A CONTINUING HISTORICAL NEGLECT:
SEARICE Urges States to Look into the Right to Seeds, Human Rights of Peasants for the Universal Periodic Review for the Philippines in November
PRESS RELEASE | SEARICE | 01 September 2022
SEARICE is urging states to provide recommendations to the Republic of the Philippines tangent to the human rights of peasants. The Philippines is set to be reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) through its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism in 14 November 2022. In March, SEARICE along with other civil society organizations and human rights organizations working in the Philippines responded to the call to present its positions for consideration in the 41st Session of the Working Group.
The Universal Periodic Review Mechanism
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a State-driven process of human rights review under the UNHRC, which provides the opportunity to declare the actions of all member states in ensuring the preservation of human rights, and address violations whenever they occur. November marks the commencement of its 4th cycle. Civil society organizations, including national human rights institutions, are given the opportunity to be heard through contributions from other stakeholders, which are summarized and become one of three documents used as the basis for the review.
SEARICE notes that while the mechanism allows CSOs to be heard, the support of the states and their recommendations remain the most crucial to the process. Furthermore, while recommendations have been made previously by states for inclusive development and poverty alleviation in the previous UPR cycles, there has been a scant emphasis on peasants’ rights, especially on their fundamental right to seeds with which its submission has attempted to bridge the gap.
Emphasizing the Situation of Filipino Peasants
Despite all policies and programs, poverty and food insecurity remain persistent and concentrated in the peasant population and in rural areas in the Philippines as revealed by official government statistics. A staggering 4 in 5 agricultural households experience food and nutrition insecurity which extends to rural women and children, aggravated by recurrent shocks and transitory food insecurity due to natural hazards and the increasing frequency and intensity of the changing climate.
In its submission, SEARICE has also emphasized the situation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in the country and how it significantly affects poverty and development in rural communities. Inclusive development must be made with acknowledgment and respect for the existing knowledge, systems, and practices of peasants, and innovations will only truly prosper through mutual partnerships and sustained engagement with rural communities. Ultimately, interventions with vulnerable sectors must be holistic.
SEARICE also provided urgent concerns that are offshoots of this historical neglect of peasants – the fixation on biofortified crops for addressing the systemic issue of malnutrition as in the case of the ongoing commercialization of GM Yellow Rice in the country, and the highly contested Rice Tarrification Law.
Finally, SEARICE implores that states continue pressing the Philippine Government to investigate and allow independent investigations on the human rights violations that have occurred since the last UPR cycle, and to guarantee the civil and political rights of all persons. Advancing the rights of peasants takes place against the backdrop of fundamental human rights.
While challenges and setbacks continue to exist in the country, SEARICE continues to hold on to these instruments and forge on guided by the enduring aspirations to continue contributing to the improvement of the lives of the peasants in the country.