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FOCUS December 2007 Volume 50

Peasants and their Human Rights


Peasants/subsistence farmers comprise one of the most marginalized sections of society.

Though their plight has long been recognized, their situation has largely remained unchanged. Their poverty has not been addressed and their human rights hardly respected. They do not only suffer from poverty, they also get harassed, arrested, or worse killed in trying to get out of it.

Measures designed to address their situation seem to be failing. Agrarian reform programs have not improved their situation. Private corporations are preferred over them on the use of land. Support services including infrastructures such as irrigation systems and farm-to-market roads do not reach their areas.

Government administrative and judicial processes are too slow and too late in bringing relief to their suffering. National economic policies tend to go against their interests. And so on ...

Governments have to be reminded of the state obligation to "...undertake steps ...especially economic and technical, to the maximum of [their] available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of ...[the human] rights..." of the peasants. Programs that helped the peasants (such as the agrarian reform experience in Japan immediately after the second world war ended) show that government resolve is essential to make things work.

Peasants/subsistence farmers are capable of improving their own situation if only the systems in society are not against them.