Olivier de Schutter exchanges with Rajagopal and Ekta Europe - extracts

On December 6, 2013, Ekta Europe and Ekta Parishad organised a workshop around the theme "Jan Satyagraha, one year later - what's next?". During this workshop, which gathered around 40 land activists from Europe, India, Nepal and Colombia, a one hour meeting via skype took place between Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to the UN, and the audience in Geneva.

Some important assessments were made during this conversation by Olivier de Schutter, see some extracts here (published with the kind review and validation of Olivier de Schutter and his team):

On the Jan Satyagraha march:

" (...) I am extremely thrilled that Rajagopal is amongst us and he has been for the past few years in Europe a tremendous, I think, source of inspiration and I think many people feel that India is really at the forefront of a struggle that is global for access to productive resources and for access to land for landless or land-poor peasants across the world.(...)"

On small peasants:

"(...) Peasants are a group that has been marginalized significantly in recent years as a result of the development process that has basically not taken their views into account, not considered the importance of access to land, water and genetic resources such as seeds for those populations who depend on access to these resources for their livelihoods and therefore I think that the struggle of Ekta Parishad and Rajagopal in India is as I said of global significance and to me, the commitments or the promises that were made to the movement after the march of last year will be extremely important to follow up and to make sure will be complied with. (...)"

On the Right to Food:

"(...) So there is a way in terms of, I think, an understanding of the Right to Food that governments must be continuously referred to and reminded of, which is to democratize decision making and to make sure that you don’t do anything for people, without people. And that however well intended your policies are, they will fail unless they are based on seeking the views of people and more than that allowing them to co-shape decisions, to co-design the food systems on which they depend.(...)"

On the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests:

"(...)The voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests is a significant instrument first, because it moves away from simple solutions that had been promoted in the past, particularly in the 1990’s that put all hopes on individual titling as a mean to protect land, or access to land, and that basically sought to a market for land rights in order to protect people. That was a tendency in the 1990’s until, you know, roughly until 2003, 2005, that was very much favoured by many international institutions but now we have realized that it was neglecting collective rights, it was neglecting community rights.(...)

But property should not be reduced to individual titling and the development of a market for land rights can in fact work against the interests of the poor that will be priced out of these markets if they are not given sufficient support to produce on their lands.(...)

So the second significance of this guidelines is, that they are deeply legitimate because of the participatory procedure that was followed in arriving at the drafting and finally at the doctrine in May 2012. Now, why do I mention this? I mention this: the guidelines, because of the way they arrived by consensus, can not be ignored by governments. Of course they are voluntary as the title indicates but first they are largely ensuing from existing international human rights law. I took part in this negotiations and I can assure you that the reason why very frequently in the way that is very redundant, the document says “consistent with the international human rights” or “in accordance with the international obligations” etc. is because the document is really making explicit, as regards access to land and protection of land users, making explicit what is implicit in binding international instruments such as in particular the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. So that is the first reason why governments must comply with these voluntary guidelines it is because to a large extent they simply make visible what was implicit but already contained in binding international instruments. And the second reason is that governments cannot be credible if in Rome they adopt a document and then in Delhi they forget about these documents and they pretend that hey have nothing to do with these guidelines. (...)

Social movements have a very important role to play to ensure that these guidelines are not neglected but instead a constant reference in the way governments go about implementing their land policies. (...)"

On the impact of the green revolution:

"(...) The green revolution in the past was sometimes very misdirected and quite frankly, I think, many small farmers did not benefit, in fact, had their situation even worsened by the development of large-scale industrial agriculture encouraged by the green revolution but it was much more state led than the attempts today to boost agricultural productivity in developing countries. So, governments today, they feel that they do not have enough funds, that they do not have the technology, that they do not have the research capacity in their public research centres and they need the private sector to compensate for the failure of governments to provide these benefits that in the past they were able to provide. (...)"

On the private sector / governments land governance:

"(...) So my message to governments has been very clear. It is that their duty is to channel investments towards the right ends. Channel investments towards the right ends, ensure that the most marginalized farmers, working on the most difficult lands, living in remote areas, not well connected to the markets and so on, are also supported, and if the private sector is not supporting them and if the investments from the private sector is not benefitting those populations, then the governments should step in and not treat the private sector as a substitute to its own duties. (...)"

On the Rights of peasants declaration by La Via Campesina

"(...) There is a process engaged since last July within the UN, very much pushed by the Via Campesina and by others on the rights of peasants including rights of access to land, access to seeds, the right to control markets in other terms not to be forced to produce for export , to be able to chose for which markets to produce and on which markets to sell and to be protected in access to these markets. I believe, that this is extremely important to support. (...)"




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