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Governments Renew Commitment to Implement Farmers’ Rights!

Last week, the Governing Body of the International Seed Treaty (IT PGRFA) met for the fifth time (GB5) in the exclusive, chilled environment of the Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman. The results were promising, however, and Civil Society and Farmers’ Organisations helped stimulate commitment to essential changes in how the Treaty operates.

Attached is a brief report (GB5-CSOreflection_PatrickMulvany.pdf) including the near final text of the Farmers’ Rights resolution; also our Civil Society statements at the opening and closing sessions, presented by NGOs from Asia, Iran and by Via Campesina.

The degree of unanimity of the African, Asian and Latin American blocs, with significant support from some European countries, and with united advocacy from farmers ‘organisations and CSOs present, all contributed to better outcomes than some had predicted.

These outcomes included:

·         a good resolution on Farmers’ Rights (FRs), which renewed the commitment of governments to implement Farmers’ Rights

·         a coded call to UPOV and WIPO to report on their impacts on Farmers’ Rights
·         warm acceptance of the offer by a Farmers’ Organisations to produce a report for GB6 on the state of implementation of Farmers’ Rights
·         actions designed to improve the sustainable use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, linked to commitments to realise Farmers’ Rights
·         commitments to review and change the multi-lateral Access and Benefit Sharing mechanism (MLS), to prevent pillaging of the System by patents on native traits
·         significant new voluntary financial contributions from Norway for the Global Crop Diversity Trust and for the benefit sharing fund to support on-farm conservation
·         acceptance of the distinction between NGOs and Farmers’ Organisations and the need to include us, especially representatives of farmers’ social movements, in negotiations
·         a request to the Secretary to report on relevant discussions that relate to Farmers’ Rights within other UN fora including the Committee on World Food Security .
African, Asian and Latin American regions were the most united on Farmers’ Rights that they have been since 1998/9 at the height of the negotiations on the Farmers’ Rights article (Article 9). This solidarity forced through a good resolution on Farmers’ Rights which commits governments, with the engagement of farmers’ organisations and CSOs: to develop national action plans; review and adjust laws that will allow farmers to save, use, exchange and sell seeds; and improve access to genetic resources.

As we said in our Final Statement:

Our Treaty should be at the heart of securing future food through establishing effective governance of PGRFA that will enable farmers to continue to conserve, develop and sustainably use a wide range of crop biodiversity on-farm, at a time of increasing social, economic, environmental and political threats. The Treaty will be judged on whether it can stop the losses and improve access to existing PGRFA which have been developed by small-scale farmers in situ and on-farm.

The Treaty must change in direction and process if it is to realise its objectives. And to do so it must provide facilitated inclusion of the organisations and social movements of biodiversity-conserving farmers, and support CSOs, in the deliberations and work of the Treaty.
The Treaty has the responsibility to ensure support for small-scale farmers in their task; the Treaty’s future depends on this. We urge the GB to assume this responsibility; we look forward to collaborating with the Secretariat and Bureau, inter-sessionally, and to purposeful mutual engagement in the next Governing Body meeting.

CSOs and farmers organisations, will continue, in the face of many challenges, to take our responsibilities: we will resist, we will organise and we will transform the seed and food system so that our Farmers’ Rights and food sovereignty are realised.

In addition to the main lobbying activities, the IPC presented a Side Event on Friday 27 September. The title of the event was Farmers’ Rights to their seeds and knowledge: a challenge for global governance of the ‘sustainable’ use of PGRFA. The presentations by CENESTA and MPA at the IPC Side Event are available. CSOs were also involved in many other Side Events including one celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), at which Patrick Mulvany presented a CSO perspective on the work of the Commission including its preparation of the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, an assessment, using the ecosystem approach, of all agricultural biodiversity. Presentation is available with the title: “Agricultural Biodiversity feeds the world when sustained in the framework of Food Sovereignty.”

If anyone wants more information or is interested in involvement in the inter-sessional process up to GB6, please get in touch.

A summary of proceedings at GB5 has been published by ENB www.iisd.ca/biodiv/itpgrgb5

Patrick Mulvany

Chair: UK Food Group; Adviser: Practical Action; Observer: IPC for food sovereignty
Mobile: +44 7949 575711 (UK)
Email: patrickmulvany@clara.co.uk
Skype: pmulvany
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