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Declaration from the South Asia Regional Peoples Convention on Food Sovereignty

26 December 2011

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Declaration from the South Asia Regional Peoples Convention on Food Sovereignty

Adopted at Kolkata on December 12, 2011

We the peasants, workers, fisher folk, indigenous communities, Dalit, landless people, women groups, human rights groups youth and representatives of other smallholder food producers of South Asia, representing NGOs/CSOs, peoples movements from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have met at Kolkata from December 10-12, 2011 for Regional Peoples’ Convention and we also took part in a mass rally of small food producers at Kolkata. The Peoples Convention intensively discussed status of food security in South Asia, highlighting emerging challenges and demanding food sovereignty; to replace the semi feudalism, imperialist globalization and neo-liberalization processes, which have left millions of people in South Asia starving and suffering from abject poverty. At the end of the Convention we have jointly come out with a declaration which captures the demands of the small food producers in South Asia for achieving their rights and for ensuring a better world for all.

With great concern we acknowledge the sad reality that poverty situation has worsened in South Asia further and South Asia remains the home of the largest number of poor and hungry in the globe. Though majority of the South Asian nations have ratified almost all major human rights declarations and covenants and accept the obligations to respect, protect and fulfill right to food (RTF) of the people, little initiatives have been taken at national levels to fulfill these promises. Bangladesh, Nepal and India have recognized RTF as a fundamental right in their constitutions. But in reality lack of awareness of commons, poor accountability of the state actors, poor transparency and prevalence of high degree of corruption in these countries have restricted the success of food security programmes and policies of these countries. More fundamental concern is the fact that that states are not politically willing to address key issues of structural imbalances and hesitate to question neo-liberal development paradigm, which are intensifying poverty in this subcontinent. We have found the following major threats to food security and food sovereignty in the region:-

• Non implementation of states obligations related to RTF and other basic rights and lack of accountability of state actors.

• Poor knowledge of rights among victims and lack of sensitization of state actors about existing rights.

• Failure of the states to address the structural causes of inequality, injustice and discriminations against poor, in particular among vulnerable groups.

• Imposition and mainstreaming of neo-liberal policies which have threatened the livelihoods of the rural poor, mainly small and marginal peasants, agricultural workers, fishers, pastoralists, forest dwellers; by denying their access to natural/common resources and by allowing corporate houses to establish monopoly control over these resources. Failure of the state to implement genuine reforms in agriculture, forestry, and fishery sectors .

• Conversion of agriculture into agribusiness, dominated by few corporate giants, who are introducing GM varieties of crops, forcing peasants to become contract farmers and denying peasants from their rights to preserve seeds &practice their traditional wisdom in agriculture. Corporate agriculture leading to immense loss of bio-diversity.

• Unfair trade policies which expose small farmers to global markets without any state support and destroy their livelihoods, thus forcing them either to leave agriculture or to commit suicides in thousands (like in India).

• Owing to land grabbing, large scale evictions of poor in the name of development, often led by the state in connivance with third party (MNC, TNC, IFIs), marked by state led violence against human rights defenders and absence of adequate and full compensation and rehabilitation to the victims of Development Induced Displacement(DID) and other displaced people as per UN guidelines.

• Nullifying grassroots governance mechanism by bypassing grassroots democratic institutions while deciding about so called development programmes and future directions of the nation.

• Increased militarism and militarization in the region, increased religious and other forms of fundamentalism and the heightened arms race and trade, lack of peace and coordination among people in SAARC countries and very limited interactions between them due to severe state restrictions. This is promoting an environment of mistrust.

• Failure of the state to implement Food security programmes and policies effectively due to administrative limitation, structural corruptions and lack of political will.

• Emerging climate change concerns and lack of consultative process in civil society (with all actors) to face the threat by developing collective strategies, rather imposition of wrong prescriptions to the disease, which is only intensifying the crisis.

• The numbers of youth suffering from poverty in rural & urban areas in South Asian countries are increasing alarmingly. They have very poor access to income opportunities.

• Last but not the least severe gender discrimination exists and women have poor or no access to property, productive resources, control over money and say in decision making inside their households and outside in the society. At the same time a strong emerging trend in South Asia is feminization of agriculture, where women have t take care of production while men migrate to other places in search of supplementary incomes. The increase work burden of women in agriculture however, is not increasing their recognition as or rights within and outside their homes.

In the above backdrop, we call for an immediate change in ongoing growth oriented model of development and we further strongly urge our states to reject neo-liberal prescriptions for ending hunger and poverty. We strongly advocate for Food Sovereignty, a development model which incorporates the right of individuals, communities, peoples and countries to define their own agricultural, labor, fishing, food and land policies, which are ecologically, social, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. Food Sovereignty includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies. Food security is an intrinsic part of food sovereignty but is incomplete without the holistic approach of food sovereignty. We demand the states (national & Global) to:-

• Recognize, realize and legalize Food Sovereignty in the constitutions of all South Asian countries and elsewhere. As an integral part of Food Sovereignty, RTF should be adequately recognized and fully realized as per ICESCR of UN.
• Operationalise Food Sovereignty by implementing genuine agrarian reform, genuine fisheries, forestry and pastoral reforms immediately, to ensure equal access to natural resources for poor, particularly to women and other vulnerable groups, without any discrimination and to end age old structural inequality and exploitations in the rural belt.
• Stop conversion of land from food crop production to production of agro-fuel and other cash crops. In the allocation of land and other resources, priority should be given to domestic food security and people’s food sovereignty, over export oriented commercial farming.

• Immediately stop indiscriminate land grabbing in the name of ‘Development’ (by state or third party) in the rural belt. Stop large scale land grabbing by the state in other countries in the name of ensuring future food security of its people.Stop evictions of all forms and ensure that the existing victims of evictions receive adequate compensation and social, economic and cultural rehabilitation. Oblige the involved third parties in sharing responsibilities where the livelihood loss has already occurred.

• Acknowledge and realize rights of indigenous people, Dalits, minorities and other vulnerable groups to determine their livelihoods and allow their unhindered access to natural resources with immediate effect.

• Fight back corporate monopoly control over food and agriculture, resist agri-business, GMO and other menace and promote household based agro-ecological model of sustainable agriculture, for preserving our biodiversity.

• Protect and promote traditional seeds, knowledge and wisdoms of our peasants and other vulnerable groups, promote pro-people, farmer-led research technologies and research institutions and allocate sufficient budget for this purpose.

• Ensure rights of agricultural workers by implementing adequate wages to live with dignity. Ensure adequate and equal economic and social benefits for all poor workers in the informal sector. Respect right to form trade unions of all workers.

• Ensure market access for the poor and marginalized people, and fair price for their produces and keep WTO out of agriculture.

• Ensure the access of youths to secure future, both in urban and rural areas and improve local sustained employment opportunities for youths and others to reduce migration to cities.

• Protect and promote local industries/small industries through appropriate policy measures and ensure sustained employment for the youths, respect labor rights and say no to any industrial zones where labor rights are not respected.

• Make Food security programme concrete, universal and functional, address corruption and ensure participation of the poor in such programmes to maintain transparency and accountability.

• Ensure nutritional security in the related food security policies etc. and to this end further promote agro-ecological model of production, which is primarily focused on the community’s need and which would be able to take care of the required dietary diversity of our people.

• Ensure strong and vibrant grassroots governance in order to enable poor to decide about their own path of development and livelihoods. This will be the foundation of a strong pro-poor government at the national level.
• Ensure equal rights of women in all spheres, their equal share in properties, equal access to land, water and forest. Immediately stop gender based violations and criminal activities like women are trafficking across borders, which is a very serious issue of concern in South Asia.

• Stop repressing social movements, human rights defenders and respect human rights standards. Condemn militarization which is worsening the condition of poor in our region.

• Ensure unhindered travel within South Asia (visa free). Promote trust and peace at regional level in SA and further promote people to people sharing

• Develop/ rediscover cooperative models/movements for peasant empowerment, access to market, alternative livelihoods (livestock)

• Develop effective multi stakeholder dialogues (involving CS effectively) for common policies on water sharing, climate change market access etc. linked with agriculture

• Make SAARC an effective platform for dialogue (involving CS) and interactions on food sovereignty issue

• Engage in the dialogues of development of emerging international policies, guidelines etc. Effectively analyse the same in our regional context, using lens of food sovereignty and adopt strategies accordingly either to promote or to reject it.

We resolve to launch a campaign against Land Grabbing in South Asia and we would resist all efforts of land grabbing in this sub-region. We further resolve to struggle against all forces that create poverty, conflict and violence. Our governments must fulfill their constitutional obligations to secure peace and social justice. We fully acknowledge the role of social movements in the South Asian countries to promote food sovereignty by creating pressure on state authorities. We demand genuine political will of the state for upholding Food Sovereignty as the peoples’ alternative development for food production, distribution, and for national and international trade and investment policies. We call for end of Hunger and realization of food sovereignty now and we would work towards this end in a responsible and accountable way by building strong networking among NGOs/CSOs and peoples movements in South Asia and world-wide.

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