The IUF was present in New York January 27 through February 1 leading the trade union side at the 2nd preparatory meeting for the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Below you will find a summary of the work at this meeting and the IUF’s initial proposal presented at the meeting.

Report of the FAO – Major Group Side Event on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development, 31.01.2002

Representatives of the FAO and Major Groups active on land and sustainable agriculture issues provided their assessment of progress and lessons learned since the UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio “Earth Summit”)1992. They also identified new challenges and main constraints in the area of integrated land, food and agricultural policy within the framework of poverty eradication, resource management, sustainable production and consumption and other cross-cutting sustainable development themes.

Specific commitments of stakeholders on sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) were presented, and will be developed through the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) preparatory processes between Jan and August 2002. Three initial initiatives were presented at the side event:

– Access to resources for SARD

– Good agricultural practices for SARD

– Global campaign on fair conditions of employment in agriculture

For the IUF, it was an opportunity to propose a Global Campaign on Fair Employment in Agriculture involving the Major Groups, intergovernmental agencies like the FAO and ILO , governments, and other stakeholders. The campaign would focus on promoting fair conditions of employment in agriculture for permanent, temporary, seasonal and migrant ‘waged’ workers; wage-dependent smallholders; self-employed farmers working as contract labourers; self-employed workers employed as contract labourers; and sharecroppers.

The campaign would focus especially on improving health, safety and environmental standards for farmers and agricultural workers. There would also be especial emphasis on ensuring fair conditions of employment for women in agriculture.

The FAO spokesperson at the side event acknowledged that, “ten years ago (at the Rio Summit) agricultural workers did not even receive a mention in (Agenda 21) Chapter 14 (on sustainable agriculture)”. She stated that, “insufficient attention to developing policies and programmes capable of promoting fair wages, safe and decent working conditions, and basic security of employment can lock agricultural workers into a vicious cycle of poverty”, adding that, the FAO recognises that this issue has not received sufficient attention to date”. She then added that, “the first step to improve employment-dependent livelihoods is to understand them. As a starting point in this biennium, FAO commits to preparing with IUF an issues paper on the role of agricultural workers in sustainable agriculture and rural development, which would also include informal sector agricultural employment”.

Footnote

Agenda 21 – the global/local programme of action on sustainable development for the 21st century agreed on by governments and other stakeholders at the Rio “Earth Summit” – set up a system of nine Major Groups whose role in sustainable development should be strengthened. Seven of the Major Groups were represented at the side event – workers and trade unions; business and industry; farmers, non-governmental organisations, indigenous peoples, women, and science and technology.

IUF Presentation at the FAO- Major Group Side Event on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development, 31.01.02

The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) is an international trade union federation which represents workers in food processing, agriculture, and tourism. The IUF organises workers in the global food chain and represents a plough to plate approach to food production.

The trade unions actively support the FAO-Major Group work to strengthen the implementation of sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) within the context of Agenda 21.

In order to strengthen the social pillar of SARD, the trade unions are proposing the theme of a Global Campaign on Fair Conditions of Employment in Agriculture. This theme would also help to integrate the work of the Major Groups on SARD.

The campaign would focus on promoting fair conditions of employment in agriculture for permanent, temporary, seasonal and migrant ‘waged’ workers; wage-dependent smallholders; self-employed farmers working as contract labourers; self-employed workers employed as contract labourers, and sharecroppers.

There would be particular emphasis on the needs and role of waged agricultural workers in SARD. They are a large group. There are an estimated 450 million women and men, who work for some form of ‘wage’, employed in agriculture. To date, their role and contribution to SARD has remained invisible within Agenda 21 Chapter 14 on SARD and associated processes, even though they – along with small farmers – form the core of the rural poor in many parts of the world.

The global campaign could integrate the work of the Major Groups in the following ways:

– Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could support the campaign. Especially the call for recognition and acceptance of ILO core (and agricultural) labour standards as a key element, and measure, of SARD, and as part of fundamental human rights;

– Indigenous Peoples could support the campaign as they are often doubly violated in respect of SARD. They lose the opportunity to continue to pursue sustainable livelihoods as they are driven off their traditional lands and end up working as agricultural labourers on farms or plantations, often under the most miserable working conditions;

– Farmers could support the campaign to improve employment standards as many wage-dependent smallholders (whose numbers are increasing in many parts of the world) regularly work on farms or plantations for part of the year to supplement their income;

– Business and Industry could support the campaign as they wish to ensure sustainable businesses by ensuring good employment conditions, and by demonstrating to consumers that agricultural products are produced in a manner that is socially as well as environmentally sustainable;

– Women could support the campaign as 20-30% of the waged workforce are women, as well as many of the wage-dependent smallholders;

– Youth could support the campaign as they wish to see the end to poverty and hunger, and to fight against the use of child labour which is very prevalent in agriculture;

– Science and Technology could support the campaign as better social science data and research on employment and associated issues are needed.

Published: 06/02/2002