DECLARATION OF THE VIA CAMPESINA’S FOURTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE - 19TH JUNE 2004
June 14-19, 2004, Itaici, São Paulo
We, members of Via Campesina, a world-wide organization of rural women, peasants, small farmers, rural workers, indigenous people and afro-descendants, from Asia, Europe, America and Africa, met in Itaici, Brazil, from 14-19 June 2004, for our 4th International Conference. We were welcomed warmly, fraternally and in a combative spirit by our hosts, the member organizations of Via Campesina in Brazil.
We gathered to confirm our determination to defend our cultures and our right to continue living as peasants and peoples with our own identity. We had the participation of 210 delegates from 76 countries, representing millions of peasant families. We also had the joy of convening the Second Via Campesina Women’s World Assembly and the First Via Campesina Youth World Assembly, which emphasized our commitment to continue our struggle in future generations. More than 40 peasant organizations joined Via Campesina during this conference as well as members of more than 80 civil society organizations which the Via Campesina recognizes as friends.
The Fourth International Conference reviewed our history, from our initial intention to organize ourselves, up to the present. From the beginning it was clear that we positioned ourselves in radical opposition to the neo-liberal model that kills and destroys cultures, peoples, and peasant families throughout the world. We have witnessed the growth and strengthening of our organizations and movements which successfully put the peasant movement at the core of peoples’ struggles. In Cancun, the Vía Campesina was a key protagonist in the peoples’ mobilizations. A week of continuous protests and the sacrifice of Comrade Lee Kyoung -Hae — who offered his life to the peasants of the world to keep alive the struggle and the absolute rejection of the WTO — provoked the greatest defeat on the WTO to date.
Through our struggles and the strengthening of our movement, we have seen how the economic model under which we are suffering continues to be unscrupulously imposed. Since our last conference, we note that :
The number of peasant families continues to decline at an alarming rate. With each minute that passes, agricultural policies and the agro-industrial model cause the disappearance of one family farm in the newly expanded European Union. The situation is equally dramatic in Canada and the United States. Massive and forced displacements of people, and overt and covert wars, are also causes of the disappearance of peasants in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. In some regions the increase in peasants’ suicides is a growing tragedy.
The number of forced migrations has increased dramatically as a result of war, misery, the concentration of land ownership and the destruction of peasant families.
United Nations agencies, such as UNCTAD and FAO, have joined the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO, in their role as guardians of capital.
The number of Free Trade Agreements has increased. Together with other international agreements, these have imposed legal changes that have destroyed basic principles used to protect human and social rights and which serve to create the conditions in which transnational companies can maximize their profits.
It is extremely alarming that the systematic violations of human rights have increased, that the war against the peoples of the world has been legalized, and that protest and social mobilization have been criminalized and how attempts are made to criminalize the lives of peasants and indigenous peoples. We have also seen the increasing use of preemptive repression.
Women and youth continue to be the most marginalized of all, and they are increasingly subjected to criminal violence. They are also the main victims of the privatization of basic services, the concentration of land ownership, and the destruction of local markets and local forms of food and agriculture as well as the exploitation and slave labour imposed by the transnationals.
We reaffirm that the permanent existence of peasant agriculture is fundamental for the elimination of poverty, hunger, unemployment and marginalisation. We believe that peasant agriculture is the cornerstone of food sovereignty, and that food sovereignty is essential for peasant agriculture to exist. There will be no autonomy nor peasant agriculture if we do not posses our own seeds.
We will give special priority to the right of peasants throughout the world to demand government policies that promote sustainable peasant agriculture. We will continue our struggle for genuine Agrarian Reform, the defence of our seeds, and food sovereignty.
We totally oppose GMOs and we will fight it everywhere. We once again express our total opposition to genetically modified crops. We denounce and reject the recent FAO report "Biotechnology, addressing the needs of the poor?". This report only seeks to legitimize the imposition of genetically modified crops and the use of the technology of death — "terminator" or sterile seeds — with the single goal of ensuring the profits of transnational companies in the agricultural sector.
We reaffirm our complete opposition of neoliberalism and the policies of the WTO, IMF and World Bank. We totally reject their most important recent instrument - bilateral free trade agreements. We reject the use of embargoes as a political and economic tool, and we are committed to building peace in all countries.
We are equally committed to the struggle against the patriarchal system that only accentuates the aberrations of capitalism. Within Via Campesina, we will work hard to ensure that the numerical gender parity that we have reached is translated into real changes in the power relations between by men and women in our movement. In addition, we are now committed to advance the struggle for the Human Rights of Peasants. Together with our peasant organisations, we will draft an International Peasants’ Rights Charter.
Another new commitment is to fight against the causes of migration and their destructive effects. We will demand an improvement in and strict compliance with the ILO conventions on agricultural workers. We will continue our efforts in the area of political education at all levels.
We call on social movements to join us in the immediate actions decided by the Conference. We will carry out a Week of Struggle Against the WTO and Transnationals between 19-24 July. We have declared September 10th as the International Day of Struggle Against the WTO. This year we are committed to mobilize in the streets, especially in Seoul, to pay homage to Comrade Lee in a day of mobilization for food sovereignty. We will organize a series of coordinated actions on November 25th, the international day against violence against women. We will hold our conference on Agrarian Reform from the 4-8 December, 2004. We call on the social organizations to remain mobilized to impede the ministerial meeting of the WTO in Hong Kong in June of 2005.
All of the participants of the Fourth International Conference of the Vía Campesina are committed to continue struggling for the well-being and the dignity of our peoples. We will link all the struggles and movements from the global to the local, and create new forms of alliances that will strengthen us to demand the respect and protection of our rights and our cultures.