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La Via Campesina

“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.

Declaration of Güira de Melena: First Global encounter of La Via Campesina agroecology schools and formation processes

By staff - La Via Campesina, May 31, 2018

Declaration of Güira de Melena: First Global encounter of La Via Campesina agroecology schools and formation processes

MAY 21 – 30, 2018
“Niceto Pérez” Integral Center of the Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños (ANAP)
GÜIRA DE MELENA, ARTEMISIA, CUBA

Via Campesina, Bali Declaration: World Bank and IMF represent the interests of agribusiness, they should GO!

By La Via Campesina - La Via Campesina, October 11, 2018

We, the peasant women and men of La Via Campesina – a global movement comprising 182 peasant organisations from 81 countries – who have assembled in Bali this week and representing peasant and indigenous peoples of Asia, Africa, Europe and Americas, are unanimously and emphatically denouncing the ongoing Annual Meeting of World Bank and IMF.

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.”

La Via Campesina International condemns Marcinho’s murder and demands that the culprits be brought to justice!

By staff - La Via Campesina, February 5, 2018

La Via Campesina strongly condemns the murder of comrade Márcio Matos (Marcinho) leader of the MST in the state of Bahia in Brazil, on January 24, outside his home, in the Boa Sorte camp, in Iramaia falling in the Chapada Diamantina region.

Marcinho, 33, who was a prominent MST leader in the peasant struggle in Bahia, was murdered in front of his son with three gun shots to his head. The death of Marcinho is adding to a long list of peasant leaders and social activists, many of them members of the MST, who have been killed for their tireless struggle to reclaim and take land for the dispossessed families and the landless.

Criminalisation of the peasant movements and social struggles, followed by attacks, arrests and imprisonment including the murder of the peasant leaders and human rights defenders are now widespread. These are part of a violent and repressive policy, which aims to contain the movement for an agrarian and popular reform that can put agriculture at the service of the people instead of turning it into a tool to generate profits for a handful of corporations.

In this backdrop, La Via Campesina strongly condemns the murder of Marcinho and demands that the perpetrators be brought to trial. We urge all members of La Via Campesina to be aware of this call for justice for Marcinho and his family, since the crimes against peasant leaders and social activists are taking place in an environment of impunity and violence promoted by the criminal State.

Finally, we extend to MST – our sister organization, an unconditional solidarity and we place ourselves at your disposal to support your of struggle for justice for Marcinho and his family. That the murder of Marcinho serve to inspire us and to strength our commitment to continue fighting for the rights of the peasants and against this system of death and violence.

For Marcinho, not just a minute of silence but a whole life of struggle!

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.

South East and East Asia Peasant Women extend unconditional solidarity to villagers resisting THAAD missile system in South Korea

By staff - La Via Campesina, February 6, 2018

In 2016, the Korean government agreed with the US to place the American built anti-ballistic missile system THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defense) in the quiet town of Seongju South Korea. The then government of South Korea headed by conservative president Park Geun-hye, steamrollered the project through a hasty environmental review during her last months in office. This weapons system will threaten peace in the world, particularly in South Korea and North East Asia, apart from facilitating the spread of US hegemony in this region. It is harmful to human health and the environment. A majority of the Korean people are absolutely opposed to this government’s unilateral policy decision. Korean peasants’ organisations have been consistently opposing the project as its threatens peace and stability in the region.

At the Regional Women Workshop of La Via Campesina South East and East Asia, held in January 2018, the peasant leaders from several countries in the region unanimously condoned the project, visited the communities affected and extended solidarity to the residents of the village that is at the forefront of the resistance against this missile program. Here is the complete statement that came out after participants visited the affected region.

“WTO Kills Peasants! 21 Years is Enough!! WTO Out of Agriculture!!!” La Via Campesina to step up its resistance during the XI Ministerial Conference

By Francés: Claude Girod, et. al. - La Via Campesina, December 10, 2017

A large delegation of La Via Campesina comprising peasants, rural workers, indigenous peoples, women and youth from around the world will converge outside the venue of the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina from the 10th to13th December.

During the week of the conference, La Via Campesina (LVC) will mobilise, organise and join social movements and allies to expose the devastative effects that WTO has had on peasant agriculture and to reiterate our long-standing demand of 21 years, to oust the multilateral trade body from any discussions and decisions regarding agriculture.

La Via Campesina, a global peasant movement with more than 180 member organisations from 79 countries, has consistently demanded to take agriculture out of the WTO’s scope. Instead it has demanded a systemic change that brings about food sovereignty to the worlds peoples. Once again the rallying call from the global peasants’ movement is “For Food Sovereignty, WTO Out of Agriculture!”.

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. In this context, with help from governments that have been co-opted, the world’s largest transnational corporations (TNCs) continue to expand globally and are blatantly undermining democracy and all of the institutional instruments that are meant to defend the lives, the territories, and the food and agricultural ecosystems of the world’s peoples.

Through AoA (Agreement on Agriculture) regulated in the WTO, peasant communities become the most disadvantaged because they have minimal capital resources and little or no protection from national governments as WTO prohibits any protection that stand in the way of market liberalisation. Its role was replaced and eroded by corporations with large capital resources, slowly forming a monopoly scheme. As a result, peasants have to deal with dangerous implications such as land grabbing, criminalization, environmental pollution and the importation of agricultural products.

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.

In the 11th Ministerial Conference the WTO wants to return to the subject of agriculture in relation to public stock-holding, 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 the developed countries, 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.

On ‘Food Sovereignty Day’ La Via Campesina launches publication that calls for a massive change in the current agro-food systems

By staff - La Via Campesina, October 16, 2017

Harare, 16th October 2017: Today, on the International Day of Action for Peoples’ Food Sovereignty and against Transnational corporations, La Via Campesina officially launches its new publication “Struggles of La Vía Campesina for Agrarian Reform and the Defense of life, Land and Territories” that argues for a massive change in the current agro-food system, if we have to overcome the food, climate, poverty, financial, economic and democratic crises facing the planet and its people.

With the aim of strengthening the convergence of struggles, we will demonstrate in this publication that this change must be based on an integral and popular agrarian reform within the framework of Food Sovereignty.

The concepts, strategies and struggles have undergone many changes within La Via Campesina, partly as a result of the current context, but also as a result of collective processes at the grassroots level in territories that are rich in historical, cultural, political and economic diversity. In this respect, it is evident that integral and popular agrarian reform is understood to be a process for the building of Food Sovereignty and dignity for the people.

Working on the basis of this conceptual framework, in which agrarian reform is presented as a defense and a recovery of land for Food Sovereignty, and as a people’s process, this publication will be structured as follows:

Firstly, chapters 2 and 3 present La Via Campesina’s analysis of the global context we are currently facing and the form in which capital is appropriating territories. What developments have led to this unprecedented level of land grabbing, land concentration and eviction of people from their territories? To which actors do we refer when we speak of “capital”? What is the political framework that favours these processes on a global level? What are the consequences for the food and agricultural system? And how is that reflected in our territories?

La Via Campesina’s concept of integral and popular agrarian reform, developed in this context, will be presented in Chapter 4. How has the concept been modified from a vision of land distribution to a territorial vision? What were the most important milestones? Beginning with the question “How, in today’s world, can we achieve a change in the paradigm towards Food Sovereignty and agrarian reform?” we will present, in chapter 5, the strategies of La Via Campesina, which include direct actions and bottom up praxis, alternative communications and research, and political intervention on a national and international level.

While the analysis focuses more on global processes, the interviews held with leaders of La Via Campesina’s member organisations from different continents and regions show the multidimensional mechanisms which specifically affect territories. They also reflect the way in which the diversity of cosmovisions in territories which are so historically, culturally, politically and economically diverse (which can also be seen in their terminology) has enriched and extended La Via Campesina’s construction of visions.

Because the aim of the publication is to summarise these aspects as a whole from the perspective of La Via Campesina’s organisations, it is not possible to enter into each issue in depth. Therefore, at the end of each chapter we provide suggestions for further reading, which will be a useful starting point for acquiring more in depth knowledge of the issues discussed here.

Beyond the Nation State: A Critical Look at Venezuela’s Current Crisis

By Brooke Anderson and Mateo Nube - Movement Generation, February 2019

Venezuela has made headlines in the last few weeks, as Venezuelan opposition leader and National Assembly head Juan Guaidó has declared himself interim President, throwing the country into turmoil. Current President, Nicolás Maduro has called the effort a coup. Meanwhile, thousands of people have taken to the streets on both sides, with a death toll of 26 and rising. The Trump administration, many Western European countries, and the right-leaning bloc of Latin American governments have recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela.  Meanwhile Russia, China and others are backing Maduro. A third bloc, most notably Mexico and Uruguay, are calling for a peaceful transition through new elections.

I recently sat down with my co-worker Mateo Nube, collective member of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, for more political and economic context to the current crisis. In the interview, Nube unpacks the history and promise of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and beyond; the roots and early warning signs of the authoritarianism we’re now seeing play out in Venezuela; the lost opportunity for Venezuela to leverage its oil money wealth toward a just transition away from extractivism and toward a regenerative economy; and the dangers of U.S. interventionism in the conflict.

Brooke Anderson: Your family came up under dictatorships in both Venezuela and Bolivia, so this is personal for you. Give us some context to how you come to the question of Venezuela.

Mateo Nube: My family has roots in Venezuela. We originally  fled the Holocaust in the 30’s and 40’s and settled in Caracas [Venezuela] from Berlin. My mom grew up under Marcos Pérez Jiménez, the military dictatorship that really marked and traumatized Venezuelans. In turn, I was born in Bolivia in 1971 and spent the first 10 years of my life under military dictatorship there. So I’m politically steeped in resisting military authoritarianism and building social movements to not only overthrow the military but to redistribute wealth and power. So the Venezuelan context really marked my family and informed my political orientation.

So the Venezuelan context really marked my family and informed my political orientation.

Brooke Anderson: What’s actually happening on the ground in Venezuela right now?

Mateo Nube: The situation in Venezuela right now is dire and painful to witness. It is a mixture of a political, economic, and humanitarian crisis. The man who is controlling the state of Venezuela is Nicolás Maduro. He is the successor of Hugo Chávez, who led the Bolivarian Revolution for the last two decades, prior to his death in 2013. Maduro is currently facing a challenge from Juan Guaidó, the current head of the National Assembly. Guaidó is arguing that Maduro is not a legitimate President and that the constitution dictates that he, Guaidó, is the next in line. This contestation coming from the opposition is largely the right wing.

Neither of these leaders has tremendous legitimacy. There are two men (representing two political factions) who are calling themselves President of Venezuela. They are both claiming power in a way that disrespects the constitutional process of Venezuela. We can definitely call Guaidó’s move an attempted coup and unconstitutional. If we do, we also have to recognize that Maduro won the 2018 elections after banning the main opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, and multiple opposition parties from running and dissolved the opposition-controlled National Assembly in March 2017 through a stacked Supreme Court. If a right-wing political party had made these moves, we would have loudly denounced them.

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