With governments around the world rushing to contain the further spread of COVID-19, often with restrictive lockdown measures, 119 organizations from 30 countries and five global regions today called for the assertion of the rights and welfare of rural and all toiling peoples.
In a joint statement, the groups stressed that the rural people have been among the most vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The statement was released to mark the annual “Day of the Landless”, which various groups use as an event to highlight the issues on and struggles for land of peasant communities.
Specifically, the groups outlined a five-point demand to protect the rights of rural people amid the pandemic:
(1) Ensure that the lockdowns and quarantines are not carried out at the expense of the food security of the people, and that the right to produce and earn a living for small farmers, fishers and other direct food producers is duly respected;
(2) Provide immediate and substantial economic relief (including food grains, cash, and other forms of aid that are essential and appropriate) and social protection that are readily accessible to the marginalized sectors, including the landless rural people, as well as other forms of government assistance such as production and marketing support for the small food producers;
(3) Ensure that no further displacements of the rural people from their lands and livelihood are carried out in the pretext of COVID-19 lockdowns;
(4) Allot sufficient public resources to the health sector and make reliable public healthcare services, including free testing for COVID-19 infection and treatment, available without delay or difficulty for everyone, including the rural communities; and
(5) Call for accountability of public officials at all levels in addressing the urgent needs of the people and in respecting human rights at all times.
“Amidst the spreading darkness and misery due to a pandemic caused by more than anything else an ecologically and socially destructive mode of production, the movement of landless rural people and their supporters, together with all oppressed and exploited toiling peoples, shall remain among the bearers of light and hope,” part of the statement read.
The “Day of the Landless” statement was initiated by Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), whose regional secretariat is based in Pakistan; the PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), a regional NGO with headquarters in Malaysia; and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), which has a global secretariat in the Philippines.
Of the 119 groups, 21 are global and regional networks or organizations while 98 are national and local groups. The organizations are from or based in the following countries: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, Germany, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, United States, Uruguay, Vietnam and Zambia. ###