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 Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

November 2020

Christophe Golay

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the publication

The Right To Seeds And Intellectual Property Rights

November 2020

Christophe Golay

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the publication

Switzerland’s Foreign Policy and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

August 2020

Christophe Golay, Caroline Dommen

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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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

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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

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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

Christophe Golay

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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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

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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

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Cover page of the Research Brief

The Rights to Food Sovereignty and to Free, Prior and Informed Consent

March 2018

Christophe Golay

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

View >

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

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NEWS AND EVENTS

Nepal, Farmers plant crops along the Baglung-Bartibang road. News

New Research Brief on Peasants’ Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

November 2020

Our new Research Brief The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources details the content of this right, states’ obligations, as well as accountability mechanisms for its enforcement at national, regional and international levels.

Read more >

A farmer harvests rice at Bontomanai village in Bantaeng, South Sulawesi, Indonesia News

Peasants’ Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

November 2020

Our new Research Brief discusses the protection of peasant’s right to seeds notably in light with the protection of this right in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.

Read more >

Aerial view of the Palais Federal in Bern News

The Role of Switzerland’s Foreign Policy in the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

August 2020

Our new Research Brief lists actions that countries should take to ensure that their foreign policy is consistent with the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, adopted by the United Nations in 2018.

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

A session of a UN treary body in Geneva News

Formal Launch of the 2020 Review of UN Treaty Bodies: Our Input

June 2020

The Geneva Human Rights Platform has been contributing to this review by providing expert input, by facilitating dialogue on the review among various stakeholders, as well as by accompanying the discussions towards the follow-up resolution to 68/268 in New York and in Geneva.

Read more

Woman in a market in Africa News

New Publication Details the Impact of Agricultural and Land Commercialization on Gender Equality and the Right to Food

November 2020

A new Research Brief summarizes a number of findings from a research partnership of practitioners and scholars from Cambodia, Ghana, and Switzerland.

Read more

A farm in France Event

The Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants in France: Focus on the Right to Seeds

December 2020, 17:30-19:30

This online conference (in French) will discuss content and recommendations of our recent publications on the right to seeds with French partners.

Read more

Banner with information about the event Event

Our Future, Our Voice: Placing children and their rights at the centre of the drive towards a better, greener world

November 2020, 15:00-16:30

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet will discuss, along with other panelists, children’s rights in the context of the environment, international efforts and youth engagement 

Read more

Prison visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Haiti Short Course

The Implementation of International Human Rights Law

3 December - January 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, aims at presenting the institutions and procedures in charge of the implementation of international human rights law.

Read more

Egypt, Cairo, 2011: Makeshift barricade outside interior ministry gate. Short Course

The Right to Life and the Right of Peaceful Assembly in Transitions

2- December 2020

This online short course will examine the protection afforded by international human rights law in these contexts, with a specific focus on the right to peaceful assembly – which is at the heart of such movements –, and the right to life – which is often violated during such transitional moments.

Read more

Panel Discussion: Project

Treaty Body Members’ Platform

Started in January 2014

The Treaty Body Members’ Platform connects experts in UN treaty bodies with each other as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats to share expertise, exchange views on topical questions and develop synergies.

Read more

Wheat field Project

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and the Protection of the Right to Seeds in Europe

Started in January 2018

The project will notably identify the main opportunities and obstacles to protect the right to seeds in Europe. It will also discuss how to promote changes in European laws, policies and trade agreements to ensure that they do not infringe, but facilitate the realization of peasants’ right to seeds.

Read more

Cover page of the Research Brief Publication

Agricultural and Land Commercialization: Do they Foster Gender Equality and the Right to Food?

published on November 2020

Read more

Cover page of the book Publication

The UN Human Rights Council: A Practical Anatomy

published on September 2020

Eric Tistounet

Read more