These remarks were delivered at the Resource Rights for All Lanch Party at Grassroots International on June 10, 2004.
Thank you, Nikhil. Thank you all for coming to celebrate the launch of our Resource Rights for All initiative and to show your support for land and water rights for communities around the world. I also want to thank Laura Orlando for the use of her office space. I especially want to thank the planning committee and our volunteers for their time and energy pulling this event together. I think they deserve a round of applause.
The Resource Rights initiative grew out of the changing context of globalization that our partners are grappling with. The need to “reinvent revolution”, as Nikhil noted, is a reflection of the increasing corporate control of agriculture and water and an acknowledgement of the increasingly global tools and strategies that social movements need to use in order to stem off complex global financial and political arrangements that threaten their local way of life.
Particularly striking is the increasingly concentrated ownership of our two basic resources — food and water. For example, the top 10 seed companies control 30% of the global seed market and are increasingly looking to expand their seed portfolio to indigenous seeds; the top 10 food retail companies account for 57% of total global food sales—Walmart is the number one food retailer worldwide, and their dominance here in the US not only dictates where we shop but shapes our landscapes and drives the race to the bottom on corporate social policy; the top 20 food and beverage processing companies—like Nestle, Kraft, and Unilever—account for 53% of the global revenues in that sector. They also lack social and environmental policies that protect farmers and consumers. Lastly, I want to point out that 65% of the world’s water use is used by this concentrated agricultural industry.
With all of this wealth and power concentrated in the hands of a few corporations, it’s not surprising that 852 million people are hungry worldwide, including 36 million in the US. It is revealing that 50% of the world’s hungry are smallholder farmers and 20% are rural landless workers. Farmers and agricultural workers bear the consequences of an agricultural system that doesn’t put communities’ right to food before profits.
All of our partners are fighting for the right to control agricultural production to control where their food comes from, in other words, to have “food sovereignty.” Our Brazilian partner, the Landless Workers Movement, the MST, is fighting to enable landless agricultural workers to become farmers. Our Haitian partner, the Peasant Movement of Papaye, the MPP, is organizing for water rights and reforestation, so that its members don’t have to rely on food aid or suffer drought. Our Mexican partner, CEPCO, an organization of family coffee farmers, organized to demand a decent price—so that their families didn’t have to suffer the collapse of the global coffee market. Our Palestine partner, PARC, the Palestine Agricultural Relief Committees, and our allies in the “Stop the Wall” campaign are fighting to gain access to water and land and to keep from being separated from those life-giving resources by the Israeli government’s Wall.
Our partners’ struggle locally and work globally through organizations like the Via Campesina. The Via Campesina, also a GRI partner, is a global movement of peasant and family farmers, indigenous communities, community fisherpeople, agricultural workers and rural women. They are from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. All are fighting for food sovereignty and are saying “no” to neo-liberal economic policies that threaten communities’ rights to land, water and seeds.
The Resource Rights initiative will support these efforts through grantmaking, policy advocacy, education and communications work with our global South partners and Northern allies.
Through our support and in-collaboration with allies, our Resource Rights partners are changing the face of globalization. On a global scale, the Via Campesina is the largest force challenging the World Trade Organization and the world’s richest countries’ and corporations’ domination of agricultural markets. On a local level, the MST in Brazil have settled and won land title for nearly 300,000 families—making agrarian reform a reality. The MPP in Haiti has planted more than 20 million fruit and forest trees to help stabilize Haiti’s fragile soil and to provide access to local food sources. The MPP’s founder, Chavannes Jean Baptiste, recently won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for the MPP’s work with Haiti’s rural communities.
I leave you with a quote from him that captures the spirit of the Resource Rights initiative and our partners’ hope as they organize for their land and water rights: “It is true that we live in a world of conflict and crisis, where much death and despair abound. But it is also true that we live in a world filled with seeds of hope.” I would add that this hope is here tonight. Daniel will now lead us thru a mistica where we can plant our own seeds of hope.