How Agrarian Movements are Pushing an Extension of Human Rights Regimes
Second meeting of the research seminary of the Collège d'études mondiales.
With Priscilla Claeys, post-doct in Dominique Méda's Chaire.
Our global food system is undergoing rapid change. Since the global food crisis of 2007-2008, a range of new issues have come to public attention, such as land grabbing, food prices volatility, agrofuels and climate change. Peasant social movements are trying to respond to these challenges by organizing from the local to the global to demand "food sovereignty".
Priscilla Claeys will discuss this new paradigm advanced by the transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina, and many other civil society actors, and will provide an in-depth analysis of the global food sovereignty movement’s vision and strategies. She will show how this movement has contributed not only to the emergence of an alternative development paradigm but also of an alternative conception of human rights.
Of particular relevance are recent efforts undertaken by the food sovereignty movement to achieve the international recognition of new human rights for peasants at the international level, through a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants at the Human Rights Council. This Declaration seeks to advance the 'right to food sovereignty' and a number of new 'peasants’ rights' such as the right to land, seeds and biodiversity, as well as the right to remunerative prices. Priscilla will explore why La Via Campesina was successful in mobilizing a human rights discourse in its struggle against neoliberalism, and also the limitations and potential pitfalls of using the human rights framework. Her view is that, to inject subversive potential in their rights-based claims, rural social activists developed an alternative conception of rights, that is more plural, less statist, less individualistic, and more multi-cultural than dominant conceptions of human rights. Further, they deployed a combination of institutional (from above) and extrainstitutional (from below) strategies to demand new rights and reinforce grassroots mobilization through rights. If they succeeded in creating a legal opportunity at the UN, the process of negotiation of a new legal instrument is only at its beginnings, and potential pitfalls abound. Will the new Declaration be a subversive and emancipatory tool for future peasant struggles?