The Rights of Peasants

Started in May 2008

As human beings, peasants and other people working in rural areas, including herders, pastoralists and fisherfolks, are entitled to all human rights. However, their vulnerability remains a particular concern. They represent 70 percent of people living in extreme poverty and 80 percent of the world’s hungry. Many are victims of multiple discrimination and human rights violations, and are not effectively protected by the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions because they are not engaged in the formal sector.

Supporting the Negotiation of a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas

To respond to this situation, the international movement of peasant organizations, La Via Campesina, adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants – Women and Men in 2008. In March 2012, the Advisory Committee of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) presented a study on the rights of people working in rural areas and recommended the elaboration of a UN declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UN Declaration). Negotiations started in 2013, involving key challenges such as the need to find solutions on the recognition of new rights, including the rights to land and seeds.

This project aims to support efforts to strengthen the promotion and protection of the rights of peasants, and in particular to provide expert support to the negotiations taking place at the HRC.

From 2008 to 2012, the Geneva Academy supported the work of the HRC Advisory Committee which led to the current negotiations. Since 2013 we have been providing legal advice to states and other stakeholders on key issues to be negotiated, such as the rights to land and seeds, and organizing conferences and expert seminars to debate ongoing challenges.

We are working in close partnership with the Swiss Government, the Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the UN in Geneva, the Bolivian Ambassador, who is leading the negotiation, UN experts – in particular the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and members of the HRC Advisory Committee – and civil society organizations, including La Via Campesina, FIAN International, and the Europe–Third World Centre (CETIM).

Research in 2016–2017

In 2016 and 2017 we will focus on providing a legal analysis and organizing an expert seminar on the right to land and other natural resources with all stakeholders.

TEAM

Picture of Adriana Bessa

Adriana Bessa

Research Fellow

Adriana Bessa's research areas include the rights of traditional local communities, the draft declaration on the rights of peasants and the right to food.

Picture of Christophe Golay

Christophe Golay

Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Christophe Golay's expertise notably relates to economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) and the rights of peasants.

OUTPUT

Identifying Agreed Language from Other International Instruments

In July 2013 we presented a background paper during the first session of the negotiations, in which a draft Declaration proposed by the UN Advisory Committee was examined.

In January 2015 we published Academy In-Brief No. 5, Negotiation of a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, in which agreed language taken from other international instruments was identified. This text was presented during the second session of the negotiations that took place in February 2015.

Peasants' Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

In November 2015, we organized an expert seminar on peasants’ right to seeds and intellectual property rights, and presented a legal analysis of this topic during the negotiations that took place in May 2016.

Peasants' Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

In November 2016, we organized an expert seminar on peasants’ right to land and other natural resources, and will present a legal analysis of this topic during the negotiations that will take place in May 2017.

Dissemination with Key Stakeholders

Each publication is presented before all stakeholders during the negotiations taking place at the UN and is widely used by negotiators. Publications are also available on the official website of the negotiations.

Publications

Cover of the Research-Brief: The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

Research-Brief: The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

March 2017

Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

May 2016

Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the In-Brief No5: Negotiation of a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas

In-Brief N°5: Negotiation of a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas

January 2015

Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the In-Brief N°5

In-Brief N°5: Negociación de una Declaración sobre los derechos de los campesinos y de otras personas que trabajan en las zonas rurales

January 2015

Christophe Golay

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Cover of Legal reflections on the rights of peasants and other people  working in rural areas

Legal Reflections on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas

July 2013

Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover page of the In-Brief News

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Participants in the expert seminar on the right to land and other natural resources, Palais des Nations, 17 November 2016 News

Expert Seminar: The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

November 2016

More than 60 participants – leading experts, states’ representatives, academics and civil society’s representatives – discussed the inclusion of a right to land and other natural resources in the UN declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

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