Towards Farmers’ Rights

Via Campesina III Int. Conference

There are some elements that establish the urgency in which the Via Campesina has to tackle this issue in a precise way, so that clear working lines and a coherent action platform can be established. Among others not less important that have come up in the debate of the III International Conference of Via Campesina, we emphasize the following ones:

1- It is recognized that the fundamental principals that govern human rights are universal and must be upheld and implemented by all states that have adopted them to guarantee the welfare, dignity and democracy within their borders. States who have not yet ratified international human rights standards must be pressured to do so immediately. Within the context of both strategy and action taken by Via Campesina, the subject of human rights intersects all the other action areas defined by Via Campesina, namely:

  • Food Sovereignty and trade
  • Agrarian Reform, financing, technology and natural resources
  • Biodiversity, genetic resources and environment
  • Rural women’s role within Via Campesina and gender policies against globalization
  • Sustainable agriculture

1- The topic has been tackled from dynamics around the defense, promotion and applicability of civil and political rights, the violation of which occupies a priority place that affects rural population. Massacres, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, forced displacement, exile, torture and cruel treatment, the criminalization of social activity and protest, are all dramas lived by millions of farmers, as well as by indigenous and black people all over the world. This situation gets worse in those countries with internal armed conflicts. The adoption of laws that rule the International Humanitarian Rights and their observation is urgent. 2- In global inequity statistics in the current world -social, economic, of gender, political and cultural- farmers have the first places of marginality. 3- The issue has been developed from specific actions, but without having yet a clear strategy that tackles it. 4- In an international level, there is nowadays a wide frame of legal tools, in favor of the defense, promotion and applicability in several areas of the Human Rights. Nevertheless governments refuse to fulfill the contents of these legal tools. 5- It is possible to notice an international environment more favorable to the development of stronger campaigns and other actions around this topic. 6- There are also problems – inside Via Campesina and its organizations-, which could be characterized as a lack of Human Rights. An example is the rural women’s discrimination in the access to opportunities of development or in the access to their effective political participation within their grassroots organizations and in other levels, including the Via Campesina.

The Via Campesina basically has concentrated their actions around three main guidelines:

1- Solidarity towards violent actions against Via Campesina organizations or their delegates. We reinforce the actions in Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia, linked to the defense, promotion and applicability of civil and political rights. 2- The Global Campaign for the Agrarian Reform, in collaboration with FIAN- International that is well known among organizations inside Via Campesina. 3- The definition of concepts, thematic strategies and concrete actions -regarding human rights- in the priority five topics of strategic action in the Via Campesina.
There is a lack of strategic frame in these main three guidelines that clarifies and orientates the work developed in a better way.


1- Via Campesina will consider as human rights -inalienable and universal- all those which are registered in the main declarations and international conventions, and that concern social, gender, political, economic, cultural problematic, occurring in rural communities all over the world.

Via Campesina will also adopt proposals of actions about new international legal tools related to human rights. As an organization representing the interests of the peasant and small farmer at international level, it is imperative that la Via Campesina draft, socialize and campaign on legislation to be adopted at international level which protects the rights of the peasant and small farmer. This is important to only to lobby for greater protection of peasant and small farmer’s right, but also as a campaigning tool to raise awareness around human rights violation perpetrated against the peasant and small farmer.

Via Campesina will back up actions of alternative justice for particular situations such as the crimes in Lesa Humanidad committed against the rural population. The ethic and moral sentences of the international conscience courts in many cases have made the States to impart justice.
2- In a word, we propose that the area called HUMAN RIGHTS within Via Campesina concentrates around respect, promotion and applicability of Economic, Social and Cultural rights as well as Civil and Political rights, including those already enacted and those not yet drafted. We will keep on working on the other Human Rights guidelines within the areas of strategic action of the Via Campesina ensuring mechanisms for close coordination between the human rights commission and the other commissions must be established. There must not be a situation whereby commission “A” believes that commission “B” is dealing with a specific aspect of human rights violations pertaining to the peasant and small farmer, when in fact it is not. Maybe a special inter-commission group could be set-up to deal with human rights issues. It is still not clear why it is not the work of the human rights commission to deal with all issues pertaining to human rights.


1- Define the priority countries, based on criteria made by the International Co-ordinating Committee. We will keep on paying attention to Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia. as agreed at the third conference of la Via Campesina, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are to be added to the above countries as areas of special concern. there should be no limit to the number of countries adopted for special concern.

2- Initiate a documentation program which represents a database and which demonstrates patterns and the systematic nature of human rights violations perpetrated against the peasant and small farmer, paying special attention to the increase in human rights violations and land dispute issues, as well as the tendency to criminalise the struggle of the peasant and small farmer. This is important in order to develop a coordinated strategy for responding to human rights violations of the peasant and small farmer not only on a case by case basis, but as part of an overall strategy/campaign by Via Campesina.

3- Establish networks with existing human rights organizations which already work through existing human rights instruments and mechanisms, for example at the UN commission and sub-commission on human rights. This is important in order to gain expertise in this field as well as in order to lessen the burden on Via Campesina itself.

4- Draft, socialize and campaign for new human rights legislation which protects the rights of the peasant and small farmer. It is important that it is an organization like Via Campesina with an international membership of peasant and small farmers which draws on real life experience and expertise in order to draft legislation which is truly meaningful to the peasant and small farmer. For example as with the rights of the worker under the ILO convention. Farming is more than an industry, it is a way of life. it is the culture, history and livelihood of the largest number of inhabitants of this planet, and the peasant and small farmer is the rightful guardian of a rich, diverse and unpolluted environment, and as such there should be special legislation which enshrines and protects the rights of the peasant and small farmer.

5- Establish an emergency network, or special task force within la Via Campesina, in alliance with other strategic organizations if necessary, in order to respond immediately to cases of human rights violations perpetrated against the peasant and small farmer.

6- Ensure close co-ordination with other commissions within Via Campesina in respect of human rights and human rights violations. For example, it should be acknowledged that there could be no real human rights established if their genuine agrarian reform is not implemented. The implementation of free trade and neo-liberal policies have increased the incidents of human rights violations perpetrated against the peasant and small farmer.

7- Promote an impact campaign, to an international level, about the right of northern and southern civil societies to participate in the processes and important fora where the main policies of globalization are being defined.

8- Support the efforts of a political solution in the armed conflicts using the negotiation with participation of the civil population in an autonomic an independent way.

9- Establish actions, within the movements, that imply the real participation of the social bases of the organizations in its leadership, as well as the real participation of rural women in the structure of the organizations. to do so, we propose to establish a group of affirmative actions, as well as the creation of a CODE OF CONDUCT that establishes the basic criteria and compromises.

10- Elaborate criteria, action contents and indicators that orientate Via Campesina’s work in the field of human rights.