Nyeleni newsletter - Now is the time for food sovereignty!
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. (…) Declaration of Nyeleni.
Newsletter no 29 - Voices from the field
Voices from the field
Solidarity between movements
These past four years in Europe, we’ve built a real movement against the transatlantic free trade treaties.
Far from being limited to a few NGOs, this fight has brought together both local and international social movements, syndicates, peasants and activists from all horizons and sectors. From Bulgaria to Finland, the campaigns against the EU-US agreement and the EU-Canada agreement reinforce the solidarity between movements that are usually far-removed from one another.
The election of Donald Trump to lead the US, and his first measures bringing racism, discrimination, attacks against the rights of women and the re-questioning of certain free-exchange agreements is a boon for those who wish to discredit our movements.
The ratification of CETA is now presented by the partisans of the agreement as a political act against Trump, and a signal that Europe and Canada are now at the forefront of a free and open world, two defences against the madness of the new American president.
This is a scam. The free trade treaties bring increasing inequalities, productivism, extractivism, create new rights for the multinationals and make some of the solutions to social and climate crises illegal. They are not the antidote to the extreme right, but create all the conditions to make them prosper.
Our struggle for an alternative economic model
The Economic Partnership Accords (EPA) make the Senegalese population fear for the worst, as the great European capitals will crush our small peasant initiatives and small businesses. These accords will reinforce the international division of labour which makes our ’underdeveloped’ countries into consumers of goods coming from other countries, which in this neocolonial system play the role of producers.
It is regrettable that in Senegal, the fight against the EPA has become very complicated. Previously, some heads of business led the struggle, but now, for fear of reprisals, none will raise their voice. There are still, however, activists, politicians and trade unionists who organise the mobilisation against the EPA. And in spite of the very difficult context in which they work, we have noticed that there are a lot of people who wish to be informed. A number of intellectuals and political figures have signed the petitions against the accords and more and more citizens, in towns as well as in cities, have asked that conferences about the EPA be organised, in order to better understand them and to organise against them. Through our struggle, we put forward an alternative economic model, based on inter-dependence and solidarity, opposed to the EPA and its free-market values of competitiveness and competition.
The struggle goes on
In Latin America there are many free trade agreements which have been in force for more than twenty years. Vast experience has also been gained in fighting against liberalization and in building integration with alternative projects. Perhaps the strongest moment in the struggle was the Continental Campaign against the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), which involved a popular consultation in Argentina against the FTAA in 2003, and the Peoples’ Summit in Mar del Plata in 2005, which ended the FTAA.
Stopping the FTAA did not mean the end of liberalization. In other ways, with other names, we have seen the expansion of corporate privileges. Several powers are advancing in the regional agenda of free trade : the Trans Pacific Treaty (TPP) has been very evident, bringing together twelve countries in the basin.
The European Union, China and South-East Asian countries like South Korea aim to conquer the natural resources of the Americas. There are campaigns to denounce these negotiations which take place behind the backs of the people. In Argentina, the assembly "Argentina - better without Free Trade Agreements", which coordinates social movements, trade unions, politicians and environmentalists, works in this direction.
Our experience against the FTAA was essential and today we renew the struggle to curb the corporate agenda and give precedence and priority to human and environmental rights.
The TPP is dead : The terrain of struggle has shifted
Donald Trump killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was already moribund, thanks to the unrelenting opposition from popular movements. The bilateral approach preferred by the Trump administration is nothing new.
Having seized control of pretty much every economy on earth, protectionism — under new corporately-drawn boundaries — is going to be much more important for the monopolies controlling our energy and food systems than rampant free trade. In this move, Trump is only sealing the first deal in a trend that will further strengthen the power of corporations.
We should worry tha right-wing populists, with deep rhetorical roots, grounded in white supremacy and xenophobia, have captured the anti-globalization banner. They are not our allies. Neither are the neoliberal “progressives” who took the world down the free trade rabbit hole.
Trump’s presidency reflects a crisis in capitalism’s political model, signifying a coming shift in corporate strategies for dispossession and accumulation. For popular movements, the terrain of struggle is moving from global to local in new and important ways. This new moment is still unfolding. Now, more than ever, it is essential to raise up food sovereignty’s principles : social justice, solidarity, pluralism, and the right to determine our own food systems.
A State struggles against FTA’s
Farmers in Kerala, a state in India, face yet another an onslaught from a trade pact, this time the RCEP (a regional partnership auguring well for the lobbies that matter, but which is recognised as a death-knell for the local farmers).
The Indo-ASEAN trade pact was forced onto them by the Government of India and the farmers and even the State Government protested against it in 2009. The farmers’ organisations and the civil society warned about the fallout from the deal. Tariff barriers were removed or reduced from tea, coffee, edible oil, pepper, rubber, copra, coconut, coir, cashew, cardamom, and coconut oil, the main farm produce of Kerala, putting in danger the livelihood of the large majority of local peasants.
People responded with a mammoth human chain right across the state against the Central Government’s decision. The State Government of Kerala supported this, in what became a federal-state conflict. Hundreds of thousands of people joined to hold hands in probably the largest human chain protest ever. But the Central Government, with doctor Manmohan Singh, a staunch promoter of global trade pacts and liberalisation as PM, tricked us : he pacified a delegation from the State, promising that the trade pact would not be signed without taking the stakeholders in Kerala into confidence, but he simply went and signed the agreement. Farmers across other states (including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and many north eastern states) have also suffered the impact of the Indo-ASEAN agreement, but little has been done to compensate them for their losses. No assessment was ever done before signing the FTA to predict its impacts, nor to mitigate its effects afterwards.
Learning from this lesson, the farmers of Kerala and civil society groups are now once again leading a lone fight against the newly proposed RCEP. The State Government, reacting to the issue, has already written twice to the Central Government demanding a transparent discussion with all stakeholders, before proceeding with the RCEP negotiations and has spelt out the possible impacts.
We are opposed to the RCEP and other FTAs being signed directly with various ASEAN nations. India is going through a miserable period, and no government with a sense of responsibility to its massive farming population would push a nation to another negative benefit pact such as the RCEP.
The farmers in Kerala have protested, but many farmers in other states are also suffering, or dying out in the crisis. State governments are being asked to address farmer debts and suicides through loan-waivers. But this cannot be the way forward. It is high time the governments realise that protecting their farmers from the market pressures and global trade is a fundamental duty, and should not be compromised at the altar of increasing trade demands.