International Human Rights Day 2019: The right to resist is a human right!

The world is rising against neoliberal globalization. The people of the world have taken to the streets to call for change.

We are witness to this radical wave of massive and sustained protest actions in recent history, especially in Latin America and West Asia-North Africa (WANA) –whose countries are debt-ridden despite their rich oil reserves. What spurred today’s social unrest are the IMF-backed austerity measures that have only worsened the longstanding economic crisis that these countries wanted to alleviate. The rise of fuel prices through the compulsory withdrawal of subsidies – among many other tax raises and cuts in public spending – triggered the sharp rise in the cost of living especially food prices.

The result: people’s uprisings in Chile, Sudan, Ecuador, as well as in Lebanon. Latest addition in the mix is Iran, whose spike on fuel prices was instigated by the US imposed economic sanctions in favor of the its rival Israel.

In other countries, including those in the Africa region, the demonstrations were sparked by inequality, political conflicts, and corruption across the board amid deteriorating economic conditions: the corruption of PetroCaribe funds in Haiti, the politically-motivated removal of a popular military commander in Iraq, the harassment of a prominent activist in Ethiopia,and the re-election bid of the presidents in Algeria and Guinea.

To note, about 30% of the population in Latin America and WANA suffered moderate to severe food insecurity last year. In Africa, it affected more than half of their population – around 53%.

Unsurprisingly, the unrest was met with government backlash. Yet despite the increasing violence used by state forces to quell the demonstrations, incurring hundreds killed and thousands injured, these protests continue to swell and intensify. Weeks to months have passed and civil disobedience grew. The tension has turned into political turmoil as the protests have escalated and evolved into nationwide movements demanding the total upheaval of their country’s political systems.

People have reached peak discontent toward their governments amid food shortages, poor public services, rising prices, and widespread unemployment. Meanwhile, the world’s superpowers – most notably the US – are scrambling to make the most out of this phenomenon in order to maintain and strengthen hegemony amid competition.

But neoliberal globalization can no longer conceal nor sugarcoat its worldwide crisis. As such, state repression is wielded as an offensive to impose and preserve itself. We see this in the rise of authoritarian regimes especially in Asia, where many policy shifts are being fast-tracked to facilitate development aggression. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has enforced a de facto Martial Law nationwide, with almost one-third of the country already under military rule earlier on. This has led to mounting political killings and mass arrests through large-scale frame-ups of activists and critics in the country. Along with Joko Widodo’s second term as president of Indonesia is the worsening harassment and rising killings of activists and environmentalists to give way to corporate investments. Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen – the longest-serving authoritarian leader in the continent – is currently militarizing cities and border provincesin anticipation of the opposition party’s possible return. The same goes in Latin America’s Colombia as the government gears up for a national strike after a series of mass protests against tax reforms, corruption, and the genocide of indigenous groups.

Government crackdowns mostly hit farmers and Indigenous Peoples because of their staunch resistance to the development aggression projects that grab the lands and resources of rural communities.

Likewise, gross violation of human rights has unfolded even in better-off countries where authority is challenged. Hong Kong takes the limelight in this regard. The severity of police brutality and the presence of Chinese military have incited youth activists to arm themselves and encamp in universities, five months since the mass protests started due to the controversial extradition bill. We also see this in Spain when the Catalans demonstrated against the supreme court decision to jail the leaders of their secessionist movement.

On the other hand, states defying neoliberal domination are assailed in the form of US-backed economic sanctions and coups, as experienced by Venezuela and more recently Bolivia. The US through the Organization of American States (OAS) instigated the coups in these countries by casting doubt on the integrity of their national elections on the basis of misleading claims. These offensives were also disputed with protests on the ground.

Conditions are bloodier for movements with decades-long assertion of self-determination, being in the face of proxy wars and occupations. Starvation is being used against them as a weapon in modern warfare, resulting in famine. Despite so, Palestinians continue to uphold their right to return despite nonstop air raids by Zionist Israel. Kurds hold their ground in Syria amid Turkey’s heightened offensives. Kashmiris endure India’s intensified attacks in the ongoing lockdown after being stripped of partial autonomy.  

Fascism is therefore used as reinforcement to subdue our dissent against the current neoliberal crisis and its enabling policies. Yet it has only bolstered our indignation. The chronic impoverishment, inequality, and injustice it bred for the longest time built up the current historical wave of people’s protests.

That is why the harbingers of neoliberal globalization also strive to jump in the bandwagon of people’s resistance by coopting our calls to pacify the people and save their reputations. The greenwashing by states and corporations reduces our legitimate concern on the climate emergency as a mere trend to profit from, now that the international climate justice movement is currently taking momentum after the successful global climate strike held September in more than 150 countries.

All these put into picture, we are posed with the challenge to up the ante of our movements’ struggles against the system bred by neoliberal globalization as we counter its attacks and deception. The rural peoples of the world – the farmers and IPs – are leading many of these actions to assert their right to food and produce food as opposed to the state-backed domination of corporations to our agriculture and economy as well as the deliberate starving of civilians caught in between proxy wars. We must seize this opportunity to demand people’s food sovereignty that banks on genuine social change.

As such, the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) is issuing this timely call on International Human Rights Day: Resist global political repression! Advance people’s struggles against neoliberal globalization!

We invite everyone to join the Global Day of Action* on December 10, International Human Rights Day. Let us call for our legitimate demands including people’s food sovereignty, defend our rights, and express our denunciation of neoliberal globalization and fascism. ###

*PCFS adopted the commemoration of International Human Rights Day among its annual global days of action during its 4th General Assembly held October2018 in Thailand.

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