The transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina is known for having successfully mobilized a human rights discourse in its struggle against capitalism and neoliberalism in agriculture. As La Via Campesina celebrates its 20th anniversary, this paper describes the various ways in which the movement has used human rights to frame its demands. It explores the advantages and limitations of the human rights framework, and discusses how the movement has tried to overcome the constraints attached to human rights. It suggests that La Via Campesina has not limited itself to claiming existing and codified rights, but has created new human rights, such as the right of peoples to food sovereignty and the rights of peasants. This contribution assesses current and past efforts to achieve the international recognition of new human rights for peasants at the international level.
Researcher in Social and Political Sciences, University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium. Priscilla Claeys recently completed her PhD dissertation on the use of human rights by the agrarian movement La Via Campesina. Her research interests include peasant movements, food and agriculture, human rights, and economic globalization. She is an Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, since 2008. Prior to becoming an academic, she worked for a number of human rights organizations and development NGOs. She teaches two online courses on the right to food at the Open University of Catalunya (UOC), in partnership with the FAO.
Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue, 14 - 15 September, New Haven.