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Towards the adoption of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants
by OHCHR, La Vía Campesina, FIAN International
Apr. 2018
(The fifth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on a United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas will take place from 9 to 13 April 2018, in Geneva).
“Towards the adoption of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas” held on March 20, 2018, on the occasion of the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council, statement by the Permanent mission of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, La Vía Campesina, CETIM and FIAN International:
My name is Zainal Fuat, from the Indonesian Peasant Union (SPI) and from the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of La Vía Campesina. I hereby speak on behalf of La Vía Campesina, which is the largest international peasant movement bringing together millions of peasants, small and medium size peasants, landless people, rural women and youth, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world.
We have been constructively engaged in the process for the elaboration of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, also with organizations representing indigenous peoples, pastoralists, fishers and rural workers from around the globe, as well as CETIM, FIAN International and other human rights organizations. We worked hard in favour of this process from the field, from our workplaces around the world but also here in Geneva.
The process towards this Declaration, with all the exchanges, debates, activities, has made the peasants movement grow stronger. Advocating for our fundamental rights, not only in the field but also in the core of the UN human rights system, contributing to an increase in the knowledge of peasants on the question of human rights and human rights law. This is an important step for the peasants as a whole.
We are happy to see that the ongoing process is advancing and the level of constructive support from the different regions is growing. By this statement we would like to reiterate our willingness to see an even broader support from States to this process, recognizing the crucial rights stipulated in the Draft declaration. For the purpose of defending these rights, we are looking forward to the adoption of a strong UN declaration, capable to recognize and further protect the rights of peasants’ and other people working in rural areas.
After ten years of intense and constructive negotiations, it is time to finalize the process, because in the face of the global economic crisis, climate change and the decrease of our life conditions, we need our rights now, more than ever.
There is a global necessity of feeding a more and more growing population. For this we have to focus on the crucial role of peasants and people living in rural areas, which are the main actors in this field and main providers of food. As a FAO report says, peasantry has a great development potential and is essential for the future of humanity. Moreover, better protection of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas will contribute to avoid the migration from rural areas and rural countries to the cities.
What is crucial to understand is that the positives repercussions of this Declaration will be felt not only by peasants and other people working in rural areas, but by humanity as a whole.
For all these reasons, we expect that the negotiations will be concluded during the 5th session of the Working group in April 2018 and that the Declaration will be adopted by the Human Rights Council this year.
We, the peasants, are ready to work hard and take up our responsibilities. We look forward to a more close cooperation among peasants organizations, organizations working for peasants and rural population, UN agencies and mechanisms, representatives of the governments and other institutions. We reiterate our call to work hand-in-hand, all together, for the adoption of the Declaration this year.
Geneva 15 May 2017
Statement by Ms. Lene Wendland, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the 4th session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on a United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.
''It is a great pleasure for me to join you at the opening of the fourth session of the Open-ended intergovernmental Working Group on the Rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. This working group has been entrusted with an important role: the protection and the promotion of rights of millions of people around the world that often face tremendous difficulties accessing an adequate standard of living, and are subject to displacement, discrimination and marginalization.
Since the last session of the Working Group in May 2016, a large number of comments and suggestions have been received from States, national and international civil society organizations, international organizations, and from peasants and other people working in rural areas themselves for whom this draft declaration is intended.
Moving ahead with this declaration will also enable a better delivery on the commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
We are already two years into the implementation of this transformative Agenda, and only 13 years are left before the deadline to meet the goals and targets set out, many of which are directly relevant to the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.
For instance target 1.4 states that “by 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.”
Land and natural resources is a critical element for the enjoyment of human rights of all individuals, families and communities, but even more so for peasants and other people working in rural areas, given their role in food production.
Despite the fact that peasants are the main people feeding the world, the Human Rights Council itself recognizes that “80 per cent of hungry people live in rural areas, and 50 per cent are small-scale farm-holders, and that these people are especially vulnerable to food insecurity” and that “access to land, water, seeds and other natural resources is an increasing challenge for poor producers” (A/HRC/RES/7/14, para. 10). This is one of many critical issues this declaration seeks to address.
Another issue relates to gender discrimination. For a majority of women in the world, discrimination in marriage, inheritance, legal capacity or access to financial and other resources are some of the main obstacles to access, use and control land. Poor rural women are among the most marginalized.
Their lack of secure tenure, due to discrimination based on gender, impacts on their own survival as well as on the well-being of their family and children, particularly after a divorce, death or remarriage of the spouse. The UN human rights treaty bodies have repeatedly affirmed women’s equal rights in relation to their access to, use of and control over land:
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its General Comment No. 16 (the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights), reaffirms that “women have a right to own, use or otherwise control housing, land and property on an equal basis with men, and to access necessary resources to do so”.
The CEDAW General Recommendation No. 21 on equality in marriage and family relations underlines that “when a woman cannot enter into a contract at all, or have access to financial credit, or can do so only with her husband’s or a male relative’s concurrence or guarantee, she is denied legal autonomy. Any such restriction prevents her from holding property as the sole owner […]. Such restrictions seriously limit the woman’s ability to provide for herself and her dependants” (para. 7).
Last year’s CEDAW General Recommendation No. 34 provides further guidance on land as a crucial element for the protection and promotion of the rights of rural women which I believe is reflected in the current draft declaration.
Discrimination against women regarding land and security of tenure has been a long-standing concern of the Council and its former Commission on Human Rights for almost two decades. Sincer the establishment of the Human Rights Council no resolution on this topic was adopted. This declaration is an excellent opportunity of addressing these world wide challenges faced by women, particularly those living and working in rural areas.
Every year, millions of persons are subject to forced evictions and displacement and land is at the center of this phenomenon. Lack of secure tenure; development projects; mining, extractive and other industrial activities; large-scale land acquisitions and leases and land grabbing are some of the drivers displacing peasants and people working in rural areas, putting them in destitution and forcing them to seek livelihood in cities where they add up to millions already in informal settlements and slums.
Access to, use of, and control over land directly affect the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights. Disputes over land are also often the cause of human rights violations, conflicts and violence, especially in rural areas.
Importantly, the human rights dimensions of land management are directly linked to most aspects of social development, peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance, as well as disaster prevention and recovery.
In view of the growing importance of the issue, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is developing its work to address the challenges concerning land and human rights. We are looking forward for the normative guidance that this declaration will provide concerning this question.
There is urgency in addressing the situation of peasants, small-scale food producers and other people working in rural areas. Many are hoping that the discussions in the working group will promptly finalize a robust and consensual declaration that will address the protection gap''.

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DR Congo; UN warns humanitarian crisis cannot be ignored
by UN News, Mail & Guardian Online, IRIN News
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
April 2018
The first-ever international conference to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took place at the United Nations Office at Geneva amid dire warnings of a growing humanitarian crisis in the vast African country.
Despite substantial natural resources and major socio-economic changes under Government-led initiatives, years of violence by armed groups vying for control – along with ethnic strife in the country’s restive east, and political and ethnic instability – has created massive food insecurity, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told donors that more than two million children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition in DRC and 13 million people require assistance there urgently – double the number of those in need last year.
He added that DRC is also facing “the worst outbreak of cholera in fifteen years,” as well as “an epidemic of sexual violence,” committed mainly against children.
“As I speak, the resurgence of an inter-ethnic conflict in Ituri in February is killing many people and leading to internal and cross-border displacement of even more,” he said.
Thousands of farmers in the crisis gripped Kasais have missed three successive agricultural seasons, resulting in a drop in agricultural production, he added.
Mr. Lowcock said that he expected to confirm more than $500 million in pledges before the end of the day. However, total needs for the DRC for this year are estimated at $1.7 billion ­– nearly four times more than the amount secured last year.
An additional $500 million is needed to support 807,000 Congolese refugees in neighbouring countries and more than 540,000 refugees from other countries who are in DRC.
The question of securing sufficient funding was underlined by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his address to the pledging conference. He urged Member States to show solidarity for the “millions of people who are suffering” in one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises as the UN and the DRC Government work together to try to respond to needs.
Jean-Philippe Chauzy, from the UN migration agency, spoke of the need to strengthen international support for the people of the DRC. “Confronted with rising intercommunal tensions, political instability and an increasingly insecure environment, the international humanitarian community needs to strengthen its support and commitment to the Congolese people,” said Mr. Chauzy, who is DRC Chief of Mission for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). He added: “We simply cannot ignore the speed, and magnitude of this crisis.”
Alongside the UN, the pledging conference was co-hosted by the Netherlands and the European Commission.
Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, described the DRC as a “forgotten” conflict that desperately needed more support from the international community. She highlighted the impact of gender-based violence on girls and young women whom she had met on a recent visit to DRC. Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, also spoke of the violence and “stories of unbelievable pain” that he heard while visiting the country in recent weeks.
Asked at a media conference about the unsettling decision by the DRC authorities not to attend the pledging conference, Mark Lowcock underlined the scale of the problems in the country – and the importance of securing funding for some 150 organizations working to support humanitarian action “under the leadership” of the DRC authorities in 20 provinces. “I think everybody recognizes that there is a substantial crisis in the DRC, and the Government recognizes that themselves''.

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