Human Rights Day: “No land, No life”, Land grabbing is a human rights violation

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PANAP | 10 December 2014

Human Rights Day: “No land, No life”, Land grabbing is a human rights violation

Statement to mark the International Human Rights Day collectively issued by the PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP); Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) of Indonesia, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) of Sri Lanka; Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) of the Philippines; Human Development Organization (HDO) of Sri Lanka; Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) of the Philippines; Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) of India; General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of Ghana; Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI)

As the world marks the International Human Rights Day today, 10 December, we wish to highlight a form of human rights violation that does not get as much attention but nonetheless deeply impacts millions of people around the world, especially in the poor countries. Land grabbing, often accompanied by the grabbing away of resources such as water, represents a worsening threat to the economic, social and cultural rights of countless local communities, including the indigenous peoples. This systemic violation of human rights, including the right to food, right to self-determination of peoples and right to development, must be stopped.

Data from the Land Portal’s Land Matrix show that worldwide land grabbing involves around 36 million hectares, as of March 2014. Most land grabbing deals are concentrated in Africa and the Asia Pacific region, accounting for about 41% and 38%, respectively of about 942 land deals monitored by the Land Matrix. Within Asia Pacific, land deals are heavily concentrated in Southeast Asia, comprising 83% of the regional total and 32% of the global total. Estimates on the extent of land grabbing vary widely but it could not be denied that it is a daily reality confronting rural and indigenous communities.

In many cases, large-scale land investments for export-oriented plantations, logging, mining, biofuel production and power production among others result to the eviction of small food producers and indigenous peoples, many of whom are without formal security of tenure despite tilling, enriching and occupying the land for decades. National and local governments often negotiate with foreign and domestic investors behind close doors and in patent disregard for the participation of local communities that will be impacted by such investments, including their access to land and productive resources. These investments are also made and promoted without due consideration to the actual development needs of affected local communities that lead to their further marginalization and oppression.

Worse, the human rights violations against the people even go beyond the actual land grabbing and also involve atrocities that blatantly attack the political and civil rights of those who challenge these land-grabbing deals and investments. There are numerous cases and many of them remain undocumented and unreported, and most are unresolved due to the involvement of state security forces themselves as well as private armed groups hired by the companies. This has been the case in the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and many others where anti-land grabbing activists, local community leaders, and their supporters face human rights atrocities ranging from extrajudicial killings, abduction, legal persecution and harassment, among others. Impunity reigns in many rural communities that have been heavily militarized to protect corporate investments.

We call on governments and private corporations to respect and implement existing human rights principles enshrined in national laws and international instruments, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. We demand that the right to free, prior and informed consent of communities be upheld before any land investments are made. We demand to respect the customary rights of the people who do not have legal ownership of the land and water bodies. We demand the demilitarization of rural communities and the prosecution of all those who have committed human rights atrocities against people who are justly defending their legitimate right to land and resources. We demand the implementation of genuine agrarian reform to promote the rights and welfare of small food producers and to promote long-term rural and economic development that serves the interests of the people and not the just the elite few.

We welcome recent developments that aim to provide people an opportunity to make corporations that violate their human rights accountable. In particular, we take note of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) resolution this year calling for the establishment of “an open-ended intergovernmental working group on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights”. Amid continuing trends of free trade and investment agreements that allow TNCs to sue governments, the UNHRC resolution is positive move towards regulating TNCs and their activities in the context of human rights.

We emphasize, however, that the best prospects for the promotion of human rights, including the right to land and resources, lie not in any legal instrument but in the relentless struggle of the affected communities to defend their human rights. Thus, working with those directly affected and violated, we vow to continue the fight to oppose land grabbing and defend the human rights of rural and indigenous communities.

Land is life for these communities, and depriving them of land and resources is depriving them of their basic human right to live. Fight for land, fight for life! ###
Original source: PANAP
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