Interview With Alegria And Bove

interview de Alegría and Bové a Sao Paolo during la IV International Conference Internationale de la Via campesina

In an exclusive interview given a few hours ago in Sao Paolo, Brazil José Bové and Rafael Alegría discussed their upcoming meetings with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and the Via Campesina IV International Conference.

While the Brazilian meeting of UNCATD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development aims at enhancing coherence between national development strategies and global economic processes towards economic growth and development, the civil society is also gathered in Sao Paolo looking at development under a different perspective. This four-yearly event, UNCTAD’s highest decision-making body, is met by great scrutiny by both the NGO (Non Governmental Organisation) forum gathered nearby and the Via Campesina IV International Conference meeting 300 miles away.

Via Campesina the international movement which is recognised as being essential to the collapse of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) ministerial round in Cancun in September 2003, co-ordinates peasant organizations of small and medium-sized producers and agricultural workers Asia, Africa, America, and Europe.

It’s International Secretariat Co-ordinator Alegría and French founder of Confédération Paysanne (Farmer’s Confederation) Bové are ready to meet International leaders about some of the themes regarded as more central to the International organisation: Food sovereignty, Land reform and the banning of GMOs.

Bové, a Via Campesina spokesperson, was nominated by the civil society actors to voice common opinions to the UN General Secretary Annan, in a meeting to be held Sao Paolo on June 13th.

It is the following day,on June 14th that hundreds of representative of peasants’ and indigenous organizations will attend the inauguration of the week long IV International Conference of Via Campesina in Itaici, Sao Paolo State.

The meeting for which attendees have come from as many as 80 nations including the United States of America, Germany, France, United Kingdom, as well as Palestine, Haiti, Cuba, Lebanon, Rwanda, Niger, Syria and 18 other Latin American and Caribbean countries also marks the 20th anniversary of it’s Brazilian affiliated organisation MST, (the Landless Workers’ Movement) which organises six hundred thousand (600 000) families throughout the South American State.

SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Rafael Alegria (Co-ordinator of Via Campesina’s International Secretariat): "The Via Campesina is holding its IV International Conference in São Paulo, Brazil. Before the conference, there will also be international assemblies of women and young farmers. These assemblies coincide with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), also in São Paulo. A Via Campesina delegation led by Jose Bove will attend the UNCTAD assembly and meet the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan. Bove will present Via Campesina’s position on food sovereignty, land reform, GMOs and other issues that are fundamentally important for peasant and indigenous agriculture in the world.

SOUNDBITE (French) Jose Bove (founder of Confédération Paysanne and co-founder Via Campesina) : As the IV General Assembly of the Via Campesina gets under way, a Social Forum of NGOs is being held in parallel with the UNCTAD general assembly. For the first time, the international social movement has taken a very clear position on the issue of food sovereignty and on the issue of the right of people to feed themselves from their own agriculture. The reason this is so important for the Via Campesina is because this will be the main issue it will be raising tomorrow with the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan. Via Campesina will be recognised internationally in this way for the first time. It will defend the food sovereignty of peoples at the assembly. I believe that this is a historic moment in the struggle of peasant farmers all over the world.

SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Rafael Alegria (Co-ordinator of Via Campesina’s International Secretariat) : It will be a magnificent opportunity for the UN Secretary General to hear what the more than 60 million farmers who are members of Via Campesina have to say. We will speak about the difficult situation that agriculture is going through in the world, the unfair trade system, the need to protect biodiversity, maintain a healthy agricultural system. We will discuss all these things with the UN Secretary General.

SOUNDBITE (French) Jose Bove (founder of Confederation Paysanne and co-founder Via Campesina) : Today, Via Campesina is in step with most of the world’s countries. A few days ago, the G90 group of ACP countries (countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific), that is, the least developed countries, has taken very firm positions in relation to the forthcoming negotiations at the World Trade Organisation. Via Campesina, the international social movement and the countries of the South are in the process of forming an alliance to stop agriculture being seen only in terms of commodity production, in the terms understood by the WTO. Our fight today is to take food and agriculture out of the WTO.

SOUNDBITE (French) Jose Bove ( founder of Confederation Paysanne and co-founder Via Campesina) : For the last two days, a forum of NGOs has been taking place in parallel to the UNCTAD assembly. Its work began several months ago in Geneva, where a document was drafted in response to the official UNCTAD document. What is interesting, what is central to this text, is the denunciation of the role of trade in the process of development. For the NGO forum, it is clear that trade, within the WTO framework, is harming the interests of most of the peoples on the planet. We therefore have to believe in alternatives like food sovereignty, but also the importance of maintaining all public services, that is to say, the struggle against the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). All NGOs now feel this way and that is the position that will be presented to the UN Secretary General and that will be put to the UNCTAD assembly by a representative of civil society. This will be an especially significant political moment because it will be the first time that civil society will be able to present its views to the UN rather than just being on the sidelines.

NOTES: Rafael Alegría: From Honduras, Alegría is the international coordinator of Via Campesina, as well as president of the International Movement of the Farmer’s Path of Honduras

José Bové: Born in 1953 in Bordeaux, France. In the 1970s, he became an environmental activist, began to organize small farmers in the Larzac region and eventually founded the Confederation of Paysanne, a small-farmers union, in 1987.

For more information: Press Contact: Iana Paro: +55 11 3361 3866