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Human Rights activist Sofia Monsalve said in an interview with Real World Radio that the Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure, water and forestry resources, recently agreed in Rome is a clear result of a process that has taken two decades, a tool to reactivate the social agenda and mobilizations around the Agrarian Reform and the protection of human rights defenders.
She is a lawyer specialized in agrarian issues and human rights. She works for FIAN (FoodFirst Information and Action Network), an organization that has actively participated in the tiring process of putting issues like international governance, food sovereignty and control of international resources in the agenda.
FIAN has a consulting character within the FAO’s World Committee on Food Security. It has worked together with social movements at the different regional consultations and negotiation rounds on the Guidelines.
“This process began in 1996 during the World Food Summit. Different organizations would meet there with new proposals about food and how to overcome hunger, by contributing to this alternative proposal”, says Monsalve.
From then and until today, when 70% of the contents of the Guidelines has been discussed and agreed upon- we have to wait to complete this process in early 2012- the land issue broadened both in conceptual and social terms through the confluence of different sectors such as: afrodescendents, indigenous peoples, peasants, fisherfolk, nomadic pastoralists, all equally affected by the privatization of natural resources”.
Monsalve’s remembered the highlights of this process in an interview with Real World Radio: “It was the indigenous peoples the ones that had more legal tools to protect themselves and other groups began to use those tools and fight for new ones that would include them”.
Voluntary Guidelines: What has been achieved
About the successes that social organizations believed were achieved in the long negotiation sessions with the states, Sofia mentioned “firstly, the document explicitly aims to protect the tenure of natural resources by the sectors most affected by hunger, such as peasants, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk. That was made clear: that is the aim of the Guidelines”.
She also mentioned the guidelines include “an explicit clause on the protection of human rights defenders of peasants and all those who are threatened in their territorial rights. One of the main obstacles to the rights of these communities is precisely criminalization”.
Progress was made also in the recognition of the customary and collective rights of land tenure, which is “essential in Asia and Africa, since there resources are being pillaged under the pretext that they are not being used, that they are unproductive because they are not private property”.
There was also progress in the recognition of the informal tenure of land, which is of particular importance in urban and rural areas, and a chapter dedicated to resources redistribution was included “these issues had virtually disappeared from the national and international agendas”.
“Another important issue was the territorial demand as regards to the agroecological management, that is being consistent in the planning phase in order to guarantee food security. It is a very important issue because we know that in many countries the mining law prevails over our own laws, so this clause could be very useful in defending communities affected by mining and other industries”.
Let’s not forget
About the main concepts that will be on the table in what is left of the negotiations, the activist mention the special concern over the investments chapter, as well as the resistance to set strong control and monitoring mechanisms of the enforcement of the guidelines.
“Without oversight, we risk that all this stays only in paper. The Latin American governments are opposed to any kind of international supervision or surveillance. We don’t understand the fact that when the same governments sign agreements with the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank- which imply strong monitoring and control- they do not show the same resistance.
She finally said that the Guidelines should be a reference not only for the FAO and the national governments but also for agencies like FIDA or the World Bank, because of their influence in multilateral public policies on food and agriculture.
The Voluntary Guidelines are “a broad text so it should be analyzed locally in the light of the most urgent matters. For example in Honduras, we would say that what is most important now is what is happening in Bajo Aguan. The FAO and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights should intervene so the killings stop! This is the strength of the Guidelines as a tool for the movements. We take advantage of this political time that enabled to put the Guidelines on the table to put our agenda back on the table”.
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