(Cape Town, April 14, 2017) Next week starting on the 18th to the 20th of April La Via Campesina Southern and Eastern Africa (LVC SEAf) will hold consultations in Malmesburry, South Africa on the UN Declaration on peasant’s rights and other peoples working in rural areas, with the collaboration of CETIM and FIAN. Over 60 delegates, including LVC SEAf delegates (from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique), international delegates from South America, Asia, Europe and West and Central Africa actively involved in the negotiation process at UN Human Rights, and local partners and allies will take part in the discussions. Government officials from South Africa and the region have also been invited. The consultation aims to:
- input to the UN draft declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, particularly articles on (i) right to land and territory; (ii) right to seeds and traditional agricultural knowledge and practice; (iii) right to biological diversity; and (iv) state obligation (v) agricultural workers and migrants (vi) income/trade/food sovereignty
- build and strengthen capacity to understand and utilise the UN process, and to collectively prepare regional report on violations of the rights of peasants
- make proposals on activities and follow ups at regional and national level (2017-2018)
La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement, has been working over the last 15 years together with allies on the rights of peasants initiative at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council to legitimatize and strengthen the struggles for the recognition, enforcement and respect of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. This initiative has been a movement-driven process, with La Via Campesina and peasants, fisher folk, indigenous, pastoralists, rural workers, women, youth organizations at the forefront.
The women, men and youth from the countries within LVC SEAf region suffer social and economic injustices, some linked to patriarchal relations and colonialism. Recently, they experienced various degrees of land grabbing following the global food crisis in mid-2000 mainly for export production and eco-tourism. The dispossession and displacement of hundreds of thousands rural farmers (e.g. ProSavanna project in Mozambique, and accelerated land grabbing and land conflicts in Tanzania) is on-going. In South Africa, since end of apartheid in 1994, only 9.8% of the 82 million hectares of arable land has been redistributed to black people. Many indigenous people have no access to commons and other resources essential for social reproduction. Again, many rural people and migrants in formal employment in the mines, large commercial farms and urban industries continue to face various forms of exploitation (low wages, poor working conditions, etc.) and persecution and sometimes killed (Marikana case, among many others).
These countries are also subject to the harmonisation of seed regulatory systems by Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Some have reformed Seed Acts and policies to align them to International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1991 to promote big seed industries and to move towards criminalising peasant saved seed systems, undermining the rights of peasants.
Next month in May from the 15 to 17th, the 4th session of UN Open Ended Intergovernmental Working Group will be held at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to finalize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. Our collective inputs will make visible the need for such an importance legal instrument and pressure our governments to support the process. This declaration, if approved, will be crucial to ensure that the rights of those who care for, work and live on the land producing the bulk of the food eat are recognised, respected and upheld.
The LVC SEAf member organisations will present assessments on national situation for rights of peasants lobby and propose ways to engage with their respective national governments. Various speakers will present the causes, links between the violations of rights of peasants and advocacy and ways to effectively take such cases to public and also to national, regional or international level fora.
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