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.

To better protect their rights, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UN Declaration) on 28 September 2018. The UN Declaration is expected to be adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York before the end of 2018.

After having provided academic support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration during ten years (see outputs below), this research project focuses on the implementation of the UN Declaration.

Towards the Implementation of the UN Declaration

The implementation of the UN Declaration is dependent on actions to be taken by various stakeholders. States shall take steps to implement the UN Declaration, including by establishing mechanisms to ensure the coherence of their national laws and policies with the rights of peasants, and by elaborating, interpreting and applying relevant international agreements to which they are a party in accordance with the UN Declaration. UN human rights mechanisms, regional human rights bodies and international organizations are called to include the UN Declaration in their work. Civil society organizations and social movements are pushing for the implementation of the UN Declaration at national, regional and international levels.

The Geneva Academy is providing support to these developments through publications, conferences, expert seminars, and training courses. A first expert seminar on the implementation of the UN Declaration will take place at the UN in Geneva on 31 October 2018.

Partners

We are working in close partnership with the Swiss Government, the Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the UN in Geneva, who has led the negotiation, the UN Human Rights Council, UN experts – in particular UN Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies – and civil society organizations, including La Via Campesina, FIAN International, and the Europe–Third World Centre (CETIM).

The Geneva Academy is also engaged in a project that aims at raising awareness about the importance of the UN Declaration to better protect the right to seeds in Europe.

TEAM

Picture of Adriana Bessa

Adriana Bessa

Senior 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

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

Christophe Golay's expertise relates to economic, social and cultural rights, the right to food and the rights of peasants.

OUTPUT

Key Academic Support to the Negotiation of the UN Declaration

This research project has been providing academic support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration since 2008 via expert advice and participation in the negotiation, expert seminars and publications clarifying key rights and issues.

From 2008 to 2012, the Geneva Academy supported the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee which led to the negotiation of the UN Declaration, via legal advice given on the right to food and the rights of peasants.

From 2013 to 2018, the Geneva Academy provided direct support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration via participation of our researchers in the negotiation as experts, legal advice to states and other stakeholders involved in the negotiation, expert seminars, and a series of publications that identified agreed language from other international instruments and clarified key rights and issues.

Clarifying the Scope and Content of the Rights to Food Sovereignty and to Free, Prior and Informed Consent

The right to food sovereignty is an overarching right, indispensable for the exercise of other rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, including their rights to land and other natural resources, a safe, clean and healthy environment, seeds, biological diversity and traditional knowledge. Similarly, the right to free, prior and informed consent is a key procedural component of all of these rights.

The Research Brief The Right to Food Sovereignty and to Free, Prior and Informed Consent presented the protection of the right to food sovereignty and the right to free, prior and informed consent at international, regional and national levels and defined the main elements of these rights that could be included in the UN Declaration.

This publication was presented in April 2018 at the fifth session of the intergovernmental working group on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Clarifying the Scope and Content of the Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

Peasants and other people working in rural areas have always used and managed land and other natural resources (water bodies, marine ecosystems, fisheries, pastures and forests) to ensure the sustainability of their livelihood and food systems, to have a place to live in security, peace and dignity, and to develop their customs, traditions and cultural identities.

The Research Brief The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources described the core elements of the right to land and other natural resources, addressed its individual and collective dimensions and discussed its integration in the UN Declaration

It was presented in May 2017 at the fourth session of the intergovernmental working group on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Clarifying the Scope and Content of the Right to Seeds and Linkages with Intellectual Property Rights

For over 10,000 years, peasants have saved, selected, exchanged and sold seeds, as well as used and reused them to produce food. While these customary rights have been recognized in international law since 2001, peasants are faced with significant challenges. The promotion of commercial seed systems and the adoption of national laws for the implementation of international trade agreements often prioritize the protection of private intellectual property rights over seeds at the expense of peasant communities.

The Research Brief The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights and the Legal Analysis on the same issue defined the core element of peasants’ right to seeds, which include peasants’ rights to save, exchange, donate, sell, use and reuse farm-saved seeds, and to maintain, control, protect and develop these seeds. The publications also discussed the recognition of the right to seeds and intellectual property rights in international law, related states’ obligations and implementation at the national level.

They were presented in May 2017 and May 2016, respectively, during the third and fourth sessions of the intergovernmental working group on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Identification of Agreed Language on the Rights of Peasants from Other International Instruments

Agreed language on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas can be found in international human rights law (treaties, declarations, and other soft-law instruments) and other international instruments, including those developed by states at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the ILO.

Our In-Brief No. 5, Negotiation of a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (also in Spanish) showed agreed language related to the definition of peasants and other people working in rural areas; state obligations; gender equality and the rights of rural women; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; the right to a clean and healthy environment; the rights of rural workers; the rights to land, fisheries and forests; the rights to seeds and biological diversity; and the rights to other means of production.

This publication was presented during the second session of the negotiation that took place in February 2015.

Publications

Cover page of the Research Brief

The Rights to Food Sovereignty and to Free, Prior and Informed Consent

March 2018

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the Research Brief: The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

Research Brief: The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

May 2017

Adriana Bessa, Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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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

Download >

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

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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NEWS

Academics and civil society holding the UN declaration after its adoption News

A Major Step towards a Better Protection of the Rights of Peasants

28 September 2018

The adoption of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people living in rural areas is the outcome of more than ten years of work by social movements, civil society organizations, experts, and academic institutions like the Geneva Academy

Read more >

Woman drying beans on the ground News

The Rights to Food Sovereignty and to Free, Prior and Informed Consent

10 April 2018

Our new Research Brief The Rights to Food Sovereignty and to Free, Prior and Informed Consent presents the protection of these rights at international, regional and national levels and defines the main elements of the rights that could be included in the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. It will be presented at the 5th session of the intergovernmental working group on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas which aims to finalize the UN Declaration.

Read more >

Philippines, Mindanoa Island, Datu Odin Sinsuat Municipality. Rice fields. Many displaced persons work as daily labourers in rice fields or in coconut plantation to earn some money. News

Expert Seminar on the Right to Food Sovereignty and Other Collective Rights of Peasants

29 September 2017

Next Friday, at the Palais des Nations, more than 60 participants – academics, experts, states’ representatives and representatives of non-governmental organizations and social movements – will gather to discuss the right to food sovereignty and other collective rights in the context of the current negotiation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Read more >

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