Social Movements and Civil Society express concerns over the exclusionary nature of virtual meetings

In a letter addressed to the Co-chairs of Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group on Farmers’ Rights (AHTEG-FR), social movements and civil society, represented through the International Planning Committee (IPC) for Food Sovereignty, have raised concerns about the exclusionary nature of the expert group’s virtual meetings.

“..We must share some serious concerns about the virtual modality of the upcoming meeting in August. We understand that the Treaty has decided to move forward with its work despite the limitations in participation imposed by the pandemic. We believe, however, that it is critical to take into account that virtual meetings entail serious risks, in particular for the effective participation of small-scale farmers and Indigenous Peoples, i.e. the rights holders of the ITPGRFA.“, the letter reads.

Social movements also pointed out that in many regions of the world, rural people and Indigenous Peoples do not have access to the internet or have to travel outside their homes and communities to obtain such access. These difficulties are further increased in the current pandemic as such travel expose already-vulnerable individuals, families and communities to an increased infection risk while confinement measures establish restrictions on the free movement in many countries. Besides, in many places, in particular, in rural areas, internet connection is not stable or sufficient, so it may be possible to send or receive emails, but not to follow a meeting for an extended period.

“This limits not only participation in the meeting itself but also concerns prior preparation between us as farmer representatives and the organisations that we represent. Different time zones and language issues may further hamper the effective participation of us experts. We would also like to emphasise that many of us are not used to virtual meetings and digital tools. For academics and government officials, these may be a common practice, for us peasants they are not – our main work is on our fields and in our communities, with real people, plants and animals.”, the letter added.

The Ad Hoc Technical Group on Farmers’ Rights has the mandate to develop options for encouraging, guiding and promoting the realisation of Farmers’ Rights as set out in the Article 9 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). 

However, the social movements have expressed concerns that during the pandemic, international governance institutions and instruments have not been able to ensure the protection of the rights of indigenous and rural communities.