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Accomplishments from 2012 - A sample of inroads for global justice
By Jonathan Leaning
January 25th, 2013
Grassroots International supports hands-on solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges: hunger, violations of human rights, climate change and environmental degradation, and economic disparity. During the last year, Grassroots International and our global partners and allies – including small farmers, indigenous peoples and human rights activists – achieved some victories in their struggle to secure the human right to land, water and food for all. Below are just some of the highlights.
U.N. paves way for peasant rights declaration
The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a landmark resolution in September, 2012 on the rights of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion peasants and other people working in rural areas. This is an important step towards a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, and builds pressure on national governments to support peasants’ key role in food production and to seriously address hunger.
Brazilian peasants unite at National Peasant Congress
For the first time in 50 years, the largest peasant movements in Brazil, including Grassroots International’s partner the Landless Workers Movement, came together in August for a National Peasant Congress. It is only Brazil’s second such congress and constitutes a major sign of unity for rural social movements that are facing vigorous challenges from Brazil’s economic and landowning elite.
GRI helps secure Brazilian governor’s commitment to stop violence
During the summer, Grassroots International mobilized its advocacy network to focus international pressure on a Brazilian state governor in Pernambuco to stop violence against an MST encampment waiting for land. More than 1,900 people sent more than 13,500 messages to the UN and Brazilian authorities. In tandem with a strong advocacy push by the Landless Workers Movement and groups, Pernambuco’s governor finally met with the MST and committed to 'do all he could' to stop the violence. He affirmed that his cabinet will work to end the intimidation perpetrated by the police and other authorities against the families of MST encampment Serro Azul, and speed up the families’ land rights due process, which has been languishing since it was initiated in 2009.
Dam shelved under pressure by MAB
After more than 20 years of persistent community organizing and advocacy, the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) along with other organizations succeeded in stopping the development of a dam in the Brazilian state of Mina Gerais. The dam had been slated for construction on the Jequitinhonha River and would have affected the towns of Coronel Murta, Rubellite, Virgin Lapa and Araçuaí.
10,000 indigenous protestors march on Guatemala City, meet with president
In March, tens of thousands of Indigenous people marched on the Guatemalan capital after they walked more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) to demand a government settlement of a conflict over land. Tired and sweating, with bags slung over their shoulders and waving pennants, the thousands of indigenous people and peasants, who were joined by social organizations, students and labor unions, marched through the city and met with President Otto Perez Molina. This historic march is one of the many events that have been building pressure on the Guatemala government to elevate indigenous rights and stop the repression of indigenous communities.
Honduran peasants defeat for-profit Charter Cities
Alongside several other organizations, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) won a historical battle in October when the Honduran Supreme Court ruled Charter Cities (privately run, for-profit cities) as unconstitutional, agreeing that the Cities essentially amounted to removing national territory from government control. The proposed Charter Cities are similar to the export-processing enclaves established in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Singapore. They foster wealth creation for the privileged elite, while worsening inequality and bypassing labor and environmental laws by becoming states-within-states with their own laws, tax rules and police forces.
Mexican farmers block new law to privatize seeds
Progressive small farmer organizations in Mexico scored a victory over transnational corporations that seek to monopolize seed and food patents. When the corporations pushed their bill to modify the Federal Law on Plant Varieties through the Mexican Congress on March 14, organizations of farmers from across the country quickly organized and succeeded in pressuring legislators to quash the bill.
Nicaragua passes Anti-Violence Against Women Law
As a result of the Campaign to Stop Violence against Rural Women, Nicaragua's National Assembly passed a landmark bill on February 26, 2012 to stop violence against women and protect their human rights. This law bans abuse and violence against women and establishes comprehensive measures to "prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women, as well as assist victims of violence in seeking redress” against perpetrators. Inspired by this milestone victory, women’s commissions and groups elsewhere in Central America are pushing for similar protections and rights in their countries.
World Social Forum – Free Palestine held in Brazil
In Porto Alegre, Brazil prominent social movements from around the world came together for the first World Social Forum dedicated to seeking justice for Palestine. Held at the end of November, the four-day gathering brought together activists, politicians, intellectuals, organizations, unions and associations to develop global strategies to support the Palestinian-led struggle against Israel's policies of occupation and discrimination. This event comes at a time of increasing solidarity activity around the globe, and served as a catalyst to synchronize and inspire further campaigns and actions for justice and peace in Palestine.
Rebuilding Haiti’s Piggy Bank
The “Piggy”bank project has rescued the Creole pig from near extinction in the early 1990s, and through a unique community organizing approach, the project has succeeded in distributing an estimated 5,000 pigs last year to the most vulnerable peasant families in the six regions where the project is operating. Through multiplication, where the gwoupman (small communal groups of 12- 15 participants) breed the pigs, thus multiplying them exponentially, the project has benefitted over 112,000 of the most vulnerable peasant families in four of the 10 departments (regions) of the country. The number of pigs that have resulted from this project are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Crucially, this project has also served to unite peasants into a strong political force in Haiti.