PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK ASIA AND THE PACIFIC (PAN AP) CONGRESS
2-4 September, 2013, Penang, Malaysia
"Empowering Communities, Protecting the Environment and Building Sustainable Livelihoods"
At the last PAN AP Congress in 2009, more than 110 participants from 22 countries concluded that the cycle of crises of monopoly capitalism manifested in the collapse of global financial institutions and speculative international markets; and caused the global food crisis. The food crisis was further compounded by the climate crisis.
Four years later and the problems have only intensified. The global economic crisis, "made in the USA " has spread globally. Meanwhile food prices continue to spike. In 2012, global food markets suffered their third price spike in five years. The immediate causes were the drought in the US, compounded with low levels of global grain reserves and the US policy of using maize for ethanol production resulting in high and volatile food prices. However, the collapse of food self-sufficiency due to imposition on the South of neoliberal policies and export oriented agricultural production by International Financial Institutions and the WTO has led to local food shortages and thence, the food crisis that is more acute in developing countries. The situation is not a temporary one; we are faced with food price volatility on an on-going basis.
As a result of the crisis of monopoly capitalism, rich countries resorted to land grabbing for food production and investing in overseas farming to boost their own food security. In 2012, international CSO GRAIN documented 416 recent large-scale land grabs by foreign investors for the production of food crops covering 35 million hectares of land in 66 countries. Their documentation identifies Africa as the main target for land grabbing but Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe are similarly being targeted.
In Asia, there is a pattern of corporations grabbing lands of indigenous peoples, peasants, pastoralists and fisherfolks. These corporate agriculture projects over-exploited and poisoned lands, forests, seeds, waters, marine resources and other natural resources. Resistance by local communities is often met with State and corporate aggression and violence. These governments have also reneged on their responsibility to uphold the rights and welfare of the people.
The biggest benefits of the food crisis went to the agribusiness that made huge profits in the face of increased hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Unprecedented corporate concentration in food and agriculture sector continues.
A report released by ETC Group warns that 6 multinational Gene Giants control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont control 59.8% of commercial seeds and 76.1% of agrochemicals. The same 6 companies account for at least 76% of all private sectors R&D in these two sectors. These corporations are pushing the use of highly hazardous pesticides that cause human health and environmental devastation. New technologies such as genetically engineered (GE) seeds and nanotechnology are being promoted and commercialised even when new studies point to adverse health and environmental impacts. In the case of GE seeds, it is destroying farmers' and communities' right to save seeds and biodiversity. Women, custodians of seeds and genetic resources are the most affected by these developments.
These agrochemical TNCs are also guilty of violations of human rights. In 2011, a jury of the Permanent People's Tribunal hearing the cases backed with evidence of these violations brought a guilty verdict on these agrochemical TNCs. These include violations of the right to life, health, a safe working environment as well as the rights of indigenous peoples, women and children.
In Asia, the expansion of corporate monopoly control over the food chain-- from production to marketing and the exploitation of rural labour, natural resources and biodiversity is further marginalizing and impoverishing rural communities. The impact of corporate control is being intensified with the climate crisis that is caused by unsustainable industrial development, chemical intensive agriculture and over-production mainly in the developed countries in the last 200 years and intensified in the last three decades.
The financial and food crisis indicates the failure of existing systems of finance and food production and the failure of IFIs, FAO and national governments that are perpetuating the paradigm of unsustainable growth for profit. It is not surprising then that at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio, the "Future We Want" did not materialise as governments have continued to support "Business as Usual" and failed to produce a meaningful deal that would address the multitude of crises: of equity, ecology, climate, food and economy.
Four Years Later
The challenges that we face are huge. For more than 30 years now, PAN has worked together with grassroots organisations to support and strengthen social movements to address these issues. We have intensified efforts over the last 4 years, together with our partners to collectively work in supporting people's struggles and improving the lives of marginalised communities, particularly rural women and to tackle the equity, ecology, climate, food and economic crises that are being forced onto our children.
We believe that only with a strong people's movement can real change that is pro-people and the environment take place. At the same time, we believe strong policy advocacy and campaigning and ongoing public awareness and education is necessary to advance this change.
PAN AP through its Food Sovereignty and Ecological Agriculture Programme has concretized Food Sovereignty, as a concept and framework over the last four years. In 2004, PAN AP together with more than 500 partner organisations were able to make Food Sovereignty popularized in the region through the People's Caravan on Food Sovereignty that mobilized more than a million people in 16 countries, where simultaneous activities were held over 30 days. Food sovereignty advocates at national, regional and international levels have echoed this call. We have also been involved in the documentation of the impact of climate change and adaptation strategies of communities to weather the climate crisis. The promotion of biodiversity-based ecological agriculture, through farmer's exchanges, study tours, training, workshops and the production of resource materials is a crucial aspect of our work.
Through the years, PAN AP and its partners have contributed to the struggle against land grabbing by working with communities to build their capacity to resist land grabbing. These include training on documentation of land grabbing and actual documentation of cases. Fact Finding Missions and international campaigns are part of our continued support for small food producers in their struggles for land and sustainable livelihoods. PAN AP has also developed popular materials such as short films and posters on land grabbing with the hope of reaching a broader audience. At the international level, PAN AP has been involved in various platforms and processes such as the FAO Committee on Food Security to bring the voices of marginalized communities to United Nation bodies.
Highly Hazardous Pesticides
PAN AP's work on pesticides continued to be the leading force in the Asia Pacific region. Its Community-based Pesticide Action Monitoring (CPAM) empowered communities to assert their right to health and sustainable environment. Based on participatory action research, CPAM helps communities to document the adverse impacts of pesticides, raise awareness and motivate them to adopt ecologically sound and sustainable agricultural practices. Furthermore, it prompts them to pressure governments and campaign for better pesticide regulation and implementation of international conventions on pesticides.
Together with community organisations, PAN AP has been at the forefront in raising general public awareness on the hazards of pesticides, banning or strictly regulating the use of highly toxic pesticides at the national level including plantations and industry stakeholders and ensuring stronger policies on pesticide reduction and elimination and the promotion of agroecology or non-chemical alternatives. PAN AP has published factsheets, monographs, books, and other campaign tools to advance these efforts. Through policy advocacy, PAN AP has been playing a major role in international bodies that regulate the production and trade of highly hazardous pesticides. Our biggest victory was the listing of endosulfan in both the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions. We continue to advocate for non-chemical alternatives particularly the implementation of biodiversity-based ecological agriculture.
Women in Agriculture
Meanwhile, the Women in Agriculture programme has been facilitating a process for rural women from different sectors to come together, share experiences, deepen analysis and strategise for action to strengthen the rural women's movement. We facilitated the establishment of the Asian Rural Women's Coalition (ARWC) in 2008 (where PAN AP is the Secretariat) to gain rural women's visibility through different strategies, from support to local women's actions such as online campaigns in support of women's land struggles, to regional campaigns and international policy lobbying.
This initiative has also been focusing on the documentation of women's successes in their struggles for land and productive resources and for biodiversity-based ecological agriculture. In the last two years, we have been concentrating on a series of training on rural women's leadership capacities in food sovereignty and security. Rural women who have participated have been energized and inspired to share their experiences and learnings with their communities and other women, and provide leadership themselves in their local campaign work. This has also spearheaded the participation and interventions of rural women at the international policy level.
In 2012, we organised the Honouring 100 Women to acknowledge rural women's leadership and commitment in pushing for justice, freedom and gender equality. Their stories inspired other women to empower themselves.
Save Our Rice
On the campaign front, PAN AP's "Save Our Rice" Campaign is the only regional rice campaign in Asia Pacific. It has given rice issues a regional platform, perspective and vigor. From a handful of partners in 2003 when it was launched, the Campaign's network has grown to a few hundred organisations in 16 countries with the Rice Advisory Council now consisting of representatives from 34 organisations. It has been highly successful and impactful in addressing the threats to rice and promoting the Five Pillars of Rice Wisdom. Most notably, in 2007, it launched the Week of Rice Action (WORA) which was a massive mobilisation of over a million people who endorsed "The People's Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia". It was followed by the YORA or Year of Rice Action (2009-2010) and now known as the CORA - collective rice action - which have been impactful in reaching out to all sectors of the public and building awareness on the threats to rice.
The effects of the Green Revolution, spearheaded by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has accelerated the process of erosion of locally adapted rice cultivation and introduced High Input Varieties (HIV) rice that is susceptible to diseases and pests, and requires more pesticide inputs. IRRI now support the research on GE rice such as Golden Rice and Bt rice, that harms Asia's rice heritage. The Rice Campaign is continuing to build awareness on the negative impacts of GE rice/crops and getting policy-makers and the public to oppose genetically engineered (GE) rice.
Permanent People's Tribunal on Agrochemical TNCs
Working on behalf of PAN International, PAN AP helped to organize the Permanent People's Tribunal on Agrochemical TNCs where we charged six agrochemical TNCs on violations of human rights. A global jury of the PPT found these corporations guilty of violating the rights of people and causing environmental devastation.
Meanwhile, the network has been strengthened due to the outreach and activities of the various programmes and through its policy advocacy and campaigning. It has built strong partnerships with organisations of rural women, peasants, agricultural workers, indigenous communities and consumers and these are our greatest strength and most powerful resource - the network of people's organizations, particularly of marginalized communities that also represent diverse movements. PAN AP now comprises 108 network partners in the region and has links with about 400 other civil society and grassroots organizations at the regional and global levels.
True to our commitment to work with the people, PAN AP has contributed to the formation of important grassroots alliances and networks in the region: People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Asian Peasants Coalition (APC), Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) and the Asian Rural Women's Coalition (ARWC).
21 Years of Advancing Food Sovereignty, Gender Justice and Environmental Sustainability
PAN AP and its partners have achieved much over the last four years. Yet, new and old challenges continue to threaten the lives and livelihood of landless peasants, small food producers, women, indigenous peoples, fisherfolks, agricultural workers, consumers and other sectors. Old challenges take new forms and new ones further intensify the old ones: the global food and financial crisis, the concentration of wealth of agrochemical corporations, further marginalization of women, new diseases and illnesses brought about by corporate agriculture, the challenges of climate change, landlessness among marginal farmers, the list is endless.
It is in this context that PAN AP convenes the third PAN AP Congress. With the theme "Empowering Communities, Protecting the Environment and Building Sustainable Livelihoods", the Congress will aim to evaluate our work, programmes, performance and impact over the last 4 years. It also aims to identify new threats, challenges and opportunities; review existing strategies; develop new plans; and strengthen the network.
The Congress will be held in Penang, Malaysia from 2-4 September 2013.
PAN AP hopes to gather around 80 of its strong partners in Asia for intensive discussions, sharing, strategizing and planning. At the end of the three-day Congress, it is expected that PAN AP and its partners will have a collective understanding of issues that affect the lives various sectors and come up with concrete plans and commitment to face the challenges ahead. ###