Paul Nicholson, From The Basque Country, Addresses The Press In Sao Paolo

Good morning to all of you. This conference is the most important conference for peasant men and women in the world. It is a delegation of 400 people, more than 60 from Asia, more than 30 from India, more than 40 from Europe and others from the Americas. At a time when the crisis for family agriculture is destroying not only our cultural identities, our local economies, and generating situations of hunger and a forced rural exodus, it is clear that this conference will have a principal role in articulating peasant movements working against neoliberalism, bringing together strategies and strengths.

We have no doubt that the general conference will serve as an instrument for social change. It will also be the first assembly of young men and women farmers and will also be the second assembly of women’s peasant organizations.

Overall we will represent hundreds of millions of peasants from all over the world. We will have more than 100 peasant organizations, and it will be a fundamental meeting for the defense of our culture and for peasant agriculture at the global level.

Nós identificamos como causa dessa crise da agricultura camponesa e do mundo rural as políticas neoliberais. Nesse sentido, ao papel da OMC, do Banco Mundial e do FMI de impor-se ao mundo rural, aos recursos naturais e aos trabalhadores do mundo rural, fica muito claro que é contra eles que vamos nos dirigir nessa conferência, principalmente.

Our objective is to strengthen the organization, the regions, the local struggles, and to strengthen our strategies regarding neoliberal policies. We identify neoliberal policies as the cause of the crisis in peasant agriculture and the rural world. In this sense, because of the way that the WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF impose upon the rural world, on natural resources, and on the rural workers, it is clear that it is against them that we will principally direct this conference.

The struggle for land, water, and seeds, brings together the struggles that are occuring throughout the world, at local levels and also the struggle for local economies, for local peasant economies.

So, the struggle encounters a neoliberal model of intensive agro-export production, that destroyes the capacity for food production, and is the principal cause of world hunger. We understand that food soveriegnty is the proposal through which we can obtain rural and local economies and cultures that are able to produce food, maintain the environment, and maintain the life of the rural world.

In conclusion, we will develop concrete strategies against the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank. Specifically, we have to define that since 1997, within Via Campesina, we have considered that GMOs are not just the impostition of a model of production, but also of an economic, social, and food model. At this time, the struggle against GMOs is a fundamental for Via Campesina.

There are also two important key issues – and here I will stop – regarding Via Campesina’s strategy of alliances.

How can we consolidate at an international level a social movement capable of transforming neoliberal policies, capable of changing the play of forces? In the last five years we have made an enormous effort to faciliate, to prioritize, to accompany the processes of struggle. At the international level, there are three great movements: The Women’s March, the second is the Fisherfolk, and the third is Via Campesina. We have an enormous responsibility for the construction of alliances with the social movements for a just society. So this will also be an important key issue.

The second question is that Via Campesina struggles using new values and new forms of organization. The fundamental issue for our understanding is that it is a common struggle, not a competition between North and South, but a struggle against the neoliberal model. And the second fundamental issue is to understand that the alliance between farmers, men and women peasants, with rural workers, is a fundamental alliance in the rural world. We will undertake this challenge during the International Conference.

Thank you very much and now I pass the word to Imelda, the representatative from the Philippines.