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“Food is political!” 33,000 demand quicker change of our agricultural and food systems

By - La Via Campesina, January 30, 2018

Excerpts from the joint press release of German civil society organizations participating last weekend in Berlin’s “We’re fed up with it” demonstration. For the complete text (German only) please click here

With a deafening cooking-pot concert, 33,000 people at the “We’re fed up!” demonstration at the start of the Green Week in Berlin called on the next German government to come up with a new agricultural policy. ‘Industrial agriculture and food industry is causing local and global problems for farmers, climate, animals and the environment,’ says Jochen Fritz – spokesperson of “We´re fed up!” – on behalf of the more than 100 organisations that called for this demonstration. He adds: ‘The transition to an environmentally friendly, animal-friendly and climate-friendly agriculture in which farmers can live justly from their work must not be postponed by politicians.’

Demonstrators beat their pans in front of the Agriculture Ministers’ Summit gathered in the German Finance Ministry. They demanded respect for human rights, fair trade conditions and more support for the rural population worldwide. Already in the morning the 160 farmers who led the demonstration with their tractors handed over a protest note to the 70 ministers from all over the world present in the Summit. ‘We want to get out of the fatality of export agendas and land concentration, which have tied a noose on the neck of farmers here and around the world,’ says Fritz about the consequences of agricultural policies. ‘In the last 12 years, one third of all farms in Germany had to close their doors.’

Alliance spokesman Fritz continues: ‘Food is political, more and more people are recognizing this. But our policies are feeding the agricultural industry and produce at the expense of the environment, climate and animals. So that we don’t have all to pay for it in the long term, the big coalition (GroKo – CDU/CSU-SPD) must now turn the tables*. Those who produce and eat sustainably must be rewarded.’

Concrete projects in the next legislative period must be – in addition to glyphosate phase-out and proper transformation of livestock stables and pens – the obligation to label animal foodstuffs, prohibiting last-resort antibiotics in animal husbandry and fair market rules for the protection of farms. Furthermore, the payment of EU agricultural subsidies to non-agricultural investors, who are grabbing more and more farmland, must be stopped immediately.

‘We need a fundamental reform of European agricultural policy. Those who cultivate crops in an environmental and climate friendly way and raise animals in an appropriate manner must be supported by direct payments, not those who own the most land. Farmers are ready, but politicians must create the framework. Rural areas are in particular need of small and medium-size farms’, says Georg Janßen, Head of Office of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL).

* at the moment, the three biggest political parties in Germany (CDU/CSU-SPD) are negotiating the formation of the next government

Government prepares to legitimize Dole Lanka’s illegitimate endeavors company allowed to retain forest land illegally encroached?

By Sajeewa Chamikara - La Via Campesina, January 19, 2018

Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (Monlar)

The current United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) administration seems to be continuing the support given to Dole Lanka Private Limited, which has illegally cleared protected forests, which acted as catchment areas and destroyed farm lands owned by small holders, given by the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration. The Department of Forest Conservation has obtained court orders to remove farm lands operated by Dole Lanka Private Limited, scattered in various lands owned by the department in the Sri Lankan dry zone. However the government has halted the implementation of these court orders and is attempting to hand over the land to the controversial company.

The first step of this legitimization of Dole was the cabinet paper (CP 16/1934/752/023) regularizing the land used for banana cultivation by Dole Lanka Private Limited in Kuda Oya and Demodara in Moneragala district’ on September 15, 2016 by Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade. President Maithripala Sirisena, as the minister of Mahaweli and Environment as well as the ministers of Lands and Finance has also noted their observations to the cabinet paper. The note to the cabinet by President Maithripala Sirisena clearly states that Dole Lanka Private Limited has not obtained the permission of the Department of Forest Conservation to establish these banana plantations. The note also states that the Dole Lanka Private Limited has admitted before court that it is using the lands in Kuda Oya and Demodara without permission or approval. However the cabinet memorandum has recommended to seek the advice of the Attorney General to come into an agreement with Dole Lanka Private Limited, so that the company can continue to use the lands. Thus the Attorney General is studying how Dole Lanka Private Limited can keep on using these lands.

However according to the laws of the land, it is not possible to transfer the ownership of land that belong to the Department of Forest Conservation to Dole Lanka Private Limited, or any other private entity. The Commissioner of Lands can release lands for any investment, only if approval is granted by relevant agencies after conducting the necessary feasibility studies. The government can release the land, on long term lease, to a private entity, according to the Section 199 (G) of the land Ordinance, only after that requirement has been completed. For this the approval of the Minister of lands is needed and the land can be released after recommendations by the President.

Although this is the standard procedure when it comes to releasing land for an investment, a number of factors prevent Dole Lanka Private Limited from accessing state owned land. Chief among them is the fact that Dole Lanka Private Limited has encroached the land that belongs to the Department of Forest Conservation and has used these lands for several years illegally and the fact that they have used the land without any feasibility studies prior to the commencement of the project. Moreover the Forest Conservation Department has taken legal action against Dole Lanka Private Limited, for illegally maintaining farm lands in Kuda Oya and Demodara at the Wellawaya Magistrates’ Court (case numbers MC 215 and 216.) Given this context the attempts by the Cabinet to handover these illegally encroached lands to Dole Lanka Private Limited is a bad example.

En La Lucha No Hay Fronteras (In the Struggle There Are No Borders)

By Kathia Ramirez - US Food Sovereignty Alliance, January 11, 2018

Fifth in the South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange Article Series

In October of 2017, I had the opportunity to travel with 7 other comrades on an Agroecology Exchange to South Africa. This Exchange was a continuation of a process that had initiated in 2015 which was the same year that I was introduced to the US Food Sovereignty Alliance. Although there was much traveling, it was an amazing experience to see and learn from farmers, farmworkers, activists, and people in the community who are struggling due to the current food system.

During the trip, I had the opportunity to interpret for another delegate and feel the dynamic of how language is not a barrier to being able to relate across seas. The experience interpreting allowed me to relate and connect both with people in South Africa as well as to the stories that were shared with me from my same culture since I share a similar background to the delegate I was interpreting for. During our visit to Limpopo, members of the Mopani Farmers Association put together a cultural event just for us and once again, I felt the connection through dance and music despite our different backgrounds. It brought so much to mind for me: from appreciating the work that I am doing to learning more about my own culture from which at some point I have felt very disconnected.

When we arrived in Citrusdal, Cape Town and were hosted by the Surplus People’s Project, we honored International Rural Women’s Day through participating in a Day of Action for Food Sovereignty, and an assembly for the International Day of Eradication of Poverty. As members and allies of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, we participated on the last day and had the opportunity to share about our experiences and also had the chance to be part of a panel discussion, where we had both Farmer and Farmworker delegates sharing their stories. Among those on the panel were member organizations from The Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign. It was amazing to see how even though we joined these organizations on the last day of their three-day meeting, we were easily able to engage because our struggles are very similar. We were also very welcomed to engage when we participated in a meeting with Urban Farmers in Cape Town, and again, we identified some of the same issues that are affecting us although we are from two different countries.

Farmworkers Resist and Organize: Connected Struggles for Farmworker Justice in South Africa and the US

By Edgar Franks - US Food Sovereignty Alliance, December 7, 2017

This past October I was part of the delegation sent by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance to South Africa. The delegation is part of a process to connect with groups throughout Africa with US-based Food Sovereignty groups to build an international analysis on the food system and to be in solidarity with one another.

During the 11 days our delegation was in South Africa, we were able to meet with many organizations throughout different regions, each with their unique struggles. Our delegation was small but represented many different sectors within the food system, including farmworkers, Black farmers, and immigrants; we all brought our own area or expertise to the trip and complimented each other well.

Even though every place we visited we learned a lot and were impacted by the amount of work and organizing that was happening, I want to share about the exchange that we had with the farmworkers in Robertson in the Western Cape.

Personally, I was able to connect to the farmworker struggle in the Western Cape, as there was a familiarity with the way issues and conditions were discussed. The analysis that was shared resonated with me profoundly considering that farmworkers here in the United States are also going through the same exploitation.

At Community to Community in Washington, we try to recognize that the struggle for farmworker justice is not limited to the workplace. Farmworkers’ lives are complex and have many intersections which is why we know that in order to achieve our goals – especially when it comes to transforming the food system – that we must go beyond just fighting for union contracts. Food Sovereignty for farmworkers also means being recognized as humans who are capable of leading ourselves. That is why we also organize for immigrant rights, climate justice, women’s rights, and food sovereignty.

Globalising the struggle also means globalising solidarity and hope: La Via Campesina, while accepting the XV Navarra International Prize for Solidarity

By staff - La Via Campesina, December 7, 2017

Full text of the message that La Via Campesina delivered while accepting the XV Navarra International Prize for Solidarity on 21 November 2017

We thank you first of all for the Navarra International Prize for Solidarity. We consider it a recognition of a process of resistance and construction of a more just and humane alternative.

We also take the opportunity to apologize that our general secretary, Elizabeth Mopfu of Zimbabwe, was not able to participate in this event. It is our pleasure to stand in for her; we are María Canil of Guatemala and Unai Aranguren of the Basque Country, both members of the International Coordinating Committee of La Via Campesina.

La Via Campesina is a world movement of peasant organizations and other people working in rural areas. It represents 200 million peasant and small-holder families spread over all of the world’s continents.

It emerged in a neo-liberal context in which the financial capital of transnational corporations came to dominate agriculture. This new period was characterized by the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, which had devastating consequences for the countryside and agriculture worldwide and fueled the need to articulate popular resistance at the international level.

The creation of La Via Campesina was principally founded on actions of solidarity, the urgency of mobilizing solidarity as a fundamental value in light of the evictions, repression, detentions and even massacres that peasants, men and women, were facing (and are still facing) in various parts of the world. Accordingly we highlight this call, as we receive the XV Navarre International Prize for Solidarity: “Globalizing the struggle also means globalizing solidarity, and the hope of the peoples of the world”.

We live in difficult times in which humankind is confronted with serious economic, political and environmental crises, but also a crisis of values and of profound contradictions between capital and labor. This is also very much the reality of people in the countryside, worldwide.

However, during its journey of more than 20 years, La Via Campesina has succeeded in articulating struggles at the international level, developing a politicized peasant and smallholder identity tied to the land and the production of healthy food in a sovereign manner. Our members represent the sectors worst hit by the globalization of food: small and medium-sized producers, day laborers, landless people, rural women, indigenous communities. This made it possible for our movement to break away from the North-South divide, and to integrate organizations from all over the world.

The emergence of La Via Campesina as a sustainable alternative to the predatory model of agribusiness has cast a new vision on agricultural policies, on food, and on peasants and family farmers, both in our own territorial spaces and at the international level. Policies are no longer formulated without our voices being heard, or without us putting on the table our agenda on the rights of peasants, agroecology, land reform and especially, food sovereignty.

Food globalization, conceived by and for agribusiness and large-scale distribution, privatizes common goods and wipes out those who care for and work the land, by turning food into a profiteering trade. The liberalization of agriculture is a war against peasants and small-scale farmers. It involves policies embedded in institutions and international treaties that jeopardize those who guarantee Food Sovereignty and feed the world’s populations.

We wish to highlight the role played by peasant and rural women in the resistance and defense of an agriculture tied to the land and centered on life, rather than on speculation and money. They are strategic agents in the struggle for food sovereignty, gender equality, defending and caring for the land and territories, the defense of natural goods, the seeds as the heritage of the peoples, agroecology and biodiversity.

La Via Campesina carries on growing and our political proposal is gathering strength. We are increasingly recognized as leading political voice internationally, for example by initiating the process for an international declaration on the rights of peasants and other rural persons at the United Nations, defending common goods, implementing agroecological processes, protecting markets and developing new ones, incorporating people into agricultural activity, and all of this within a comprehensive strategy which we share with all the (nearly 200) organizations that make up La Via Campesina. To this end we develop a common position on past and current threats, and outline future strategies and challenges, all of which we believe is well summarized in the Call of our 7th Conference, celebrated in Derio in the Basque Country in July 2017.

Farmers storm India’s national capital, demanding freedom from debt and better price for their produce

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 23, 2017

Several thousand small-holder farmers from across India held a massive demonstration in New Delhi, from 20-21 November to draw attention to the acute agrarian distress plaguing the countryside and seeking immediate intervention by the Union Government.

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements – who are also part of the global peasant movement La Via Campesina, joined in large numbers.

For long, farmers movements and civil society organisations in India have been pointing out the problem of mounting debt in rural farm households.

A steady and steep increase in cost of production over the last three decades, near-stagnant farm incomes and increasing cost of rural household expenses, which are exacerbated by crumbling public welfare services and privatisation drives, have resulted in nearly 60% of the farm households trapped in a cycle of debt. Back-to-back droughts and unseasonal rains since 2012 resulting in severe crop losses, a crash in farm prices over the last several seasons have only worsened the crisis.

On a set of 25 crops, the Government of India offer a guaranteed and minimum support price across to the country’s farmers. However, for several years now as social movements have pointed out, this support price is marginally above – in some instances below – the cost of production.

In 2014, while campaigning for general elections, Narendra Modi who is currently the Prime Minister, had publicly promised to procure farm produces at a higher rate, which would be at least 1.5 times the cost of production. Yet, this is far from reality. What is worse is also that farmers are right now forced to sell their produces at levels that are even lower than the minimum support price.

Green revolution and the subsequent opening up of Indian agriculture to the global free market, has exposed the country’s small-farmers to unfair and unequal competition on the world scene. Agricultural policies that are focused on exporting food, rather than promoting local production and distribution has only favoured agribusinesses and severely marginalised the peasants and small-holder farmers. Despite this, global institutions such as the WTO continue to mount pressure on the Indian government to reduce the support price further and to lower the import tariffs!

The consequences have been devastating. Since 1995, at least 300,000 farmers in India have been forced to commit suicide unable to bear their piling debt and harassments from lenders. Government data shows that on an average 2000 farmers are forced to quit agriculture everyday and migrate to cities in search of work in factories and construction sites.

Grassroots and peasant’s movements deliver solutions that COP23 fails to provide

By Michaelin Sibanda and Boaventura Monjane - La Via Campesina, November 17, 2017

Food sovereignty and peasant agroecology – which should be understood in the context of national sovereignty – are the true solutions to build resilience and resistance.

The transnational corporations responsible for over 70% of the man-made emissions continue to push forward new false solutions to address the climate crisis. Such solutions not only focus on growing their profits but create more conditions to commodify nature, while turning a blind eye to the increasing social and environmental crisis they have created. Today, millions of peasants, indigenous people and fisherfolks are losing their source of livelihood to rising sea levels and adverse weather conditions.

It is clear that capital survives and feeds on chaos and destruction of nature. Human dignity and life are not respected at all. Recent climate disasters in Puerto Rico expose this immoral behavior. After suffering two hurricanes (Irma and Maria), the US administration blocked any form of assistance to rebuild the island, only allowing its corporations.

For Jesús Vázquez Negrón from Puerto Rico, who was attending the people’s mobilizations parallel to the 23rdedition of the Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, climate change is real. “We are here to remind the world that the change must be systemic. That is why the proposal of systemic change proposed by La Via Campesina, a global grassroots movement and alliance, is crucial.”

The peasant struggle is not just about climate resilience – which is an act of resistance in itself. It is also a global fight against the expansion of agribusiness, which relies on free trade agreements. There is an urgent need to critically question the mass production of meat and reduce the import of feed from the global south to Europe.

To make sure they keep growing despite global climate change, transnational corporations have developed their own ways – false solutions such as blue carbon, REDD[1] mechanism and climate smart agriculture.

Another issue that is generally undermined in climate change debates is migration. There are today more than ever before a growing number of climate-migrants. According to Massa Koné of the Global Convergence of Land and Water Struggles – West Africa, the climate and the migrantion crisis are the two sides of the same coin. “…  It is those who try to contain migrations who have also provoked it! It is their false solutions that are taking over our land, disturb our rainfall, that create wars! This is why migration increases everyday”, says Koné.

The good news is that the debates have a strong youth movement that is leading the struggle in various places of the globe, as they are the future of humanity. “We are the present for a better future and we will not give up, but continue to defend the interests of the peasants, the whole society, for a social transformation. We, peasants across the world, firmly reject the industrial model of agriculture which is at the very root of climate change”, says young French peasant Fanny Metrat of Confederation Paysanne. “We are the ones who can cool the planet and feed the world”, she added.

There have been many COPs before and many more will follow, but their impact on public policies is minor. Sustainable development, green economy, REDD are the buzzwords of capitalism being hammered these days in Bonn. But social movements expect governments and multinationals around the negotiating table to deliver real solutions.

To change the system, grassroots and peasant movements have to keep growing and establish more alliances. Our governments do not realize the urgency of the situation but the peasantry suffers from it on a daily basis. Food sovereignty and peasant agroecology – which should be understood in the context of national sovereignty – are the true solutions to build their resilience and resistance.

“WTO, Out! Building Alternatives”: La Via Campesina to organise Peoples’ Summit during WTO’s XI Ministerial Conference in Argentina

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 17, 2017

15 November 2017: La Via Campesina is calling upon social movements and civil society organisations of the world to mobilise and organise our resistances against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), build solidarity alliances and to participate in the People’s Summit “WTO, Out! Building alternatives”, from the 10-13 December coinciding with the XI WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A preliminary agenda of the summit is available here. As you may note, this is currently only available in Spanish. We will make the English version available shortly.

For the first time since its inception, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is planning to meet in Latin America. From the 10th to the 13th of December, Mauricio Macri’s government will host the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Entrepreneurs, ministers, chancellors, and even presidents will be there. To do what? To demand more “freedom” for their companies, more “ease of doing business” for exploiting workers, peasants, indigenous people, and taking over land and territories. In other words, less “restrictions” on transnational wastage.

Since its beginnings in 1995 as derivative of General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATTs), the World Trade Organization has promoted the most brutal form of capitalism, better known as trade liberalization. At successive Ministerial Conferences, the WTO has set out to globalise the liberalisation of national markets, promising economic prosperity at the cost of sovereignty. In more or less the same terms, by its “liberalization, deregulation and privatization”, which is called Package of Neoliberalism, WTO has encouraged the multiplication of free trade agreements (FTAs) between countries and regional blocs, etc. On this basis and by making use of governments that have been co-opted, the world’s largest transnational corporations (TNCs) are seeking to undermine democracy and all of the institutional instruments for defending the lives, the territories, and the food and agricultural ecosystems of the world’s peoples.

In the previous Ministerial Conference (MC) in Nairobi in 2015, WTO had made six decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to LDCs. The agricultural decisions cover commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, public stock-holding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and measures related to cotton. Decisions were also made regarding preferential treatment for least developed countries (LDCs) in the area of services and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.

This year, with Macri Inc. in the Casa Rosada (Government House in Argentina), the coup leader Michel Temer in the Palacio del Planalto (the official workplace of the president of Brazil), and Brazilian Roberto Azevedo as its Director General, the WTO wants to return to the subject of agriculture, to put an end to small-scale fishing, and to make progress with multilateral agreements such as the misnamed General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Notwithstanding the misleading protectionist statements coming from Washington and London, the WTO will meet again to try to impose the interests of capital at the cost of Planet Earth, of the democratic aspirations of the world’s peoples, and of life itself.

La Via Campesina responds to COP23 calling for Peasant Agroecology

By Bernd Schmitz and Paula Gioia - La Via Campesina, November 9, 2017

Peasants, small farmers and Indigenous peoples ‘feed the world and cool the planet.’ This is what the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina, has come to Bonn, Germany, to put onto the agenda at the COP23 climate meetings — both in the official space and at the People’s Climate Summit where social movements met to strategize for alternatives to capitalism and its climate crisis.

According to ETC Group, peasants and Indigenous peoples are the sole food providers for 70 percent of the world’s population, and they use only 30 percent of the earth’s natural resources to get all of the food to the table.

“No chemical has ever touched our soil. We have held onto our traditional seeds which withstand many of the climate challenges we are facing”, explained Michaelin Sibanda, a young peasant from Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF). “We know that, to have healthy food and healthy ecosystems, we need to have healthy soil.”

The principles of agroecology help to conserve water, soils and seeds. But, for La Via Campesina, agroecology is also political: “It is proven that there is resilience in agroecology, and resilience is also resistance — it relates to the way we organize collectively and bring together concrete proposals for change that are sustained by work and struggle in our different territories,” explained Jesús Vázquez, a young organizer and activist from the Organization Boricuá of Agroecology in Puerto Rico. In September 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by two, back-to-back hurricanes which severely undermined all aspects of life on the island, including food production. Vázquez continued,

“In the context of these hurricanes, we have witnessed that agroecological practices are more resistant to extreme weather phenomena, they bring resilience. Many roots and tubers, have pulled through the disaster. Many peasants and farmers are already back in the fields planting and cultivating despite the fact that the Secretary of Agriculture says that agriculture is completely devastated throughout the island. We are here to remind governments that the change must be systemic.”

La Via Campesina and their allies’ proposals for addressing the climate crisis get to the root cause of the problem — corporate control over decision-making and the resulting processes of land and water grabbing, peasant criminalization and human rights abuses in the transnational supply chains used to produce food. “At the climate negotiations, governments are putting forward false solutions. We call them false because these proposals do not bring real change but, rather, bolster corporate profits,” said Fanny Metrat, from the French peasant organization Confédération Paysanne. “Carbon markets, geoengineering, so-called climate smart agriculture are being promoted by the same people who are also promoting emission-intensive livestock production and an export-based industrial agriculture which requires massive amounts of fossil fuels. It is a big contradiction,” she explained.

At COP23, these contradictions are becoming clear. The German government, a big promoter of green economy, has positioned itself as spearheading efforts to address climate change while also expanding the production of coal—the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. The international delegation of La Via Campesina members joined the over 4.000 people strong Ende Gelände (‘Here, and No Further’) march and civil disobedience action against Germany’s largest mining company, KWE, strengthening the message that the most important action to address climate crisis is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Bernd Schmitz, from the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) the farmer member organization of La Via Campesina in Germany, underlined the need for changes in Germany. Speaking to journalists, Schmitz said,

“The consequences of global warming are felt all over the world. In Germany, we have had extreme droughts in some regions and extreme rains in others. This year, because of severe hailstorms, we lost nearly all fruit production in some areas of Germany! The government is too slow to respond to the problem. The AbL contends that smallholder agriculture, which includes a localized food chain and ecological food production, helps to solve the problem. This system uses less fossil energy, reducing the emission of dangerous greenhouse gases. Small farmers around the world urgently need support to feed people and maintain their livelihoods in the context of climate change.”

La Via Campesina has been joined by other frontline communities, including from within the It Takes Roots delegation of impacted communities based in the United States and also the fisherfolk and peasants within the Global Convergence for Land and Water Struggles. A representative of the West African contingent of the Convergence, Massa Koné, from Mali, was clear about the importance of working with allies to address climate change and multiple injustices: “As grassroots organizations, we have similar perspectives on the problems and what we need to do about them. La Via Campesina allows our communities to be heard. Our call for system change is urgent because the damage is growing. Commons, including land, forests and water, must be protected and restored to the people. We need to work together with our allies to be prepared for climate change.”

Food Sovereignty is the true solution to uphold Peoples’ Right to Climate Justice

By Ulf Allhoff-Cramer and Paula Gioia - La Via Campesina, November 6, 2017

PEASANT AGROECOLOGY CAN FEED THE WORLD AND COOL THE PLANET | FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IS THE TRUE SOLUTION TO UPHOLD PEOPLES’ RIGHT TO CLIMATE JUSTICE

On Friday, November 3rd, at 6pm in Bonn (Germany), the People’s Climate Summit 2017 began, opening an important space for social movements to put forward alternatives and solutions to the global climate crisis. This summit will last until 7th of November and bring together thousands of delegates and climate activists from all over the world.

Just this year, we witnessed several disasters due to increased impacts of climate change, both in scale and intensity: hurricanes, floods, tropical storms, droughts, heat waves and other forms of devastation. The most affected are the world’s peasants, poor people, rural workers, fisherfolk and Indigenous peoples, especially the women and youth among them. Tragically, many people have been uprooted from their homes and livelihoods and forced to migrate. The stakes for action are high and mounting.

“Humanity is on a collision course with itself. We are generating nuclear waste that we can’t get rid of for a million years! We are taking back the planet’s climate to a state that existed millions of years ago and it is unjust and inhumane for our generation to do so. Our actions are not only harming ourselves but also future generations who never contributed to the climate crisis. For peasants all over the world, climate change is a question of survival. The climate crisis has to be stopped!”, says Ulf Allhoff-Cramer of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL).

To the accelerating crisis, world governments are responding with business-as-usual ‘false’ solutions that seek to maintain and expand markets for transnational corporations. These false solutions, including Carbon Capture and storage, creation of carbon markets, so-called Climate Smart Agriculture, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), geoengineering and other schemes further degrade life on Earth. They do not meet the requirements for action that science and justice demand. We must, therefore, make peoples’ voices heard at all levels of the UN COP23.

“The voice of the people is needed now more than ever before. We urgently need to mobilize together with civil society to push for our true solutions based on food sovereignty, which cool the Earth and increase democratic control of energy production at the local level. We must change the system, and by this, stop the system from changing the climate”, says Paula Gioia, who is La Via Campesina’s International Coordinating Committee member from the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC).

La Via Campesina—the world’s largest peasant movement—will be represented at the People’s Summit by delegates from East Timor, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Brazil, Puerto Rico, USA, Canada, France and Belgium. They will cooperate with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) – LVC’s member organisation in Germany – and other allied grassroots movements and NGOs.

The programmes include plenary sessions, a people’s tribunal for the rights of nature and street mobilisations. Many issues will be discussed including: peasant agroecology, food sovereignty, climate justice, just transition towards building local economies and the collective cooling of the planet. Other issues of importance such as migrant rights in a context of climate crisis will also be addressed.

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