Oral Intervention 7th session of UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

7th session of UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

8-12 August 2011

Right to food

Oral intervention by Muhammad Ikhwan of La Via Campesina, the International Peasant Movement

On behalf of Foodfirst International Action Network (FIAN)

Mr. /Mrs. President,

FIAN International and La Via Campesina would like to commend the Advisory Committee for its preliminary study on the advancement of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. In the light of growing conflicts over land and water and the food price and climate crisis, there is an urgent need to step up efforts to effectively protect the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

We are witnessing a dramatic new wave in land grabbing. At least 50 million hectares of agricultural land have been transferred to corporations only in the last few years alone, and each day more investors are joining the rush.

Recently, the High Level Panel of Experts of the Committee on World Food Security has recently stated in its second report that large scale investment in land is damaging food security, incomes, livelihoods and the environment for local people.

The High Level Panel of Experts called on governments 1) to recognize the right to free, prior and informed consent in relation to the land and natural resources on which they depend for their livelihoods; 2) to secure the access and use of lands for peasants, pastoralists, forest dwellers, fisher folk and indigenous peoples; 3) to undertake redistributive land policies in settings marked by inequality in land control and ownership; and 4) to prioritize investment in the small farm sector and in alternative food systems that are socially inclusive and just as well as environmentally sustainable, using agro-ecological principles.

The report clearly supports the findings and recommendations of the preliminary study. An equitable access to food producing resources is vital for rural people—which will ensure the realization of the right to food. We strongly support the recommendations of the preliminary study to give more attention to genuine agrarian reforms and to recognize the right to land in international human rights law. Land cannot be left to the mercy of markets and speculators.

We are closely following the intergovernmental negotiations of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests and believe that these guidelines could become a useful instrument if strongly rooted in international human rights law.

Nonetheless, during the negotiations in July there was a widespread hostility by States to recall their human rights obligations related to land, fisheries and forests. Fearing that the guidelines are creating new obligations or becoming too prescriptive, many governments are trying to weaken the language and the recommendations. This demonstrates that there is an urgent need for the UN human rights system to clarify the human rights aspects and the normative content of the rights to land and other natural resources.

Since 2009 La Via Campesina has been working on a campaign condemning violence against women. Peasant women are subjected to acute social and economic exclusion and oppression. We have decided to mobilize against this injustice. This is one important aspect of our struggle which has also been included in the study of the Advisory Committee.

The Advisory Committee should carry on with this study as mandated in the Human Rights Council resolution on the right to food. Peasants and other people working in rural areas continue to be among the first victims of hunger and human rights violations.  Existing international human rights instruments are clearly insufficient to ensure the protection of their human rights.

We welcome the support of member states for the preliminary study and the further development of this important topic. Moreover, we would like to encourage the Advisory Committee to develop a draft declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas which could be annexed in the final study.

The international community needs to be bold and act with due diligence to address the causes behind the worsening of the food crisis, and the fate of the small and medium food producers working in rural areas. This must be undertaken for the sake of our planet.

I thank you, Mr. /Mrs. President.