After 17 years of struggle, UN recognises peasants' rights

Wednesday, 30th January 2019

UN General Assembly approves Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas

Following over a decade of advocacy by civil society under the lead of La Via Campesina, the UN General Assembly approved a Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas by a large majority on 17 December 2018.

The Declaration is hugely significant as a first step to recognise and protect the rights of peasants and people working in rural areas, including their land rights:

  • Peasant women's rights "to equal access to, use of and management of land and natural resources, and to equal or priority treatment in land and agrarian reform and in land resettlement schemes";
  • Peasants' "rights to active and free participation, directly and/or through their representative organizations, in the preparation and implementation of policies, programmes and projects that may affect their lives, land and livelihoods";
  • Peasants "have the right to land, individually and/or collectively, […] including the right to have access to, sustainably use and manage land and the water bodies, coastal seas, fisheries, pastures and forests therein, to achieve an adequate standard of living, to have a place to live in security, peace and dignity and to develop their cultures."

The Declaration also encourages that  "States shall take appropriate measures to carry out agrarian reforms in order to facilitate broad and equitable access to land and other natural resources (…), and to limit excessive concentration and control of land" and that "landless peasants, young people, small-scale fishers and other rural workers should be given priority in the allocation of public lands, fisheries and forests".

ILC members participated in advocacy and negotiations to ensure the right to land, including the land rights of women, feature prominently in the Declaration. ILC welcomes the adoption of the Declaration. In particular, ILC supports the inclusion of agrarian reform as a solution to protect and promote peasants' rights. This is a foundation of ILC's 2018 Bandung Declaration in which ILC members called for urgent action on agrarian reform and protecting land and environmental defenders.

ILC's Director Mike Taylor welcomes the Declaration as yet another benchmark for land rights in addition to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure, as well as binding human rights convention that are essential to the realisation of land rights: "We celebrate the adoption of the Declaration as a step towards recognising the right to land as a human right. We are committed to support members to use the Declaration as a tool to further their work to promote people-centred land governance."

The Declaration is available in all UN languages here: https://undocs.org/en/A/C.3/73/L.30