By Gustavo Capdevil
GENEVA, Jul 2013 (IPS) – Staunch opposition by the U.S. delegation and, to one extent or another, by European countries has blocked the approval this year of a draft multilateral declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, which is backed by the developing world. Bolivian diplomat Angélica Navarro, chair of the intergovernmental working group tasked with drafting the declaration, recommended that it meet again in mid-2014.Navarro said that in the meantime, she would hold consultations with representatives of governments, civil society and the United Nations, which is promoting the initiative through its Human Rights Council.
“From the start we knew the process would be difficult, because the positions of some countries clashed with certain provisions in the declaration,” said Malik Özden, representative of the Europe-Third World Centre (CETIM), a Geneva-based NGO that is behind the draft declaration. Özden told IPS that industrialised nations critical of the draft document wanted to remove some fundamental elements from the text, such as references to land grabbing and intellectual property rights over agricultural technologies and inputs, especially seeds. The draft declaration seeks to protect peasants who work the land themselves and rely above all on family labour in agriculture, cattle-raising, pastoralism, and handicrafts-related to agriculture. The term peasant also applies to landless people in rural areas engaged in various activities such as fishing, making crafts for the local market, or providing services.