WTO : cooking up crises! Peasant mobilizations against the WTO

Press release – La Via Campesina/Uniterre

(Geneva, 24 November 2009) From November 27 to December 3, the international peasant movement La Via Campesina and Uniterre will gather for the 7th Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. Thirty delegates from Africa, Asia and Europe will be present to remind ministers of their responsibilities in the current food, financial, economic and climate crises. WTO policies and free trade agreements are causing fundamental systemic problems for small farmers and peasants world wide. The Doha round, often referred to as the “development round,” is producing more crises than it is progress in development. Pascal Lamy, Director General of WTO, consistently presents the policies of his organization as a panacea for the economies of the world. However, after 15 years of opposition to WTO policies, farmers and peasants reaffirm that the WTO is fundamentally oriented towards interests that benefit large corporations and businesses at the expense of small farmers and peasants.

In Europe, the WTO requirements are responsible for the ultra-liberal policy of the European Commission that puts the European small farmer community at risk of bankruptcy. The recent milk strike by dairy farmers from 21 European countries is directly linked to the dismantling of milk quotas imposed by the WTO. Since mid-September, many farmers in Switzerland have begun a "peasant's revolt" to denounce the lower farm-gate prices and the stranglehold on distribution by intermediaries in the sales chain. In India, many peasants are also on the verge of bankruptcy. In early September 50,000 farmers flooded on to the streets of Delhi to protest their government’s contradictions. The Indian trade minister has promised to protect Indian agriculture, but endorsed WTO negotiations that endanger the livelihood of more than two thirds of the Indian population. In Korea, farmers and peasants face difficulties similar to European and Indian farmers because the price they are paid for rice does not cover their production's costs.

Leaders of these different struggles will be in Geneva to deliver their message of despair, desperation, and rebellion to the WTO ministers. They will also present alternative solutions for the current food crisis and climate: Food sovereignty, the right of small farmers and peasants to produce food locally and sustainably to feed themselves and their communities.

Invitation for journalists:

November 27 at 3:30 pm: 25 rue des Gares. Press Conference to introduce the delegation of La Via Campesina in Geneva and its objectives.

November 28 : participation of the La Via Campesina delegation and UNITERRE members with tractors in the great social movements rally. Departure 2pm Place Neuve.

November 30 to December 2, every day daily from 12 am to 2 pm, La Via Campesina delegates will be available for interviews in the tent located at the crossroads of Varembe Street and France Avenue. Symbolic actions will also take place.

November 30: 9 am to 1 pm, La Via Campesina delegates will accompany the Fisherfolks rally.

December 1: Agriculture Day. Press conference at 10 am, 25 rue des Gares to announce the actions of December 1.

December 2: 2 pm, 25 rue des Gares, common press conference of peasant women of La Via Campesina and of delegates to the World March of Women.

Press Contacts:
Valentina Hemmeler (Uniterre / Via Campesina): +41 79 672 14 07 –v.hemmeler@uniterre.ch
Solenne Piriou (La Via Campesina) : + 41 76 752 73 62 –solenne.piriou@gmail.com

Lists of delegates available for interviews:

Ms. Yoon Geum Sum, South Korea. Organization: KWPA (Korean Women Peasant Association). Member of the International Coordinating Committee of Via Campesina. She will be in Geneva beginning on 27/11/09 and will be accompanied by a delegation of a five others Koreans farmers from KPL (Korean Peasant League) and KWPA.

Mr Yudhvir Singh, Mr Satnam Singh Cheema and Mr KannaiyanSubramaniam. India. Organization: BKU (Bharatiya Kisan Union) and SICCFM (South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements) Yudhvir Singh is a member of the International Coordinating Committee of La Via Campesina and will be available from 28/11/09. Mr Subramaniam will arrive in Geneva on 26/11/09

Ms. Alphonsa Nguba, Democratic Republic of Congo. Organization : COPACO (Confederation Paysanne du Congo). Member of the International Coordinating Committee of La Via Campesina. She will arrive in Geneva on 26/11/09.

Mr Cecep Risnandar. Indonesia. Organization : SPI (Indonesian Peasant Union). He will be available beginning 27/11/09. He will be joined by Mrs Zubaidah and Mr Muhammad Karim's Moha.

Mr. Junichi Shiraishi, Japan, Chairperson of NOUMINREN (Japan Family Farmers Movement). He will be accompanied by seven others Japanese farmers from the Hokkaido region, including 4 young people. They will arrive in the afternoon on 27/11/09.

Mrs. Claude Girod, France, Confederation Paysanne, member of La Via Campesina international Committee on trade and food sovereignty. She will be in Geneva on 28/11/09.

Mr Pierre André Tombez, Switzerland. Chairperson of Uniterre and member of the coordinating committee of the European Coordination La Via Campesina.

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La Via Campesina is an international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small producers, landless people, rural women and agricultural workers around the world. Our movement is made up of 148 member organisations active in 69 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.Uniterre is a Swiss farmers' union which has 2,000 members. He defends all farmers, whatever the size of the farm and whatever the production they have. Uniterre is the Swiss member of La Via Campesina.