By Federico Pacheco - La Via Campesina, October 25, 2016
At the ongoing negotiations in Geneva, of the Open Ended Inter Governmental Working Group (OEIWG) at United Nations, Federico Pacheco of the Union of Land Workers of Andalusia intervened to denounce the actions of transnationals pushing a model of industrial agriculture that pollutes the environment, monopolizes and privatizes the commons, and exploits workers and producers. Here is the full text of the speech.
La Vía Campesina expresses support to the setup of a Binding Treaty. La Via Campesina, as an international organization of peasants and rural workers, has defended for more than two decades the survival of agriculture and rural livestock worldwide and small-scale fisheries, indigenous communities and sustainability in the use of natural and energy resources.
We have been suffering since the middle of last century of a progressive disappearance of small farms in favor of an agro-industrial system based on large-scale production and distribution, pollution of nature, energy waste and global warming, as well as labor exploitation of workers. The dismantling and destruction of the rural world brings about unemployment, poverty, hunger, and displacement and forced migration around the globe.
The role of Transnational Corporations has been and is decisive in this process. Since the green revolution, in which chemical fertilizers and pesticides began to poison the land, water and people, along with the production of enormous benefits for large international companies, and more than two hundred million hectares grabbed in the last years by pension funds and multinational corporations. We saw as well an unstoppable process of concentration, in which very few corporations control the global markets for seeds, pesticides and agrochemicals among others, as well as price setting.
The Free Trade Agreements have come to further facilitate their actions to limit and cancel any public policy that harms their interests. The imposition of the opening of borders, tax havens and arbitration tribunals, creates a legal and political framework that guarantees their impunity and makes it impossible to seek reparations against environmental and social disasters that occur.
Even in this difficult situation we find that most of the world's population live in rural areas and peasant agriculture through local distribution, provides most of the food to the populations, creating jobs and protecting biodiversity.
As La Via Campesina and many other organizations, we have been committed to the primacy of human rights of peoples and individuals, over the interests and profits of big business. In that sense, we are promoting the framework of the United Nations the Declaration of Peasant Rights, to ensure defend and promote the rights to food sovereignty, access to natural and productive resources, local markets, income and services worthy to farmers and rural workers in general.
However, neither this Declaration nor the major international regulatory achievements related to human rights will have any effectiveness if the activities of the transnational companies are not regulated in a binding way and sovereignty and self-determination to the states and peoples is not regained, as well as the respect for the principles of multilateralism and supremacy of human rights.
Peasants around the world are suffering under these companies that contaminate our seeds, dispossess us of land, deprive and poison our populations and criminalise and murder our leaders who oppose them. Yet, these transnational companies are operating with impunity.
And this is because these corporations, with more power than many states, effectively use all mechanisms to prevent enforcement of laws, including court judgments at national and international level.
We have also seen how voluntary, social and environmental commitments made by these big companies are nothing more than a marketing ploy and an attempt at whitewashing their violations, sometimes even to avoid losses.
We urgently need an instrument, specific for transnational corporations, binding and enforceable, which allow states and the United Nations to control them, regulate them and make them respect human rights.
As Via Campesina, we encourage states to retake the spirit of the United Nations Charter and defend the interests and rights of their populations, including those of the rural world, beyond the pressures and interests of large corporations.