The international mobilization conference on “The Right to Land and Livelihood” took place at the International Conference Centre, Geneva, on 12 and 13 September 2011. It brought together more than 30 speakers and 120 participants over two days. The organisers take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers, partners, speakers and participants for the contributions they made – it was a wonderful collective effort.
The main objectives1 of the conference were to:
- examine the impact of globalization on rural areas;
- support and develop strategies for non-violent change;
- promote land rights and community control of resources;
- promote the empowerment of women; and
- raise awareness about and gain support for Jan Satyagraha – the March of Justice – 2012.
The conference gave rise toa rich discussion and gathered fruitful exchanges among a diverse but committed gathering of people from political, academic, community and business backgrounds. The participants agreed to network through a range of follow-up activities in India and a number of countries in Europe, Africa and Latin America.
This conference was based on a global approach to design common answers. It has been the aim of the conference organisers to respect the diversity of representatives, and to invite a constructive network of people, all concerned by the issue of land rights. UN2 representatives such as Olivier de Schutter and Manuel Montes interacted with leaders of social movements such as Salete Maria Carollo from the landless workers’ movement of Brazil (MST3), they shared views with Flavio Valente from the Food Information Action Network (FIAN), and Madiodio Niasse from the International Land Coalition (ILC). Rajagopal from Ekta Parishad gave focus to the global network forces around land and food issues, to hear the voices of NGOs, governments, private enterprises and civil initiatives about the way they act. Despite the fact that we would have wanted a more adequate representation from the global south, this conference has achieved its goal of gathering diverse and essential speakers of all levels of responsibilities to exchange and commit on the global land agenda, focusing especially on Jan Satyagraha4 – March for Justice 2012, and the preparatory mobilization, Samwad Yatra, starting a year earlier on 2 October 2011.
Key points made by speakers and participants included:
- Human beings and their fundamental rights are at the centre of our concern.
- Human beings have an economic, social, cultural and spiritual relationship to land.
- The value of the relationship to land, water, forest and air is not negotiable.
- The role of women is central to our agenda requiring specific priority actions to promote women’s rights and protect their relationship to the land.
- Solidarity is a principle as well as the way we should work in practice: this includes concentrating on the common points of principle in our struggle rather than the differences.
- Around the world, people who have been marginalized are claiming their rights through social movements which are characterized by democratic decision-making, non-violence and a long-term vision.
- While focus is important we also need to recognize the diversity of rural workers, from family farmers on smallholdings to plantation employees.
- The transformative agenda that is needed is not short term but a generational struggle. Let us build on what has been achieved by our foremothers and fathers and proclaim the right of everyone to a decent standard of living.
A full report of the conference will be available shortly on the website of Ekta Europe. It will set out the agreed next steps to ensure follow-up action. The commitments taken will be followed up and come to express the change we all want to see happening in terms of land reforms.
As the land rights and food security issues gain increasing attention, it is more important than ever to keep the pressure on, and strengthen it even as much as possible, on international institutions and national policy-makers. One example is the need to advocate with and monitor the Land Reform Council that is in the process of being set up in India. All relevant actions being taken at national and international levels need our vigilance and the one that has been set up in India and is to happen next week, proves that it is more than ever the time to be present by expressing international solidarity ad showing interest to all the local initiatives on land. An important step in the struggle is to ensure that all possible support is given to the Jan Satyagraha – March for Justice 2012, in terms of solidarity actions across the globe as well as press coverage, logistics and financial support.
With grateful regards, in solidarity, Jaï Jagat5!
The organizing committee of the conference.