During the last week of September 2015, the Human Rights Council discussed a resolution to extend for three years the mandate of the Open-Ended Working Working Group on a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. On October 1 the Council approved this measure by a vote of 31 to 1, with 15 abstentions. The United States cast the only negative vote and the European Union countries abstained. Several civil society organizations that had not previously expressed support, including the International Association of Schools of Social Work and Franciscans International, hailed the Declaration as an opportunity to reverse longstanding and persistent discrimination against peasants and other rural people.
The second session of the Open-Ended Working Group on a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas convened from February 2 to 6, 2015, in the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Working Group heard presentations from a wide range of human rights specialists, peasant and farmer activists, social movements and civil society organizations while member states debated the most recent draft text of the Declaration.
In November 2014, Edelman participated in a Training on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas and a Conference on the Right to Food and Conflicts over Land Use, both at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. He also attended informal consultations with UN member states on the draft Peasants’ Rights Declaration and several forums with representatives of peasants’ and artisanal fishers’ organizations that hope to provide input for the next draft of the Declaration.
Edelman attended the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014. He reported in a blog post, "Dispatch from Geneva: A Treaty on Transnational Corporations? A Declaration on Peasants' Rights?"
On April 8-9, 2014, Edelman was an invited panelist at the Expert Seminar on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, which was held at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.
Edelman presented an invited plenary paper, "Defining 'Peasant' at the United Nations Human Rights Council," at the International Conference on Agrarian Transitions in India, Pondicherry University, India, January 29-30, 2014.
On January 14, 2014, Edelman took part in the North American Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) consultation on the zero draft principles of "responsible agricultural investment" (RAI) developed by the FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The RAI principles are intended to provide guidelines for investors and to control the worst excesses of the recent wave of global land grabbing. The consultation, held at the State Department in Washington with a video link to a parallel meeting in Ottawa, included NGOs, farmworker organizations, and faith-based groups, as well as representatives of the US government, international financial institutions and corporations involved in agriculture. In 2010 civil society participants in the CFS rejected the World Bank-initiated "principles of responsible agricultural investment" (PRAI). The current RAI "zero draft" will be revised on the basis of consultations in different world regions and a new draft will be negotiated in April and May. A stronger RAI draft will be considered for adoption by the full CFS in October 2014.
Together with Carlos Oya (SOAS, University of London) and Saturnino Borras, Jr. (Institute of Social Studies, The Hague) Edelman guest edited a special issue of the journal Third World Quarterly on "Global Land Grabs," which was published in November 2013.
Edelman helped to organize and then moderated a November 12, 2013, panel discussion at Hunter College's Roosevelt House on "The Right to Food, Global and Local." Panelists included Christophe Golay (Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights), Smita Narula (NYU School of Law), Kaitlin Cordes (Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment), and Joel Berg (NYC Coalition Against Hunter).
In September 2013 Edelman presented a plenary paper on "Food Sovereignty: Forgotten Genealogies and Future Regulatory Challenges" at the International Conference on Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue, held at Yale University. He gave the same paper in the Anthropology Colloquium at the CUNY Graduate Center in November and in the second part of the Food Sovereignty Conference in The Hague in January 2014. For a video of that lecture, click here. For the published version of the paper, click here.
Edelman addressed the UN Human Rights Council's Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, which held its first session in Geneva on July 15-19, 2013. At the request of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, he presented a briefing paper on the question of how to define "peasants," since the first article of most international human rights instruments is used to define the rights holders. The Working Group heard from panelists who included past and present UN special rapporteurs, academic specialists on agrarian studies, and representatives of civil society organizations, including transnational movements of peasants and fisherfolk. Edelman's paper and other information on the session are available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RuralAreas/Pages/FirstSession.aspx
In June 2013 Edelman was an observer at the Sixth International Conference of La Via Campesina in Jakarta, Indonesia. La Via Campesina has been the main force pushing in the United Nations for a new international instrument on the rights of peasants. The event was attended by some 500 delegates from 76 countries.
The post-2007 wave of large-scale land acquisitions-often called "land grabbing"-is one of the most significant rights issues facing small-scale agriculturalists. In October 2012 Edelman spoke at the International Conference on Global Land Grabbing held at Cornell University. For a video of his presentation at the plenary roundtable on "Identifying, Counting and Understanding Land Grabs," click here. A revised version of his presentation was published as an article in 2013.
On September 27, 2012, the UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution to establish an intergovernmental working group to finalize a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. Edelman published a brief article on this important development on OpenDemocracy.Net.
The Bajo Aguán region of Honduras is currently the site of the most acute agrarian conflict in Central America in the past fifteen years (for background see the 2011 Report of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the 2011 Report of the International Verification Mission on the Bajo Aguán). In May 2012, Marc Edelman was invited to two linked events, both held in Tocoa, Colón, Honduras: (1) an International Public Hearing on the Human Rights Situation of the Peasant Communities in the Bajo Aguán; and (2) an International Seminar on the Human Rights Situation of the Peasant Communities in the Bajo Aguán. He was part of the “presiding committee” of the Public Hearing, presented a paper in the International Seminar on peasants’ rights and the United Nations (titled “Los derechos de los y las campesinas en las Naciones Unidas”), and participated in drafting and translating the final report of the Public Hearing (in English, en español). For a video on the Hearing, click here
In March 2012 Edelman returned to Geneva for the 19th session of the Human Rights Council which, among other things, began to discuss the Advisory Committee's Final Study mentioned above. Consideration of a resolution to adopt the Final Study and to recommend it to the General Assembly for further consideration was postponed until the next Council session in June 2012. He also visited farms near Geneva and met with members of UNITERRE, a Swiss agriculturalists organization affiliated with La Vía Campesina. On left, Africa Mthombeni (Landless Peoples Movement, South Africa) and Henry Saragih (Indonesian Peasants Union and General Coordinator of La Vía Campesina) at the United Nations, Geneva.
In February 2012 Edelman attended meetings of the Advisory Committee to the UN Human Rights Council. While in Geneva he also spoke with country delegates, international lawyers, human rights and peasant activists, and Advisory Committee members. The Advisory Committee recommended that its Final Study on the Advancement of the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (A/HRC/19/75) be considered by the full Human Rights Council. The Study's main recommendations include the adoption of a new international instrument (a declaration or convention) on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas and the creation of a new mandate for a special rapporteur or an independent expert responsible for monitoring and working to fulfill such rights.
On December 8, 2011, Edelman gave a lecture on "Linking the Right to Food to Peasants' Rights: Vía Campesina's Campaign in the United Nations" in the Seminar on Critical Issues in Agrarian and Development Studies, College of Humanities and Development Studies, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China. While at CAU he also met with undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers and led discussions on research methods in development studies and the how-to of publishing in international journals.
On December 1, 2011, Edelman and CUNY doctoral candidate Carwil Bjork-James spoke on peasants' rights in the Columbia Law School seminar on "The Legal and Political Economy of Hunger" run by Prof. Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
In November 2011 Edelman presented a paper on "Linking the Right to Food and Peasants' Rights," in an invited session on "Ethnographic Approaches to Food Activism: Agency, Democracy, and Economy" at the American Anthropological Association convention in Montreal. At the same conference he was also a discussant for a session on "Thinking Through NGOs: How NGO Studies Contribute to Anthropological Theory."
In October 2011 Edelman traveled to Indonesia, where he interviewed peasant organization and human rights activists and government officials about the origins of Vía Campesina's effort to have the United Nations implement a convention on the rights of peasants. He also spoke on "Experiences with FTAs in the Americas" at a National Meeting on Free Trade Agreements in Indonesia, which generated prominent (if not entirely accurate) coverage in one of Jakarta's main newspapers.
In March 2011, Marc Edelman attended the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where he met with peasant activists from Europe, Asia and the Americas, country delegates, Swiss farmers, and human rights activists. He also traveled to Heidelberg, where he interviewed right-to-food activists and collected documentation at the Food First Information and Action Network.
On December 6, 2010, Edelman hosted Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food in a seminar at Hunter College's Roosevelt House.