28 September 2018
On Friday 28 September, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted by vote (33 in favour, 3 against and 11 abstentions) the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UN Declaration).
‘This adoption is a major step towards a better protection of the rights of peasants and other people living in rural areas worldwide: this is essential as they represent 70 percent of people living in extreme poverty and 80 percent of the world’s hungry’ underlines Dr Christophe Golay, Special Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the Geneva Academy and Coordinator of our research project on the rights of peasants.
‘The adoption of the UN Declaration is the outcome of more than ten years of work by social movements, civil society organizations, experts, and academic institutions like the Geneva Academy’ he adds.
While many of the rights of peasants enshrined in the UN Declaration have already been recognized at national, regional and international levels, it is the first time that they are all enshrined in a single instrument.
‘The UN Declaration includes and defines key human rights for peasants, including the right to seeds, the right to land and other natural resources, and the right to food sovereignty’ stresses Dr Adriana Bessa, Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.
‘As human rights are higher order norms in international law, these rights should have precedence over property regimes or trade agreements, such as those negotiated at the World Trade Organization. States should, therefore, revise their national laws and international treaties accordingly’ she adds.
The Geneva Academy was involved, via dedicated research, in the preparatory work that led to the negotiation of a UN Declaration (2008-2012) and in the negotiation itself (2013-2018).
‘We’ve been supporting the process from the beginning via legal advice given to states and other stakeholders on key issues that were negotiated, as well as via the organization of expert seminars and conferences to debate ongoing challenges’ recalls Dr Christophe Golay. ‘Our publications have been key to advance the negotiations, as they clarified the content of certain rights and have been used widely by negotiators’.
After its adoption by the HRC, the UN Declaration will have to be adopted by the UN General Assembly.
‘While this will probably happen before the end of this year, we will already start working on the UN Declaration’s implementation with a first expert seminar on 31 October at the UN in Geneva, co-organized with the Federal department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, the Permanent Mission of Bolivia to the UN in Geneva, and the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung’ stresses Dr Christophe Golay.
Dr Adriana Bessa is a Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy. She is involved in research projects dealing with the right to food and the sustainability of food systems, and the rights of peasants. She also coordinates a training course on the protection of human rights and the environment.
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This training course explores the relationship between economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and provides participants with practical tools to include ESCR and the SDGs in their work.
From its adoption to its content and implementation, this training course provides a comprehensive overview of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants, as well as tools to protect and promote the rights of peasants, rural women, fisher, pastoralist and nomadic communities, as well as agricultural workers.
Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.
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.