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Intervention Africa Mthombeni at the UN Human Right Council

14 March 2012


The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), along with La Via Campesina congratulate the work of the UN Advisory Committee, especially on establishing the groundwork for the promotion and protection of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

We all know that hunger is not a natural disaster but, as stated by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Mr. Olivier De Shutter, hunger “is primarily the result of political factors that condemn small farmers, the main victims of hunger, to poverty. These factors include insufficient access to land, water and credit; poor organisation of local markets; lack of infrastructure; and lack of bargaining power against an increasingly concentrated agro-industrial sector”.

Today some 952 million people throughout the world suffer chronic hunger, 80 per cent of them live in rural areas. 50 per cent of the world’s hungry are smallholder farmers, 20 per cent are landless families who survive as tenant farmers or poorly paid agricultural laborers.

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Intervention of Henry Saragih at the 19th session of UN Human Rights Council


Madame President,

I am reading this statement on behalf of FIAN International, an organization working for the defense of the right to adequate food—and La Via Campesina, a movement I belong to, that brings together millions of peasants, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people and agricultural workers from around the world. We defend small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way of promoting social justice and dignity—and we strongly oppose every form of agriculture that is destroying people and nature.

Not long before the Final Study of the Advisory Committee, a professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands published an important book called The New Peasantries, in which he states that “there are now more peasants than ever before in history and they still constitute some two-fifths of humanity.”

Nonetheless, increased land grabbing for monoculture plantations, logging, mining and other extractive industries has been destroying our livelihood and environment, making it very difficult for us to farm, to tend our livestock, and to hunt and gather for our daily sustenance. Land grabbing is causing masive violations of our human rights, whilst destroying our land, society, environment and our food sovereignty. Therefore, we urge the international community to cooperate in stopping these violations, which cannot be tackled with the existing human rights instruments.

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Land grabbing shows the urgent need to protect peasants' rights

(Geneva, 11 March 2012)

It's a red alert now.

The government of Saudi Arabia currently owns 1.6 million hectares (ha) of land in Sudan and Indonesia. In Madagascar around 1.3 million ha were leased, bought or transferred to private corporations of South Korea.

The High Level Group of Experts of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) estimates that between 50 and 80 million ha of land in poor and developing countries have been negotiated, acquired or leased by international investors.

Large-scale land transactions are undermining food security, livelihoods and the environment of local populations. Along with a history-long discrimination against rural people, this wildly spreading global phenomenon has been the reason why there have been so many reports of human rights violations in rural areas recently, especially with regards to land rights.

While the United Nations Human rights Council is planning to discuss a declaration of the rights of peasants in the coming days, FIAN International together with La Via Campesina has organised a parallel event to the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday (8/3).

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U.N. Human Rights Council Exhorted to Defend Peasants’ Rights

By Isolda Agazzi


Henry Saragih, the general coordinator of Via Campesina, a movement representing more than 200 million small farmers worldwide.

Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

GENEVA, Mar. 9, 2012 (IPS) - Decades after peasants’ networks have advocated for a new legal instrument to protect the rights of small farmers to land, seeds, traditional agricultural knowledge and freedom to determine the prices of their production, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) may decide to start drafting a declaration on peasants’ rights next week.

"The idea of an international declaration on peasants' rights comes from our (base) because many small farmers don’t have access to land, work, water and seeds," Henry Saragih, the general coordinator of Via Campesina, a movement representing more than 200 million small farmers around the world, told IPS.

For the Indonesian activist, labelled by some international media as "one of the twenty green giants of our world", next week could mark the first victory in a battle that has gone on for more than a decade: the UNHRC will discuss a study of its Advisory Committee that recommends the elaboration of a new legal instrument on the rights of peasants, on the basis of a declaration proposed by the expert body.

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