PBI and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas

Published by Brent Patterson on

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas (UNDROP) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2018.

At that time, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “On December 17th, the UN General Assembly adopted in New York the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas with the aim of protecting the rights and dignity of rural workers who face extreme situations like poverty and climate change. They represent the most vulnerable communities around the world.”

In September 2019, the Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project noted UNDROP in its Report for the Universal Periodic Review of Honduras 2020. It highlights that it recognizes key elements such as “the right to land, to natural resources and to food sovereignty, based on the principle of equality between men and women.”

As such, PBI-Honduras recommends that Honduras “implement consultation and complaint mechanisms that are accessible, transparent and effective for groups and communities affected by extractive projects and companies.”

The significance of UNDROP

La Via Campesina further explains, “The UN Declaration aims to better protect the rights of all rural populations including peasants, fisherfolks, nomads, agricultural workers and indigenous peoples and to improve living conditions, as well as to strengthen food sovereignty, the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity.”

“The endorsement of the UN Declaration also constitutes an important contribution to the international community’s effort to promote family farming and peasant agriculture.”

Natalia Gomez Peña, the Advocacy & Engagement Officer at CIVICUS, has commented, “The declaration was a long time coming and many campesino communities – who have fought costly battles corporations to protect their lands and lives from harmful mining and infrastructural projects for years – celebrated the commitment to their struggles.”

Gomez Peña adds, “It recognizes that campesinos have a special relationship with their land, water and nature and that they suffer the disproportional burdens of environmental degradation and climate change.”

She does raise the question though: UN Declaration defends peasant farmers, but will it help stop attacks and human rights abuses?

UNDROP and Canada

The resolution in support of the Declaration was approved by 119 votes in favour, 7 votes against and 49 abstentions.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has noted, “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.”

PBI accompaniment

Peace Brigades International has stated that human rights defenders, notably those who work in rural areas, need protection.

The PBI website also highlights, “Many indigenous and traditional farming (or campesino) communities are struggling to protect the land on which their livelihoods depend. Often living in conditions of extreme poverty, they rely on their land for food, shelter and cultural identity.”

“In some cases, pollution from mining threatens to seep into the land and water. In others, communities have been forced from their land for development projects or monoculture plantations, condemning them to internal displacement and landlessness. Others campaign for sustainable land use, seeking to halt patterns of destruction for the benefit of future generations.”

“Defenders of land rights, culture and natural resources can find themselves facing powerful interests and brutal opposition. Some have approached PBI for protection after they have been attacked or their colleagues assassinated. Many others have been subjected to criminal prosecutions based on spurious charges.”

Among the campesino/peasant groups that PBI accompanies: The Peasant Farmer Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC – Colombia), The Verapaz Union of Campesino Organisations (UVOC – Guatemala) and the National Union of Rural Workers (CNTC – Honduras).

The full text of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas can be read here.

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