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 General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UN Declaration) in 2018.

After having provided academic support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration for 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.

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.

RESEARCHERS

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 of the publication

The Role Of Human Rights Mechanisms In Monitoring The United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Peasants

February 2020

Christophe Golay

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

Cover page of the briefing

The Right to Seeds in Europe

April 2019

Adriana Bessa, Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

Cover of the article

The Implementation Of The United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Peasants And Other People Working In Rural Areas

March 2019

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Cover of the article

La mise en œuvre de la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les droits des paysans et des autres personnes travaillant dans les zones rurales

March 2019

Christophe Golay

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

Cover of the article

La aplicación de la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Campesinos y de Otras Personas que Trabajan en las Zonas Rurales

March 2019

Christophe Golay

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

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

Download >

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

The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

May 2017

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

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

The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

March 2017

Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

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

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

View More >

NEWS AND EVENTS

A general view at a 26th session of the Human Rights Council News

Human Rights Mechanisms Must Play a Key Role in the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Right of Peasants

February 2020

Our new Research Brief discusses the role of human rights mechanisms at national, regional and international levels in monitoring the implementation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Read more >

A peasant holds seeds in his hands. News

Statement by UN Special Procedures and Treaty Body Members on the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

December 2019

The statement, which refers to our Research Brief  on the implementation of the Declaration, contains many recommendations entailed in this publication.

Read more >

Dr Christophe Golay during the training course in Cambodia News

A Summer Dedicated to the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

September 2019

Our Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Senior Research Fellow Dr Christophe Golay participated this summer in a series of conferences and training courses on the implementation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Heavy erosion on the east side of Greneda, near Grenville. News

Call for Papers: Human Rights and the Climate Change Crisis

April 2020

Graduate and postgraduate researchers having obtained their PhD within the past 10 years are invited to submit proposals for a workshop that will examine the relationship between climate change and human rights.

Read more

Portrait of Christophe Golay News

Dr Christophe Golay is Shortlisted for the Position of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

February 2020

Our Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dr Christophe Golay, is a candidate for the position of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

Read more

Event

Protecting the Rights of Older Persons During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 2020, 15:00-16:30

Join us online to discuss the protection of the rights of older persons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more

A general view of participants during of the 33nd ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. Training

The Universal Periodic Review and the UN Human Rights System: Raising the Bar on Accountability

2- November 2020

This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.

Read more

Small irrigation system with polluted water in N’Zerekore, Guinea Training

The Protection of Human Rights and the Environment

23- November 2020

This training course provides participants with a deep understanding of the international legal framework for the protection of human rights and the environment as well as in-depth knowledge of how to promote environmental protection through existing human rights mechanisms. The 2020 edition will have a specific focus on water pollution and scarcity.

Read more

Madagascar, Miarinarivo district. Women transplanting rice. Project

The Rights of Peasants

Started in May 2008

After having provided academic support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration for ten years, this research project focuses on the implementation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Read more

Séléka rebels patrol in the town of Bria, Central African Republic (CAR). Project

Human Rights Responsibilities and Armed Non-State Actors

Started in June 2018

This research aims at building a common understanding and vision as to how states and the relevant parts of the UN system can provide a concrete and practical framework to address human rights responsibilities of armed non-state actors.

Read more

Cover page of the Annual Report 2019 Publication

Annual Report 2019

published on May 2020

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

Human Rights and the Governance of Artificial Intelligence

published on March 2020

Ana Beduschi

Read more