New York—The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly approved the Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas this afternoon, expressing the widespread support for the promotion and protection of human rights for an often neglected population. It was approved by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 7 against, with 49 abstentions. It is a landmark achievement for La Via Campesina, which contributed significantly to the language and process of this declaration.
The Declaration, building on prior human rights instruments, aims to better protect the rights of all rural populations including peasants, indigenous peoples, fisherfolks, and farm workers. This framework seeks to secure their rights to education and health care, as well as access to land, water, seeds, and natural resources. UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elvar, noted, “This declaration is not just about a particular group; it is about defending an agricultural and food system model consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals and the universal right to adequate food. Peasants and other people living in rural areas play a critical role in contributing to agricultural diversity yet are among those most vulnerable to hunger.”
Since the Declaration’s adoption at the UN Human Rights Council in late September, La Via Campesina peasants and allied organizations have been working hard to ensure adoption at the General Assembly. For the last three weeks, delegations of La Via Campesina members have been in New York lobbying nation states to vote in favour of the resolution. Jessie MacInnis of the National Farmers Union took part in the session of the Third Committee, and was present at today’s monumental adoption.
The adoption of the Declaration was not without opposition. Disappointingly, Canada abstained from taking a stand on the Declaration on the grounds of opposing collective rights, the right to seeds, and other red line issues. The United States took issue with the seemingly legally-binding language of the declaration, the perception that is elevates the rights of peasants above those of other groups, and its threat to intellectual property rights. The opposition of many countries in the developed North sets the stage for the work that must still be done.
“In the 3rd Committee, where all the UN countries participate, we have witnessed a great diversity of positions in Eastern and Western Europe. For those who supported us, we thank them greatly, your vote in favor put human values in the human rights, giving hope for millions of peasants, men and women, across the continent. For those that history will record their abstention or votes against, we wish to tell you that peasants and small family farmers in your countries cannot be left behind,” said Ramona Duminicioiu, La Via Campesina Europe.
“The power of the peasant movement is being felt at the highest level of international governance: for this, we must acknowledge the hard work and passion of so many peasants worldwide. The solidarity of peasants internationally is a testament to how closely we and our issues are linked, regardless of where we live. However, today is only a stepping stone on the long path of human rights justice for rural people. We must carry forward this momentum and put the declaration into action at every level of society,” said Jessie MacInnis, National Farmers Union.
Ms. Duminicioiu will discuss the declaration process this Thursday, November 22 at the National Farmers Union Convention in Saskatoon. The event is open to the public, 7:00 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn, 90 22nd Street East.