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UN human rights declaration could spark ‘knock-on effects’ for food security

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Rachel Rhodes

The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to vote this week on a new resolution, the “Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.” If passed, the declaration will be presented to the General Assembly as part of the UN’s 73rd session in December.

Philip McMichael

Professor of Development Sociology

Philip McMichael, professor of development sociology at Cornell University, who has worked with La Via Campesina, one of the advocacy groups integral to the resolution’s development, views the declaration as a much needed advocacy tool for rural workers’ rights to food and land in an era of land grabbing in rural communities.

McMichael says:

“If this passes in the UN General Assembly, which is likely, it will check intensification of agro-exporting at the expense of local farming systems, and will be a rare instance where the voices of the rights holders should count in the making of international law.

“This declaration would extend rights to food sovereignty claims, including the right to land. In the big picture, this has knock-on effects for preserving and promoting food security, since small-scale farming systems produce more than 50 percent of the world’s food and can be highly efficient per unit of land due to the use of family labor and biodiversification.

“Though technically non-binding, many countries have provisions that ratify international declarations into national law, and this declaration can be used as a powerful advocacy tool. It is timely, given the recent intensification of (sometimes violent) land acquisition across the world and a context where the UN is less resourced due to funding cuts to the Human Rights Council.”

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