Article written

  • on 26.03.2015
  • at 03:08 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Global Convergence of Land and Water Struggles’ 0

Over 70,000 participants representing social movement sectors from around the globe are taking part in the 13th edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) in Tunis. Paola De Meo, from Terra Nuova, reports on a session dedicated to land and water grabbing that gathers World Forum of Fisher Peoples, la Via Campesina, Roppa, Hands on the Land Coalition and Cospe. Report from Tunis by Paola De Meo.

Currently, more than 227 million hectares of land are grabbed globally due to large-scale agricultural investments by private firms, governments, and high-level speculators. These initiatives are often portrayed as a way out of poverty and food insecurity and are thus supported by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the G8 and other such organizations. The reality on the ground tells a different story: entire areas are ruined while the damage to local ecosystems makes life incredibly difficult for people in the communities who are dispossessed of both their land and livelihoods. Their rights are abused without any compensation, forcing them to often become poor urban-dwellers or to migrate.

The social movements organizations engaged in the defense of water and land rights are convening in Tunis during the World Social Forum to present case studies and hear ground-level accounts of the situation. Representatives from Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Ghana and South Africa, along with representatives from other continents, are exchanging views and new examples of human rights violations, evictions and community displacements driven by corporate- led land and water grabbing.

The organizations and movements involved in land and water rights are clear that land and water grabbing are linked. The privatization of water utilities and management, the contamination of water through uncontrolled mining, the eviction of communities for the building of dams and the loss of fishermen’s and shepherd’s livelihoods are just some of the examples mentioned at the forum. When fishing communities lose access to their fishing waters, it is due to the privatization and conversion of local lands into luxury tourist resorts. The privatization of coastal zones for commercial aquafarming similarly prevents them from fishing on the coastal belts. Criminalizing activists fighting for the protection of what are meant to be public spaces has become another alarming tendency, albeit one that is hidden by the authorities. Land and water resources are increasingly scarce and a significant issue for both the local societies and the sovereignty of states.

Participants are also presenting the current international legal norms and frameworks, which offer concrete tools to support the resistance and empowerment of local communities. The Tenure Guidelines and the small-scale Fisheries guidelines, endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in 2012 and the FAO in 2014, are useful in showing who has the right to which resources and for what purposes.  An event targeting a concrete cause of land and water grabbing, the G8 New Alliance Initiative, will be analyzed on the 27th by African organizations and European NGOs who are trying to coordinate their respective advocacy efforts.

By Paola De Meo (Terra Nuova) –

Photo Credit: Juliana Rotich/Flickr

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