By Salena Tramel and Saulo Araujo
December 11th, 2008
Sixty years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we at Grassroots International recognize that more often than not the reality has failed the vision put forth in that document. Our commitment to defending land, water, and food as the most basic of human rights is reflected throughout the 30-article treaty. Globally, people in all corners of the world currently experience a quadruple crisis that includes food, finance, energy, and the environment. From Latin America to the Middle East, our partners and allies are facing serious threats to their lives and livelihoods. Policies and actions of governments and corporations represent the grave violations of the core principles of the treat
October 2nd, 2008
On September 28, 2009, Ecuadorians approved a new constitution that includes an article granting nature the right to "exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution." The new constitution recognizes the right of all Ecuadorians to have access to sufficient resources to feed themselves in a sustainable manner with respect to cultural differences between people and communities. A priority is local food production, recognizing implicitly that the right to adequate food represents, among many things, the right of the small food producers, harvesters and fisherpeople to acquire appropriate resources and the right to rely on the laws, measures and programs that assist them in providing food.
Recently Grassroots International made a grant to the Indigenous Council of Roraima through Caritas Brasil in support of their struggle to gain legal recognition of the 6,500 square mile Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous territory, in Brazil’s northern Roraima state. In what may set a significant precedent, one of Brazil’s Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of the Indigenous Council.
Since I started my internship with Grassroots International in May, I have come to realize the true magnitude of the food crisis. The way that the economic system produces and distributes food is leaving far too many people hungry and jobless. Throughout my research, I studied the effect that the crisis has had on women, and I believe that their role, though historically overlooked, is crucial to finding a sustainable solution. I believe, along with everyone at Grassroots International, that women's economic and land rights are not just rights that they deserve as people, but steps that must be taken in order to bring the world out of the food crisis.
Members of Grassroots International's partner La Via Campesina -- an international network of peasants, indigenous peoples, fishers, pastoralists, women, and youth -- gathered in late June in Jakarta, Indonesia to defend their right to exist, and called for a UN Convention on the Rights of Peasants. (Below, see their final declaration)
Under intense threat from the expansion of agro-fuels in South America and Indonesia, militarization in Colombia and South Korea, and increasing food prices, rural families are voicing a predicament that affects all communities.
In late June, Grassroots partner, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) made public a document they got a hold of that showed the intention of the Rio Grande do Sul state Public Ministry to "dissolve" the MST. The document is based on a meeting, on December 3, 2007, during which the state Public Ministry decided: to outlaw any mobilization of landless workers, including marches and walks, to intervene in settlement schools, to criminalize leaders and members, and to "deactivate" all the encampments in Rio Grande do Sul.
June 24th, 2008
Partner press release from Via Campesina
About 1000 small farmers of the International movement Via Campesina, men and women from 25 different countries and 12 Indonesian provinces gathered today in Jakarta to claim the right to farm their land, the right to eat and to feed their families and communities.
They opened a five-day International Conference on Peasant Rights aiming at attracting world attention to the fate of small producers. Peasants represent almost half of the world population and are the backbone of the food system. However, their rights are systematically violated.
A rich, influential citizen of the United States or Europe—say, Bill Clinton or Bill Gates—buys land in Brazil, either as an individual or a partner in a company. They want to invest in agrofuels, and figure that crops can be grown on their new land for fuel (and profit). But as a result, the price of land rises in Brazil; peasants and other low-income workers can no longer afford to buy land. And they have no say in how the land purchased by foreigners is used.
No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
- Fourth Geneva Convention, article 33
Nonviolence. Opportunity. Innovation. In the wake of the recent escalating violence and food insecurity in Gaza, our grassroots partners have redoubled their quest for social change and sustainability in one of the most troubled places in the world. We are humbled by their laudable tenacity in the face of massive obstacles.