Opening statement by Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Comissioner OHCHR
These past five years of negotiations, has been a steady journey from what was once a divergence, to now a closer convergence, of views. For this progress, we owe a debt of gratitude to member states – and to civil society, academia, the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council and to others in the UN human rights system including to staff of our Office.
But throughout the process, and as we see here today, active participation of representatives of civil society and, critically, of affected rights holders themselves has been crucial – a proper practical manifestation of a principle proposed to be upheld by the declaration – the principle that people must be empowered to actively participate in decisions directly affecting them.
The drafting before you has been built on existing international standards relevant to the rights of peasants and people working in rural areas, including FAO Principles and several of their Voluntary Guidelines1. And, after five years of diligent effort, the finishing line is now in sight.
There must now be finalised - and with some sense of urgency – a robust focused declaration that can enable Member States to better address the gap in protection for more than a billion people -- peasants, rural workers, small farmers, fishers and herders, and others of their communities.
To be clear, today, peasants and others working in rural areas have insufficient recourse in the face of the discrimination they suffer and the other challenges they confront when seeking an adequate standard of living, when subjected to forced displacement and marginalization:
If social and legal arrangements work against the interests of peasants, economic arrangements compound disadvantage at local, national and even global levels:
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can help. It promises an integrated agenda if delivery for people, peace, prosperity and for the planet. But if its delivery is not grounded in international human rights law, standards, principles and norms that are enshrined in the SDGs, the benefits of implementation will not flow to all.
Excellencies, “trickle down” rapidly becomes fade away. By the time trickle down reaches the poorest, fade away has become take more away. Reliance on trickle down approaches, in the era of the MDGs, saw the poorest becomes poorer, as the rich became richer.
70 years ago, the international community made a promise. A promise to uphold – without exception - the core humanising ideal on which today’s international community is founded – that born we all are equal in dignity and rights.
The UDHR – which has been affirmed repeatedly in major legal and normative instruments including in the Declaration on the Right to Development – makes clear that those are not optional promises; they are not ideological; not to be exercised at the discretion of power but rather as the obligations of power. Promises that no one is to be left behind by discrimination nor poverty; or left out through marginalization; or forgotten because their truths are inconvenient to the privileged.
Yet, those universal promises have not been upheld. Peasants and other people working in rural areas have been left behind. The only way to bring them in, is to stop leaving them out!
And, that is indeed the purpose of the text of the declaration on which together you will be working this week.
You may be assured that as you do so, you have the full support of the HC and his Office. And to that end, we wish you a most successful debate.
1. For background info some of these are: Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment; Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries; Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. However, we would suggest not mentioning them which would empty the need for a draft declaration.
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