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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Peasant Activism and Food Sovereignty: Exploring the Dynamics Between Social Movements and the United Nations Human Rights Council

International Relations
Social Movements
Political Activism
Robin Dunford
University of Brighton
Robin Dunford
University of Brighton

This paper explores interactions between a transnational peasant social movement – La Vía Campesina - and the United Nations Human Rights Council, focusing on discussions concerning the development of a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. Peasant engagements with international institutions suggest that it is possible for grassroots social movements to play a key role in the development of human rights implements. The process of translation that has occurred as rights demanded by rural social movement activists have gone through Human Rights Council processes, however, has diluted the radical agenda of peasants’ rights. This paper uses interactions between peasant social movements and an international institution in order to militate against tendencies of West-centrism and elitism that exist in literature on the contemporary diffusion of norms. In discussing the potential marginalisation of grassroots peasant voices in recent United Nations discussions, it suggests that these elitist and West-centric tendencies also exist in processes through which international norms are institutionalized. By engaging further with the voices of grassroots activists, scholarship on ‘norm diffusion’ can move from a position of complicity with, in order to become critical of, elitist and West-centric operations in international institutions.
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