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Dhaka Declaration

Globalize the hope! Globalize the struggle!

South Asian Peasants' Assembly

29 and 30 July 2003, Dhaka, Bangladesh

We, 80 participants representing different organizations of farmers, peasants and agricultural workers, women and indigenous people of the South Asian region, on 29 and 30 July 2003 gathered at the 'South Asian Peasants' Assembly' in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The names of the participating countries are India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. There were three other important participants from India and Pakistan who could not attend the assembly due to the visa problem, but they sent their greetings, solidarity messages and written statements to the Assembly by e-mail. Besides, 2 representatives from Indonesia and Thailand took part in the Assembly as observers.

We elaborately discussed various issues with regard to agriculture in the South Asian context. We are of the same opinion that we, the South Asian people, have our historic, social, political and cultural unity despite diversified ways of life. Our highest priority at the Assembly was to try and identify our common grounds for struggle.

We all at the Assembly agreed that we are facing similar problems and the same crisis in our farming sectors. We have our common enemies whom we have to confront through our concerted and comprehensive efforts. We all think that actions and steps taken against humanity's interest cannot pass un-protested, and that nothing can be achieved without struggle. Only through united direct action our goal can be reached.

We affirm that we will increase our solidarity-activities and strengthen our communication network in diverse ways, in order to build and develop our common understanding and concern within the region. We reaffirm that we will also co-ordinate our struggles with other regions.

We all think that the World Bank/IMF and the WTO (World Trade Organization) for a long time have been engaged in destructive activities in our agricultural sector through their SAPs (Structural Adjustment Programs). Recently the World Bank has been suggesting to almost all Third World countries that they should prepare a PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper). It has already been proven that the Structural Adjustment Programs of the World Bank could not eradicate poverty in a single country, but have tended to aggravate poverty. PRSPs too will reproduce rather than reduce poverty. We commit to resist all types of destructive policies of the World Bank and IMF.

We demand that WTO (With the reservation concerning the legitimacy of WTO) be kept out of food and agriculture, since these belong to the people as fundamental right. We think the AoA (Agreement on Agriculture) under the WTO is totally against the interests of peasant communities, since the AoA obliges Third World agro-based countries to open their agricultural markets to Transnational Corporations gradually. With this agreement WTO wants to commoditize food that is a fundamental right of the people. Moreover, with the agreement named GATS, WTO wants to privatize all public services such as education, health, telecommunications, railways, etc. We are totally against the liberalization of the service sectors, as this will put basic services out of reach of the masses of the rural people who do not have the capacity to pay for them.

We express our clear opposition to the imperialist globalization/neo-liberalism that has been destroying our hope, our cultural diversity, indigenous communities and national economies, and has caused increasing displacement, migration, unemployment and uncertainty in the life and livelihood of people all over the world. We explicitly think that imperialist globalization is in the interest of Transnational Corporations, not of the people. We are totally against privatization, and against the neo-liberalization policy-model of imperialist countries.

We further are against the patenting of genes and life-forms. The US-administration through piracy has already gathered the genes of our bio-resources available in this sub-continent in its gene-bank, and is promoting the patenting of genes for the fulfillment of the future business greed of American companies. We demand that our genetic resources be taken back from the US gene-bank. We also demand the cancellation of TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) that will destroy people's autonomous mode of thinking and the performance of innovation. We are strongly committed to resist bio-piracy and protect our genetic resources.

The US administration and the WTO are jointly trying to make national governments of agriculture- based economies in Asia accept the US's genetically modified seeds and food. In view of the adverse effect of GMOs, the government of Sri Lanka imposed a ban on the genetically modified food 'Star Link', but under the pressure of the US government and the WTO this government was compelled to withdraw the ban, as the WTO threatened to impose an embargo on Sri Lanka under the WTO's rules. We think our respective governments should further reflect on the continuation of membership in the WTO from the critical point of view.

At the instructions of the World Bank and WTO the national governments in South Asia have reduced their subsidies to the agricultural sector. This has endangered the farming community. In Bangladesh 17 peasants were brutally killed by the police in 1995 during a revolt staged against the government because of the withdrawal of agricultural subsidies and the privatization of seeds' distribution. Yet the industrialized countries are providing subsidies to their agriculture as price support/export support under different signboards. This is a fully discriminatory and hypocritical system. We recommend the restoration of subsidies to the agricultural sectors in South Asian countries where this is indispensable to protect peasant communities. In the assembly we clearly express our opposition to the dumping of cheap products from the North to the South that has been jeopardizing our own agriculture.

In our Assembly we have further highlighted the negative impact of the green revolution. This has had a destructive impact on our bio-diversity, on fish resources, on different kinds of species and on micro-organisms, and has damaged human health, the fertility of the soil and the environment/ecology. It is quite clear that the target of the green revolution has not been met. It was presumed that the expansion in production through the green revolution would remove hunger from the world, but this has proven to be a false presumption. The 1996 Food Summit of FAO targeted a reduction by half of world hunger to be achieved by 2015. At the time of the Food Summit held 5 years later, in 2002, the level of world hunger remained the same. Still, there are 800 million hungry people all over the world, as was the case before 1996. We definitely believe that the WB/IMF is to be blamed for this. We hold the WB/IMF responsible for the prevalence of rural malnutrition, pauperization and marginalization. We simultaneously advocate organic/ecological farming and the improvement in conventional farming systems with which our peasants have gathered thousands of years of experience. We do express with strength that only the alternative agricultural development paradigm can solve the crisis in relation to hunger prevailing in the world.

We entirely defend the need for conventional land reforms in favor of landless people. We are fully opposed to market-led land reforms as suggested by the World Bank which has already caused enormous problems in the Philippines. If market-led land-reforms are implemented, our landless people will face life-long bondage to the World Bank. We demand a genuine agrarian reform also in order to ensure food security for the rural population. A human rights-based approach requires that all decisions relating to agriculture be beneficial to the peasantry.

Since it is important to think of an alternative for the farming community that will ensure their life and livelihood, we advocate the concept of food sovereignty, meaning that peasants should have the right to land and the right to choose which crops they grow in their fields; not at the cost of drastically reducing the role of agricultural labors in the process of cultivation. Besides, they should have the right to grow their own culturally accepted food, in stead of growing food as determined by Transnational Corporations which have established mono-cultural production patterns all over the world.

Just when genetically engineered crops are being criticized severely at the international level, various Transnational Corporations are coming up with a new technology that is called nano-technology. 500 Multinational Corporations in North America, Europe and Japan are experimenting with nano-materials. They will produce a lot of food by using the atom and molecular level of materials. The Corporations seem to think that with nano-technology they will remove hunger from all over the world. Yet this technology is still questionable. It would once again be detrimental to human health. Moreover, it can be predicted in advance that, since food produced with nano-technology would be artificial in kind, it will lead to the destruction of our traditional food system and habit. We demand that these nano-foods/products not be released to the market without sufficient moral justification and testing.

We think that water is our common property. Like other common property resources water belongs to the people. The World Bank is actively working in various countries to undermine the right of the people to water. The Bank wants to privatize and commercialize the water sector in the interest of Transnational Corporations. In our Assembly we have expressed our strong determination to protect our water sector.

In Bangladesh's soil there exists a good reserve of natural gas which is the asset of the country's own people. The US-administration has been putting an extreme pressure on the Bangladesh government to obtain its agreement that this gas will be exported through a pipeline to India. The pipeline will serve the interests of Unocal and other American oil companies, ignoring the national interests of the people of Bangladesh. Yet there is a big demand for natural gas within Bangladesh as it has various usages, such as: as fuel and electricity, for fertilizer production, etc. In a condensed form it can be used in different kinds of vehicles. For the sake of the people's interest we have to resist any conspiracy hatched with gas. We believe that every country has the right to control and use its natural resources without intervention of outsiders.

We denounce the eviction and killing of indigenous peasants, which are occurring in various ways. There are some countries where indigenous people are being displaced due to the World Bank's policy. Because of mining activities in different countries indigenous people here are utterly being victimized. Apart from this, in many countries indigenous people are every day being killed by the military or paramilitary. We strongly maintain that the rights and dignity of indigenous people should be protected. They should be recognized as indigenous people under the constitution of every country.

We denounce the US policy of militarism which has recently been imposed specially on countries in Asia. We also denounce the massacres committed under the responsibility of the US administration in Afghanistan and Iraq. We explicitly think that the Iraqi people will choose their fate in a democratic way. The US government should stop interfering as it has already interfered too much, ignoring the conscience and consensus of the world's people. History will not condone their misdeeds. The US has to be made accountable to people around the world.

There are many countries where the fresh rise of fundamentalism is an alarming phenomenon. In some countries like Nepal in South Asia, feudalism is deeply rooted in society causing major trouble in the transition towards a democratic system. We declare our opposition to all kinds of fundamentalism and to feudalism, because we believe that these reactionary evil forces are hostile to the progress of humanity. We believe in the complete emancipation of women that will take place through a radical change in society. We lay emphasize on the building of a strong women's movement so as to remove all kinds of exploitation, discrimination and violence perpetrated against them under capitalism and patriarchy. We think that gender education is a must to construct a just and equitable society.

La Via Campesina is a broad international network of farmers, landholding and landless peasants, women and indigenous people. The South Asian Peasant Coalition (SAPC) is yet another network of peasant organisations at the South Asian level. We commit to strengthen both these two networks in the interest of the people's movements in South Asia.

Finally we would like to express our firm determination to build a strong and sustained struggle against our common enemies in order to achieve a radical transformation of society. We are hopeful that we will win in our struggle, as our working classes, peasants, women, indigenous people and other sections of the toiling masses are the advanced forces aspiring for radical change in society. We also call on all progressive and democratic forces to extend their reasonable support to the peasants' movement in the South Asia region. We express our solidarity with all working class and peasant movements, with women's movements, and with other people's movements throughout the world.

Host organization: Bangladesh Krishok Federation

Participating organizations: --Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union; --National Farmers' Assembly, Sri Lanka; --All Nepal Peasants' Association, Nepal; --All Nepal Women's Association, Nepal; --Bangladesh Kishani Sabha, Bangladesh; --Bangladesh Agricultural Laborer's Union, Bangladesh; --Bangladesh Khetmajur Samity, Bangladesh; --Bangladesh Krishok Samity, Bangladesh; --Bangladesh Landless Association, Bangladesh; --Bangladesh Indigenous peoples' Association, Bangladesh; --Bangladesh Bhasaman Sramik Union, Bangladesh; --Bangladesh Bhasaman Nari Sramik Union, Bangladesh; --Bangladesh Rural Intellectuals' Front, Bangladesh; --Ganachhaya Sanskritic Kendra, Bangladesh; --Sramajibi Nari Maittree, Bangladesh; --Biplabi Jubo Sabha, Bangladesh;

Observer organizations: --Federation of Indonesian Farmers' Union (FSPI), Indonesia; --Focus on the Global South, Thailand;

Organization expressing solidarity which could not attend: --Bhartiya Kisan Union, India; --All Indian Agricultural Workers' Union (AIAWU, India; --Farmers' wing of Seraiki National Party, Pakistan; --Farmers' Unity Forum, Bangladesh; --Jatya Krishok Samity, Bangladesh

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