NEW YORK, Nov. 22 – The United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted on Nov. 20 Japan time the Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas which recognizes and protects the rights of small-scale and family farmers.
It will be formally ratified at the General Assembly in December, helping give a much-needed boost to the recognition of the farmers’ role in strengthening food sovereignty and conservation of biodiversity.
The resolution was passed with 119 votes in favor, 49 abstentions and 7 against. Many developing nations voted for the resolution, while countries like the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand voted against it. Japan abstained.
The declaration aims to better protect the rights of not only agricultural workers but all rural populations including people working in the fisheries and forestry industry. It recognizes their contribution in ensuring the right to adequate food and food security, as well as stating that member countries should take measures to eliminate discrimination against farming women, ensure rights to stable supply of seeds, safe working conditions, education and so on.
It also states that member countries should provide support to unions and cooperatives for such people to strengthen their position in negotiations.
Bolivia, which chaired the group of countries that proposed the declaration, said in a statement: “We believe this is a major step towards public policies that recognize not only the rights and needs of peasants but also their contributions to the well-being and quality of life of the societies they nurture through their daily work.”
The proposals approved at the U.N.’s six committees, where all the member states can cast votes, will be ratified by the General Assembly in December. Member nations of U.N. Human Rights Council passed the declaration for the rights of peasants in September in Geneva, but it will be the first time for the declaration to be ratified at the General Assembly.
Masaharu Manda, professor emeritus of Kagoshima University who co-heads the society for small-scale farming studies launched in 2015, highly evaluates the adoption of the declaration, while criticizing Japan for taking moves that go against it.
“It is really meaningful for the U.N., which has continuously been recognizing the value of small-scale farming including family farming, to finally come together to adopt a declaration,” Manda said. “It reflects the global trend of protecting small-scale farmers and acknowledging their rights and roles they play. Moves to respect small-scale farming will grow even stronger.”
“On the other hand, in Japan, focus is put only on expanding the scale of farming operations and the farm ministry is implementing policies that run counter to the declaration. The ministry needs to recognize the value of family farmers who support rural communities and seriously observe the declaration.”