Oral Intervention of FIAN International and La Via Campesina in the 8th session of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

21 February 2012

Dear Mr. /Mrs. President,

La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement, together with FIAN International, would like to commend the Advisory Committee for its final study on the advancement of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Secure access to and control over land and productive resources are inextricably linked to the expression of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several regional and international human rights treaties. They include the right to adequate food, self-determination, an adequate standard of living, housing, health, culture, property and participation.

We note with grave concern that the current land grabbing phenomenon has been undermining those rights. Powerful foreign investors are signing backdoor agreements to take possession of or control land. Many of these agreements involve more than 10,000 hectares and several include more than 500,000 hectares. This land is very important for current and future food sovereignty in the host countries. The High Level Group of Experts of the Committee on World Food Security FAO estimates that between 50 and 80 million hectares in poor and developing countries has been negotiated, acquired and leased by international investors. All available studies that have examined the impact of this lust for land agree that large-scale land transactions are undermining the food security, endangering the livelihood and damaging the environment of the local population.

During an international conference held in the Nyeleni Village in Mali November 2011, we reiterated the Dakkar Appeal signed by over 900 organizations worldwide. It pledges to resist land-grabbing by all means possible, to support those who fight land-grabs, and to put pressure on national and international institutions to fulfill their obligations to ensure and uphold the rights of people.

The final study of the Advisory Committee plays an important role in addressing the problem of land grabbing. It also plays an important role in alleviating the longtime discrimination against peasants, especially women, in access to and control over productive resources such as land, water and seeds.

We urge the international community, including the development agencies and the United Nations, to make a significant policy shift toward the full integration of human rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. This policy shift includes policies that prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable people working in rural areas. It includes improvements in the implementation of existing human rights instruments that protect the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. We feel that the existing instruments are clearly insufficient to ensure the protection of our rights.

Violations of our rights to land are escalating, and hunger is still predominantly rural. These are the main reasons why we need further recognition and protection of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. Thus, the creation of a new mechanism to ensure international human rights for peasants and other people working in rural areas is crucial to overcome the problem.

The increasing impoverishment and marginalization of peasants and other people working in rural areas, in many ways, has significantly contributed to the degradation of the current food situation. Peasants and other people working in rural areas ought to be at the very core of efforts aimed at overcoming discrimination in the exercise of the right to food. If human rights are to prevail, the international community needs to be bold and act now to increase the protection of the human rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Thank you, Mr. /Mrs. President.

Submitted by Javier Sáchez Anso, a member of International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of La Via Campesina