Nikhil Aziz's blog
By Nikhil Aziz
March 31st, 2008
From the capital, Port Au Prince, we take a small five-seater plane to the Central Plateau in Haiti's interior. My colleague Maria Aguiar and I are flying to Hinche, the capital of the Department of the Centre. From there we will drive to Papaye to visit Grassroots International's partner the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Peasant Movement of Papaye), which is convening to celebrate its 35th anniversary and chalk out a plan of action for the next five years.
"Punjabis are poisoning themselves" declared the Economist not too long ago, quipping that the poster child of India's green revolution is now "in the throes of a grey revolution." We take heart that the Economist, a cheerleader for "free trade" and neoliberal economic policies, is raising questions about policies that have caused massive environmental degradation and serious public health consequences for India's bread basket state.
Your voice was heard in the U.S. Senate.
The Farm Bill, scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate next week, includes funding for a $25 million pilot project for locally-sourced food aid for hungry people around the world.
We want to thank you for your support of this crucial legislation.
This is a big win.
At the last minute, Senator Pat Roberts (KS-R) threatened to call an amendment that would have squashed the pilot project. Thanks to the support of activists like you, this program that will offer support to family farmers around the world and improve our ability to feed the hungry is alive.
More and more people around the world are taking up the call by peasant and small farmers, indigenous peoples and pastoralists for food sovereignty as an expression of, and a way to realize the right to food. Earlier this year members of the Via Campesina and other organizations met in Mali to put in motion an action plan for achieving food sovereignty. On October 16th, World Food Day, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) endorsed food sovereignty as the right to food. As IFOAM notes, food sovereignty as the right to food means the right to feed oneself as opposed to the right to be fed.
“Our Youth is not the Future, Our Youth is the Present” – Julian Moya, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), Albuquerque, New Mexico
“We cannot choose the historical conditions we find ourselves in, but we can choose how we respond to them” – Ajamu Baraka, Director, U.S. Human Rights Network, Atlanta, Georgia
These two quotes, among many other hopeful messages I heard at the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) from June 27 to July 1, 2007 in Atlanta epitomized for me the USSF – what it stands for and envisions in terms of a different kind of United States. Both represent the truth embedded in the official slogan of the USSF – Another World is Possible; Another US is Necessary.
More than 5000 people rallied on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday, June 10th to call for an end to the 40 year Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They represented over 300 organizations from around the country including Grassroots International—Grassroots’ Executive Director Nikhil Aziz participated in the rally. The organizations ranged from faith-based groups and labor unions to civil rights, students’, women’s and lesbian and gay groups. They demanded that the U.S. government act to bring about a lasting and just peace and an end to the occupation and conflict.
The 17th of April is International Peasants' Struggle Day, established after the massacre of 19 landless peasants belonging to the Landless Movement (MST) in Brazil on the 17th of April 1996 which occurred during the second conference of the Via Campesina in Tlaxcala Mexico. Many of Grassroots International's partners, including the MST are members of the Via Campesina, and Grassroots directly works with the Via as well.
In commemoration of International Peasants' Struggle Day, the Via Campesina and its allies are organizing activities and actions all over the world. Peasants and friends will rally around the demands that the Via posted on its website.
Christine Ahn of the Korean Americans for Fair Trade sent us this statement opposing the KorUS FTA (the free trade agreement signed between South Korea and the United States) that was reached today. Through organizations like the Korean Peasant League, a member of the Via Campesina, South Korean farmers and workers have been global leaders in the opposition to free trade agreements like KorUS FTA and the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Agriculture. KPL and its allies continue to struggle for food sovereignty and fair trade in the face of this assault on human and resource rights.
Meanwhile, last week, Grassroots International and 712 other human rights, development, environmental, farm, labor, faith-based and other organizations signed a letter initiated by Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch to Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid opposing Fast Track Authority for the President for such free trade agreements.
In the wake of President Bush's visit to Guatemala as part of his 5 nation Latin America tour, the National Labor Committee (NLC, New York) and the Center for Studies and Support for Local Development (CEADEL, Guatemala) just released a joint report "Harvest of Shame" that details the exploitation and human rights violations of children in Guatemala.
Foreign Policy in Focus (a joint project of the Institute for Policy Studies and the International Relations Center) recently invited Anuradha Mittal (of the Oakland Institute) and Gawain Kripke (of Oxfam America) to debate free trade. Anuradha was also on a recent panel with Colin Rajah (of the National Netowrk on Immigrant and Refugee Rights) titled, "A Perfect Storm: U.S. Trade, Agriculture and Immigration Policies Undermining Human Rights" that Grassroots International organized at the International Human Rights Funders Group conference in January 2007.