worsening; criminalization, brutal repression, and authoritarianism are increasing globally.

This April 17, we say: Struggle for dignity, for health, for public policies based on food sovereignty, and for protecting our communities and natural resources is not a crime but our right! The states must not criminalize our struggles nor violate our rights! Neither must we be killed by them! Their duty is to protect our rights. We, therefore, stand in solidarity with all the peoples struggling for their rights in all four corners of the world. With food sovereignty and solidarity, we can attain social justice and dignity for all!

WE FEED THE WORLD AND BUILD FOOD SOVEREIGNTY!

GLOBALIZE THE STRUGGLE, GLOBALIZE HOPE!

#NoFutureWithoutFoodSovereignty #FoodSovereigntyNOW

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