The International Congress on Global Peasant Rights was organised by Haus der Bauem Foundation from 8-10 March 2017 in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. Over five hundred participants from the fields of academia, activism, lobbying, advocacy and public policy attended the Congress. There were two primary objectives of the Congress- to deliberate on the conditions of small and subsistence farmers throughout the world and to support the UN working group for the development of ‘Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas’.
The Congress was inaugurated by Rudolf Bühler, Chair of Foundation House of Farmers and BESH, who was one of the hosts of the event. This was followed by two keynote speeches. José Graziano da Silva, Director General of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), spoke on why the international community should increase their support for protection of rights of farmers and the rural population. The second speaker Klaus Töpfer, former Director of UNEP, dealt with the question of global development and the role of farmers. Thereafter, the developments and the debates concerning the UN declaration on the rights of peasants was laid before the Congress by various participants of the drafting process. This process was led by La Via Campesina, Ambassador of Bolivia to the UN Office, Geneva and the Chair of the intergovernmental working group.
There were five thematic workshops with panel discussions organised as part of the Congress. They were on (a) Right to land and natural resources in the context of land acquisition, (b) Right to seeds/breeds of the farmer in the context of new Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs) and emerging technologies, (c) Right to food, market access, decent income and fair trade conditions. (d) Rights to biodiversity and protection of indigenous knowledge, and (e) Civil rights and increasing repression and criminalisation of activists. The workshops had incisive discussions on these issues and their implications on the farming community.
Sushovan Dhar, Core Committee member of SAAPE, represented SAAPE in the Congress. He moderated the panel on ‘Right to land and natural resources in the context of land acquisition’. The event was important in expanding SAAPE’s reach in the thematic area of food sovereignty and peasant rights.
The conference culminated with a declaration (available at http://www.hdb-stiftung.com/images/Dokumente/2017_22-03_Declaration_EN.pdf) that can impact the future of the peasants around the world.