| 28-09-2018

Three quarters vote yes to peasants and rural workers’ rights at UN HRC

A wide majority of states have said yes to protecting the future of the rural world -and the planet- despite some potholes along the way.

A Declaration recognizing human rights of peasants and other rural workers was voted today at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The ideological battle over which idea of human rights will prevail in the future resulted in 33 votes in favor, 3 against and 11 abstentions. Among the states voting against the Declaration were Australia, Hungary, and the United Kingdom. Most of the abstentions came from European Countries, including Germany, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia and Croatia, whilst, Asian, African and Latin American states, with the exception of Brazil, supported the Declaration with a favorable vote. 

Arguments to abstain and refrain 

On the floor, the European Union and Germany showed their concern over the recognition of the right to seeds, land, biodiversity, as well as to food sovereignty, yet unrecognized by international human rights law. The EU stated that there is no room for the creation of “new rights” in the Declaration, despite these representing the interests and needs of more than 2 billion of people worldwide. 

After more than 5 years of negotiations about the text, some states have remained reluctant to recognize the need for a Declaration to ensure the protection, respect and access of the rural world to natural resources. Times of dispossession, poverty, rising hunger figures, increasing inequality worldwide and of serious environmental and climate destruction, necessarily requires that states protect the rights of local communities to land, water, forests, fisheries and pastures. 

Next stop: New York
Now the Declaration is ready to make its way to the UN headquarters in New York where it will need to go through the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee in October, before going to the General Assembly for a final vote in December. 

“The adoption of this UN Declaration is a turning point for the international human rights system. At a time where the UN risks its legitimacy by a biased promotion of corporate interests, this declaration shows that it is possible to revitalize the original mandate of the UN”, says Sofia Monsalve Suárez, secretary general of FIAN International.

The next step for citizens worldwide is to pressure their governments and for states to finally vote for its ultimate adoption.

The process for a declaration of peasant rights has been a long journey for the rural world and social movements the world over. The OEIWG was created in September 2012 by Resolution 21/19, as a result of advocacy work by La Via Campesina and a long list of supporting organizations throughout more than 15 years.