- Published on Tuesday, 25 April 2006 07:00
Asia Pacific People’s Conference on Rice and Food Sovereignty
Jakarta-Indonesia, 14-18 May 2006
There are about 69 rice producing countries, such as Australia, US, China, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam, Italia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, etc. In such countries, among others Indonesia, India, Philippine, Thailand and Vietnam rice is staple food commodity as well as political commodity. Therefore level of rice availability will be one of success indicator for government. Hence, it is logical for government to work hard on achieving rice availability for people.
In this context, FAO introduced and made commitment with all countries to apply food security concepts in 1996. FAO reported that 800 million of 5.67 billion people in the world suffered hunger. By applying the food security concepts, people shall be guaranteed on their rice need on three aspects: availability, access ability and food safety. However, the applications of food security have been giving negative impacts to farmers as rice producers and moreover there are still hungers even though rice supply is enough. For instance: hunger in some regions which are rice producing centre in Indonesia in 2005. It is a paradox for Indonesia as well as other rice producing countries which have the same problems.
It is also paradox that some of those countries have to import rice. For example is Indonesia, which imports rice from Thailand and Vietnam. Rice import is not forbidden in the concept of food security. Given the situation above, rice import is also legitimated in the concept of food security as long as the country can provide sufficient rice for its people. But it is a big problem for farmers. Recommendation for rice import basically is application of WTO’s neoliberalism policy in agriculture sector. Under the Agreement of Agriculture (AoA) regulation, WTO pushes all member countries to liberalize their agriculture through opening market access, and withdrawing incentives for farmer. WTO also gives big opportunity to private sector, especially transnational company to expand their role in agriculture trade (rice) in rice producer countries, but on the other hand reduce the government’s role in protecting their farmers. If we analyze further about transgenic issue, this also matters a lot, taking account that transnational corporation is pushing GMOs through agriculture sector. In our opinion, this means another marginalization to farmers worldwide. Thus, farmers are just economic exploitation object under agriculture liberalization and finally fall into poverty. It means that food sovereignty is far from farmers and even nation.
Based on the above premise, La Via Campesina and FSPI (Federation of Indonesian Peasant Union) will organize series of activities rejecting rice import and refuse agriculture liberalization promoted by WTO. We will use the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific which will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 15–19 May 2006 as a momentum to raise these issues. We will push our governments, and try to internationalize these issues—as there are many international delegations will come. We see there a lot of opportunities regarding this FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific to influence public opinion especially in Indonesia, and in the Asia Pacific region in general.
Objectives and activities
This conference will be held to put strong position against rice import policy, representing the current condition in Asia Pacific which also conduct neoliberal and free trade agenda in agriculture. We will push our governments not to import rice, therefore we will spread information of the impacts of rice liberalisation and WTO regarding this issue. There will be a comprehensive document about alternative concept—food sovereignty—and its implementation, to make sure a whole system which will not marginalize peasants.
There will be a lot of activities, but the main are people assembly to discuss various issues on food sovereignty and rice, mass mobilisation and the conference itself. At least 500 participants from FSPI and other social movements in Indonesia, and representatives from social movement in Asia Pacific will attend this event.
The Asia Pacific People’s Conference on Rice and Food Sovereignty will be held in Proclamation Monument, Jakarta - Indonesia from 14 to 18 May 2006.
Confirmation and Accomodation