Global Consultation on Farmers’ Rights, held 27th to 30th September in Bali, Indonesia

Sunday, 16 October 2016
Elin Cecilie Ranum, Head of Policy and Information Department Utviklingsfondet/The Development Fund

Almost 100 representatives from farmers’ organisations, civil society, contracting parties, research institutes, international organization and the seed sector were gathered in Bali, Indonesia between the 27th and 30th September to discuss the implementation of Farmers’ Rights as established by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the Plant Treaty). This was the third global consultation to share knowledge, views, experiences and obstacles in order to prepare recommendations for the realisation of Farmers’ Rights. The meeting was co-hosted by the Governments of Indonesia and Norway, which will present the report and main recommendations to the Governing Body of the Plant Treaty in its seventh session in 2017.

Farmers’ Rights are a cornerstone of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the Plant Treaty). The realization of Farmers’ Rights is a precondition for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

However, and despite the increasing understanding and recognition of the importance of Farmers’ Rights and farmers food systems in building resilience to climate change, and hence food security, the implementation of Farmers Rights face several constraints and hindrances. The full implementation and achievement of the Plant Treaty depend on the contracting parties’ capacity and will to ensure the realization of farmers’ rights.

Farmers organisations and civil society presented a common set of recommendations during the meeting. The recommendations are summarized as follows:

  1. UNDRIP

The Governing Body to recognize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous People (UNDRIP), already adopted by all signatory countries of the Plant Treaty.

  1. Participation

The Governing Body should adopt mechanisms and procedures to institutionalize and strengthen participation of farmers that contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in Treaty-related meetings, processes and initatitives. Such mechanisms and procedures should be based on an assessment of farmers’ participation in such Treaty-activities, and developed in coordination with farmers’ representatives and public interest civil society organization. They should draw on good practices in other forums such as the FAO Strategy for Partnership with CSOs, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and CBD.

The Governing Body is requested to enhance and support (e.g. by ensuring financial support) capacity building of farmers by farmer groups and civil society organisations in respect of their rights, developments that may undermine Farmers’ Rights, and the importance of active farmers’ engagement in relevant national, regional and international processes.

The Governing Body is requested to develop guidance for the effective implementation of Article 9.2 (c) that is coherent with human rights.

Regional and international organisations and processes should recognise, legally establish and institutionalise farmers’ rights of participation in their decision-making process and activities.

National governments should establish a legally enforceable farmers’ rights of participation, paying particular attention to small-scale farmers.

National governments are called upon to ensure participation of farmers in decision-making on seed policies and laws at the national, regional and international levels. Seed policies and laws, including intellectual property and seed certification and marketing laws that have been formulate without or with limited involvement of farmers, especially small-scale farmers, should be urgently reviewed with the participation of farmers.

  1. Protocol

The Governing Body should develop a Protocol for the Implementation of Farmers’ Rights and for that purpose create and Ad-Hoc Working Group, which should include representatives of farmers’ organisations and civil society organisation. As a basis of this work, the Secretariat should compile national policy and legislation supportive of the implementation of Farmers’ Rights, and provide organisational assistance to the ADHG where needed, in particular to effectively consult stakeholders in all regions.

  1. Process for development of options for legal frameworks

The Governing Body should request the Secretariat to work with farmers’ organisations to initiate a process to involve farmers in the development of options for legal frameworks on the implementation of Farmers’ Rights, that take into account the needs and realities in different countries.

  1. Establishment of a Farmers’ Rights Unit

The Governing Body should establish a Farmers’ Rights Unit within the Secretariat that should provide information, technical assistance and capacity building on the implementation of Farmers’ Rights to contracting parties, farmer organisations and civil society organisations.

  1. DivSeek

Genetic sequence data initiatives such as DivSeek must require that access to sequence data is treated as equivalent to physical access to genetic resources, and must be governed by data access and other agreements that invoke the benefit sharing obligations of international treaties. Fair and equitable benefit sharing rules for these initiatives must ensure that prior informed consent for use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge is obtained from indigenous people and farmers.

  1. IPRs

The Governing Boyd should call and promote the prohibition of intellectual property rights in genetic information contained in plant genetic resources, in particular genetic resources in the Multilateral System.

The Governing Body should urge regional and international organisations and processes to respect Farmers’ Rights and ensure that their instruments and activities do not affect the policy space needed to realise Farmers’ Rights. It should also identify and address potential conflicts on Farmers’ Rights in relation to WIPO and UPOV, and potential ways to resolve such conflicts.

The Governing Body should recommend that the Contracting Parties, in formulating and implementing laws and policies, should ensure that Farmers’ Rights are safeguarded.

  1. Corporate Concentration

The Governing Body is urged to express its conern about the ongoing mergers of giant companies and their potential impact on the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA.

  1. Funding

The Governing Body is requested to ensure adequate, predicatble and timely funding to implement Farmers’ Rights to participate in the Governing Body, including its inter-sessional work and relevant consultations and meetings that may be held.

The Benefit Sharing Fund should be financed by mandatory payments proportional to the sales of legally and biologically non-reproducible seeds. The Fund should prioritise support for farmers’ seed systems in order to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of PGFRA.