La Via Campesina at the Human Right Council (*)

Mr President, High Commissioner,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by expressing my deep concerns regarding the grave situation in Libya. The shockingly violent food riots in Tunisia and Algeria are also in our thoughts, as this year the world is again entering a major food crisis.

Mr. /Mrs. President,

We are now witnessing widespread human rights violations, especially towards peasants and people working in rural areas:

  • 925 million people are undernourished worldwide
  • Out of a total of 2.2 billion peasants and rural workers who grow at least 70 percent of the world’s food, 50 percent are still suffering from hunger.
  • We witness the global phenomenon of land grabbing: peasants are being expropriated, evicted from their land, re-located to smaller plots of land and/or becoming landless
  • We see rising food prices in many parts of the world, but in reality this does not represent any incentive for the small and medium producers because they are unable to benefit from those higher prices
  • Discrimination against peasants and people working in rural areas, especially woman is rife. This manifests itself in terms of access to productive resources such as land, seeds, and water,sanitation, health services, education, and even the access to justice which leads to criminalization, arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial killings

The promotion and protection of human rights is at the core of the UN mandate. And if human rights should prevail, then the time is ripe for constructive international cooperation to solve this problem.

The mandate from resolution 13/4 of the UN Human Rights Council could provide the momentum to realize the right to food in our daily life and offer a solution to the current food and poverty crises. The two studies which will be presented and discussed in the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council, (1) “Study on discrimination in the context of the right to food”; and (2) “Preliminary study on the advancement of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas” will be important for us to shape our future conduct on the promotion and protection of human rights, especially regarding the rights of peasants and people working in rural areas.

Mr./Mrs. President,

The basic principle of human rights is to eliminate discrimination. This will only be achieved through the progressive adoption of anti-discrimination laws into legal entitlements and accountability mechanisms, while at the same time, ensuring quality of lawmaking and policymaking, and universal recognition of the problem.

La Via Campesina emphasize that peasants and rural workers should play a central role in the efforts of combating hunger and the food crisis. The promotion and protection of our human rights, the food producers and the backbone of civilizations, goes hand-in-hand with improving the global food situation and our right to a sustainable livelihood.

The 16th session of UN Human Rights Council should be decisive on creating solutions to the current food situation. We embrace the opportunity for current studies and efforts on the right to food in the council which can be the basis for a new instrument (declaration and/or convention) on the rights of peasants and people working in rural areas.

Our hope is that this session can be, as always, a constructive process for us the civil society, especially peasants’ and rural peoples organizations, member states and every party necessary.

We are to continue working closely with the council to ensure that our rights to be recognized and protected.

I thank you, Mr./Mrs. President

(*) Statement by Alexis Corthay, La Via Campesina, International Peasant Movement

Human Rights Council, 16th session, High level segment, 2 March 2011


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