National | Media Release

UN Declaration on the rights of peasants formally adopted by General Assembly

La Via Campesina makes history

Jessie MacInnis (National Farmers Union), Allison Cohen (WhyHunger), Smita Nerula (Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Pace University), and Marc Edelman (City University of New York) celebrated the adoption of UNDROP at the United Nations General Assembly, Dec 17, 2018

New York – The United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UNDROP) has been formally adopted by the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly today. This adoption follows the vote in the Third Committee of the General Assembly on November 19 that saw a recorded vote of 121 in favour to 8 against, with 54 abstentions. This ratification formally introduces the Declaration as a UN human rights instrument, and will be used as a tool for La Via Campesina (LVC) and its allies to continue the struggle for the recognition of peasant rights worldwide. La Via Campesina was a key contributor in bringing the Declaration from the grassroots level to the international stage.

“This is an exciting and truly ground-breaking moment for La Via Campesina. To have an internationally recognized instrument at the highest level of governance that was written by and for peasants from every continent is a tremendous achievement. To have a tool such as this to support our continued work at the grassroots level is invaluable,” said Jessie MacInnis of the National Farmers Union, who was present at the United Nations General Assembly for the adoption today. She also took part in a delegation of LVC peasant leaders who lobbied for state support prior to the adoption of the Declaration at the Third Committee of the General Assembly on November 19. The NFU is a founding member of LVC.

“This Declaration sends an important message that our livelihoods matter and our small-scale methods of food production are vital for a sustainable future. Not only does it have the potential to serve farmers, but also rural communities and consumers, because society as a whole will benefit when peasants rights are realized. The non-binding nature of the Declaration presents a challenge, but it will still be an incredibly potent tool for organizations to use in grassroots lobbying and within the court system. Just as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set the standard for human rights law, we hope that UNDROP can serve as the foundation,” added MacInnis.

Canada persisted with its abstention. Canada stated concerns with collective rights, saying priority issues identified in the Declaration are addressed through existing international instruments and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The issue of collective rights was brought forth by many states, arguing that they are not recognized under international law and are not recognized by any of the core international human rights treaties.

Now that the declaration is a recognized international instrument, LVC and its allies will work to build implementation strategies that fit into a broad spectrum of national and regional contexts. LVC will mobilize to bring peasants rights violations up against the articles of the Declaration and lobby for policies and strategies that protect and respect the value of peasants within rural communities and their crucial role as conscientious stewards of the land and sustainable food producers.

MacInnis concluded, saying “Today is a celebration of a tremendous achievement for LVC, but the struggle justice, dignity, and support of peasant livelihoods is far from over.”

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For more information:
Jessie MacInnis, NFU Youth Vice President: (902) 292-1040