With 121 votes in favor, 8 negative and 54 abstentions, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved on Monday, December 17, in a historic event, the Declaration of Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas.
Now the focus will be on the implementation of this Declaration whose purpose is “to protect, respect and guarantee the rights of peasants” who are defenders of lands. The decision adopted this Monday closes a cycle of almost two decades of action by Via Campesina International through its regions and international conferences, sensitizing governments and sectors within the United Nations.
Vía Campesina’s campaign in favor of this Declaration was spread under the title “To the Countryside with Rights” and “Peasant Rights Now!”. As of this resolution, the Declaration becomes a legal instrument whereby Via Campesina and its allies face work and international mobilization to seek its implementation.
A key year
In spite of the almost two decades since the beginning of these efforts, 2018 was a key year for the final achievement of this Declaration. The vote recorded in New York today represents the culmination of a historic process for peasant and rural communities across the globe.
This achievement is similar to that obtained in 2011 within the framework of the Committee on World Food Security with the approval of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, which has served as a tool for empowerment and defense of peasant, fishing, indigenous or pastoralist communities.
In April of the present year, after six years of negotiations, the intergovernmental group of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, which operates in Geneva, Switzerland, concluded its debates and presented a final text of the Declaration, which was adopted by the Council last September.
Likewise, in October, in Rome, Via Campesina and allied organizations, acting within the framework of the Civil Society Mechanism before the Committee on World Food Security, placed the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants as a central content in the decade of Family Farming that will begin in 2019, by decision of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Last November 19, in practice, the Declaration became a fact after being approved by a large majority of countries in the Third Committee of the General Assembly, which ensured enough support in the plenary session.
After this Declaration and its implementation and monitoring, the farmer struggles will have a new tool, Vía Campesina says. Its international coordinator, Elizabeth Mpofu, a farmer from Zimbabwe, expressed the expectations of this organization for governments to implement this declaration in a transparent and conscious way “guaranteeing peasants and rural communities access and control over the territories, but also over the peasant seeds, water, and other natural resources.”
The rural leader pointed out that from this Declaration, the daily violations to the human rights of peasants, which are expressed in threats, violence from landowners, criminalization and other injustices, can be confronted with instruments of greater legal and political weight, since it is a decision of the International Community present at the United Nations.