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Call for April 17: International Day of Peasant Struggle

posted Mar 4, 2012, 8:35 PM by Dianne James

(Jakarta, 2 March 2012) April 17 is the International Day of Peasant Struggle, commemorating the massacre of 19 peasants struggling for land and justice in Brazil in 1996. Every year on that day actions take place around the world in defence of peasants and small-scale farmers struggling for their rights.

In recent years, we have suffered from the implementation of new policies and of a new development model based on land expansion and land expropriation, commonly known as land grabbing. Land grabbing is a global phenomenon led by local, national and transnational elites and investors, with the participation of governments and local authorities, in order to control the world's most precious resources.

Land grabbing has resulted in the concentration of the ownership of land and natural resources in the hands of large-scale investors, plantation owners, logging, hydro-power and mining companies, tourism and real estates developers, port and infrastructures authorities, and so forth. This has led to the eviction and displacement of the local populations - usually farmers -, the violation of human rights and women rights, increased poverty, social fracture and environmental pollution. Land grabbing goes beyond traditional North-South imperialist structures: the involved transnational corporations are based in the United States, Europe, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea, among others.

Financial institutions such as private banks, pension and other investment funds have become powerful actors in land grabbing, while wars continue to be waged to seize control of natural wealth. The World Bank and regional development banks are facilitating land and water grabs by promoting corporate-friendly policies and laws, providing capital and guarantees for corporate investors, and fostering an extractive, destructive economic development model. Meanwhile the World Bank and some other institutions have proposed seven principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) that are supposed to prevent abuses but in fact legitimize farmland grabbing by corporate and state investors. La Via Campesina and key allies have protested against this initiative for the past two years.

Land grabbing is a global phenomenon based on the corporate domination of agriculture through control over land, water, seeds and other resources. It is justified by many governments and policy think tanks through claims that agribusiness will modernize backward agricultural practices and guarantee food security for all. However widespread those claims may be, they have been shown to be entirely false in the real world.