Ecuador’s Legislative Assembly ratified the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants on April 18, 2023. This major step forward is the result of both a struggle and dialogue led by peasant organizations.
While the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) was approved by the UN General Assembly at the end of 2018, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic affected the political and institutional dynamics as well as the mobilization and advocacy capacity of peasant organizations. Initially, therefore, this valuable tool has had little impact at national level.
Nevertheless, we can already begin to see encouraging advances in the Latin American region in this respect. One example is the ratification of the Declaration by the Legislative Assembly of Ecuador.
The road to ratification began with CNC Eloy Alfaro, an Ecuadorian member organization of CLOC and La Via Campesina, when it resumed mobilization around UNDROP. To do this, it organized actions with other organizations, but also carried out internal activities and wrote a manifesto1.
In January 2023, the organization sent a request to Manabí province MP Xavier Santos Sabando, asking him to carry the ratification proposal. “In this context, we would like to present him with the “Declaration of the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas”, so that, through him, the National Assembly of Ecuador will examine and ratify the aforementioned declaration“, thus states, the letter presented to him.
This institutional process took place with a right-wing government in power, but the massive indigenous and peasant mobilizations that took place in June 20222 were an element of pressure that contributed to the National Assembly (Ecuador’s main legislative body) taking up the issue and approving a resolution favorable to peasants’ rights. Indeed, indigenous and peasant organizations organized an 18-day strike to demand measures against inflation and oppose the policies of President Guillaume Lasso’s government. During the strike, demonstrations were violently repressed and a state of emergency was declared in large parts of the country. After 18 days, the state of emergency was lifted and an agreement was reached, granting the movement its main demands.
Ratification took place on April 18, 2023, and was approved by 117 votes in favor, out of a total of 137 Assembly members3. The resolution includes a lengthy explanation with recitals and justifications, and then, in its main articles, establishes the following:
“Article 1- Ratify the importance and transversal nature of the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas” for the peasant peoples of Ecuador and the world.
Article 2- Ensure compliance, through its organs and technical advisory units, permanent and occasional specialized commissions, to promote, in strict adherence to the periods and processes established in the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador and the Organic Law of the Legislative Function, initiatives that promote the exercise of the rights of the peasants of the country established in the Declaration, especially in relation to access to flexible and timely credit, with preferential interest rates, terms and grace periods; education, health and social security.
Article 3- Declare that the aforementioned Declaration of the United Nations shall be a priority input for the creation, reforms and proposals of laws generated in the National Assembly of Ecuador.
Article 4- Urge all State functions to comply with the Declaration, mainstreaming the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas in all public policies and programs that are in force and are generated by the Ecuadorian State.”
This ratification is an important step in a mobilized Ecuador, where the indigenous and peasant sector is making strong demands of the government in terms of popular agricultural policies.
The organizations are now working to ensure that the Constitutional Court also ratifies the Declaration of the Rights of Peasants.
In addition, a forum for training and disseminating the Declaration is being set up for peasant organizations and leaders.
As we have pointed out, the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants is an instrument that emerged from peasant struggles and reached the heart of the United Nations to demand the recognition of rights and the urgency of public policies to make them effective. Today, this instrument is making a comeback as a tool for the world’s peasant communities.
MNC Somos Tierra Argentina
Colectivo de Derechos Campesinos de Via Campesina
3 Resolution “RL-2021-2023-156”