UN General Assembly adopts Declaration on Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas

On 18 December 2018, United Nations General Assembly adopted the landmark “Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas”. The Declaration aims to protect the rights of rural workers, including fishermen, nomads, indigenous peoples, pastoralists and other agricultural workers, such as peasants, which are defined in the declaration as “any person who engages in small-scale agricultural production.

Non-Aligned Movement has played a pivotal part in the adoption of this landmark Declaration. At the 2018 NAM Ministerial Conference held in Baku, NAM had invited all States to continue the discussion, debate and negotiation on the proposed United Nations Declaration, for they recognize that rural communities play an important role in economic, social and environmental development. It was due to the efforts of NAM that UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas was adopted during the 39th Session of UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in September 2018.

The Declaration recognises the contribution of peasants and other working in rural areas in all regions of the world to development and to conserving and improving biodiversity, which constitutes the basis of food and agricultural production throughout the world, and their contribution in ensuring the right to adequate food and food security, which are fundamental to attaining the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Declaration defines peasant as any person who engages or who seeks to engage alone, or in association with others or as a community, in small-scale agricultural production for subsistence and/or for the market, and who relies significantly, though not necessarily exclusively, on family or household labour and other non-monetized ways of organizing labour, and who has a special dependency on and attachment to the land. The Declaration also applies to indigenous people working on the land and also to hired migrant workers. The Declaration calls on States to protect and fulfil the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas and take legislative, administrative and other appropriate steps to realise the same. While drafting such legislation, the States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with peasants and other people working in rural areas through their own representative institutions, engaging with and seeking the support of peasants and other people working in rural areas who could be affected by such policy decisions.

The Declaration recognises the human rights of the peasants and other people working in the rural areas. It states that peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all other international human rights instruments, free from any kind of discrimination in the exercise of their rights based on any grounds such as origin, nationality, race, colour, descent, sex, language, culture, marital status, property, disability, age, political or other opinion, religion, birth or economic, social or other status. The Declaration entails a gender dimension too and calls on States to take appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against peasant women and other women working in rural areas and to promote their empowerment in order to ensure, on the basis of equality between men and women, that they fully and equally enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms and that they are able to freely pursue, participate in and benefit from rural economic, social, political and cultural development.

Thus, the text of the Declaration is significant as it recognises the hardships and challenges faced by peasants and rural workers. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet highlights the significance of the Declaration in the following remarks: “I hope this Declaration will serve to enhance States’ commitment at all levels to uphold and protect the rights and dignity of peasants and other people working in rural areas. They play a critical role in preserving our culture, environment, livelihood and traditions, and must not be left behind as we implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

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