II International Conference Of The Via Campesina Tlaxcala, Mexico, April 18-21


We, the, the Vía Campesina, a growing movement of peasant and farm organizations from all the regions of the world (Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa) have gathered for our second conference in Tlaxcala, Mexico to confirm our commitment to the vital goals of our people. Representatives from 69 organizations from 37 countries met April 18-21, 1996. This historic meeting demonstrates the dynamic nature of our solidarity and our determination to move forward in the defence of people of the land and in the building of better alternatives. Our response to the increasingly hostile environment for peasants and small farmers the world over is to collectively challenge those conditions. We are united in our rejection of the economic and political conditions which destroy our livelihoods, our communities, our cultures and our natural environment. We are determined to create a rural economy which is based on respect for ourselves and the earth, on food sovereignty, and on fair trade.

We are committed to ensuring rural development which recognizes and includes the important contribution women make in food production. We demand genuine agrarian reform which returns their territories to Indigenous peoples and gives landless and farming people ownership and control of the land they work.

World-wide, the prevailing neo-liberal economic system has been the main cause for the increasing impoverishment of farmers and rural peoples in general. It is responsible for the increasing degradation of nature, land, water, plants, animals and natural resources, having put all these vital resources under centralized systems of production, procurement and distribution of agricultural products within the frame of a global market oriented system. This economic system treats both nature and people as a means to an end with the sole aim of generating profits. The concentration of all this wealth in the hands of a small minority has created dramatic constraints on farmers throughout the world, pushing them to the brink of irredeemable extinction.

Land, wealth and power in the hands of large land owners and transnational corporations unjustly denies peasants and farmers the possibility of controlling their own destinies. The policies of dumping, endemic situations of poverty and marginalization, increased in the Third World by foreign debt, are destroying the hope of millions. Serious social deficiencies and lack of basic services together with the oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations aggravate situations of injustice and frustration. The prevalent and increasing incidence of racism in the rural world is unacceptable.

The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization and repression of peasants cannot be tolerated. We strongly denounce all violence against peasants. We particularly decry the brutal and tragic massacre of twenty peasants in Brazil on April 17, 1996. This terrible action is yet another blow designed to intimidate those who seek justice. We will not be intimidated. We are herewith declaring April 17th an International Day of Protest against the oppression of peasants everywhere. The conference notes that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Committee (FAO) is holding a World Food Summit in November, 1996, ostensibly to solve the problem of millions of people who face the crisis of food shortages and malnutrition. no solution will be found for this without the active intervention of those who grow food. Delegates decided that the Vía Campesina should be effectively represented at this summit.

We denounce the neo-liberal activities of the World Bank and the IMF whose structural adjustment policies continue to exact an unacceptably high price on the poor and rural people in many of our countries. These policies reduce the capacity of governments in developing nations to provide basic services. Instead of finding a lasting solution to the debt crisis those policies have only worsened the situation. Many of these debts are unpayable. The conference demands that these debts be written off and the destructive structural adjustment program be discontinued in favour of domestic self sufficiency in rural development. International financial institutions must be democratized and made to serve the real needs of the majority of people. The conference deplores arrangements by multinational corporations to gain ownership of genetic material. The Vía Campesina vigorously opposes this process and will make strong representations at the World Seed Summit in Leipzig in June, 1996. The Vía Campesina is determined to influence the World Trade Organization in order to promote changes to the existing trade agreement. International trade agreements must take the interests of peasants and small farmers into full account.

Our strategies to achieve our objectives include:
0. Articulate and strengthen regional organizations, particularly in Asia and Africa.
1. Develop appropriate regional responses to bilateral and regional trade agreements such as MERCOSUR, NAFTA, APEC, etc.
2. Bring the Vía Campesina´s objectives to the international arena of the FAO, IMF, WB, WTO and other international forums of the United Nations and the ILO.
3. Build relationships of solidarity between the Vía Campesina member organizations.
4. Promote women´s networking within Vía Campesina and its organizations.
5. Build operational secretariats at the regional level.
6. Implement mechanisms of internal and external communications which would facilitate Vía Campesina´s ability to efficiently address emerging current issues (this would include a bimonthly internal newsletter and press release process via the use of Internet.)
7. The CC will promote networking between different production sectors at the regional level and between regions.
8. Promote initiatives which will contribute to the development of fair trade with direct participation of producers and consumers, beginning with an international anti-dumping campaign.
9. Instigate a ‘solidarity and response network’ against violent acts against peasants and farmers, broadening the movement with the participation of diverse social actors.
10. Fight against the genetic patenting privatization process through the creation of farmer seed banks, legal initiatives guaranteeing genetic patrimony, and education on the dangers of bioprospecting.
We consider this, our conference in Tlaxcala, Mexico, to be a large and important step forward in the path towards justice, equality and freedom for farming and rural people everywhere.

Tlaxcala, Mexico, April 21, 1996
KENYAN NATIONAL FARMERS UNION, URCAK (Mali), ANAP (Cuba), NATIONAL FARMERS ASSOCIATION (St Lucia, Caraïben), WINFA (St Vincent, Caraïben), NATIONAL FARMERS UNION (St Vincent, Caraïben), CONAMUCA (Dom. Republiek), BAPO (Belize), UNION NACIONAL DE PEQUENOS Y MEDIANOS PRODUCTORES AGROPECUARIOS (Costa Rica), ADC (El Salvador), CONAMPRO (Guatemala), COCOCH (Honduras), UNAG (Nicaragua), APEMEP (Panama), AMUCSS (Mexico), ASOCIACION NACIONAL DE EMPRESAS COMERCIALIZADORAS DE PRODUCTORES DEL CAMPO (Mexico), CIOAC (Mexico), CNPA (Mexico), CODUC (Mexico), UNION CAMPESINA DEMOCRATICA (Mexico), UNORCA (Mexico), NFU (Canada), NATIONAL FAMILY FARM COALITION (USA), MOVIMIENTO AGRARIO DE LA REGION PAMPEANA (Argentinië), AIMTR (Brasilië), CUT (Brasilië), CLOC (Brazilië), MAB (Brazilië), MST (Brazilië), CONFEDERACION CAMPESINA NEHUEN (Chili), EL SURCO (Chili), ALAI (Equador), FENOC-I (Equador), FEDERACION NACIONAL CAMPESINA (Paraguay), MCP (Paraguay), KFL (Korea), KCFM (Zuid-Korea), DALM (India), DGSM (India), IFTOP (India), KRRS (India), ANPA (Nepal), SAPC (Pakistan), FLORES ISLAND PEASANT UNION (Indonesië), BPRPI (Indonesië), CRA/KPA (Indonesië), SPSU (Indonesië), SINTESA FOUNDATION (Indonesië), SPJB (Indonesië), PARTNERS OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS (Maleisië), SABAH (Maleisië), NATIONAL COUNCIL OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE (Maleisië), ASIAN PEASANT WOMEN NETWORK (Filippijnen), AMIITAN NATIONAL FEDERATION OF PEASANT WOMEN (Filippijnen), DKMP (Filippijnen), KAMMPIL (Filippijnen), KMP (Filippijnen), ISFA (Thailand), VNUP (Vietnam), VPN (Vietnam), ESTONIAN FARMER UNION (Estland), PEASANT SOLIDARNOSC TRADE UNION (Polen), FUJA (Wallonië), VAC (Vlaanderen), COAG (Spanje), SLG (Gallicië), SOC (Spanje), UGAV (Spanje), CONFEDERATION PAYSANNE (Frankrijk), CNA (Portugal), CPE (Europese Organisatie), MIJARC (Internationale Beweging van Katholieke Plattelandsjongeren).