Without redistributive justice, some will remain 'more equal than others'

Photo credit: CNS: citizen-news.org
"Inequality has grown so high and so obscene that 85 people in the world hold as much wealth as 3.5 billion - half the world's population; within the year just 1 per cent of the world's population will hold more weath than the remaining 99 per cent" - this was one of the key messages in a powerful poster exhibit calling for development justice, at the ongoing Asia Pacific CSOs Forum on Sustainable Development in Thailand.

Wardarina from Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) made a case for development justice, which includes: social and gender justice, environmental justice, accountability to peoples, redistributive justice and economic justice.

Unless the model of development we pursue ensures justice for all - especially for those who are marginalized or seldom heard or 'visible' - some of us will continue to remain 'more equal than others'. Post-2015 sustainable development agenda-setting process is one of the key opportunities before us to ensure that governments agree on development justice framework, one of the essential components of which is: redistributive justice.

Wardarina from APWLD shared: "Redistributive justice aims to redistribute resources, wealth, power and opportunities to all human beings equitably. It compels us to dismantle the existing systems that channel resources and wealth from developing countries to wealthy countries, from people to corporations and elites. It recognizes the people as sovereigns of our local and global commons."

Wali Haider, Pakistan
Photo credit: CNS: citizen-news.org
"Increasing agriculture production is not the real issue which is confronting us today! Real issue is the redistribution of resources including access and control to land and food" said Wali Haider from Roots for Equity in Pakistan, and focal point of farmer constituency in Regional CSOs' Engagement Mechanism (RCEM) around post-2015 sustainable development process.

"Post-2015 sustainable development framework presently does not recognize right to food or water or land! People in third-world countries who depend upon agriculture feel very vulnerable unless our rights are recognized. If they do not have access and control over resources, how come will they contribute to sustainable development process?" asked Wali.

Wali was concerned that "post-2015 development discussions are more focussing on enhancing agricultural yield by using modern technology. When 'green revolution' was pushed in 1990s, we saw how blatant use of technology actually brought devastation for farming communities - it did bring in tractors, machines, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, but cost of production shot up. Many landless farmers found it difficult to make both ends meet. A lot of rural people migrated to urban areas in search of jobs. Joblessness increased as well and dignity took a back seat."

"When many farm labourers realized that sustaining 'modern ways of doing agriculture' was becoming difficult for them, they migrated to urban areas and were forced to do pull cycle rickshaws to survive" shared another participant from Bangladesh.

Wali stressed that "agriculture is a very important sector and cannot just be taken as a money-minting business in post-2015 sustainable development framework. Agriculture is not money rather it is a way of life. We have to take it in that perspective."

Those who till the land, should own it too!

"Post-2015 development framework must recognize farmers' access and control of resources, and right to all kind of input especially the right to seed and land. 99 per cent of farm workers are landless. In our countries feudalism is still very strong and if farm labourers do not have right to land they will be forced to work on land owners' farm - then how can we have a sustainable development in such a situation? Land rights are important. Land reforms must be part of post-2015 development framework. We are instead making such laws that restrict right to some seeds. Food and agriculture should be considered as a major employment sector. It is the small and landless farmers who are producing 80 per cent of the food! We also need to build infrastructure as farms need to be linked to the markets" said Wali. But governments are working against the interests of the farm workers. "On 16 March 2014, an amendment was made to a seed law in Pakistan which is based upon the premise that we need private sector to come in as public seed sector is weakening. This made it possible for privatisation to seep in policy framework across board!"

Land rights of farm workers is a major issue being echoed from other countries as well. "No where these documents say that the land needs to belong to cultivators. Land has been mercilessly taken away from cultivators and given to corporations for non-agriculture purposes" said Poguri Chennaiah, national secretary of  Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union (APVVU) in India, and a senior advisor to National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM).

"7 out of 10 farmers are landless in Philippines. Despite technological advancements if farmers have no land to till then whose sustainable development are we talking about?" rightly questioned Maria Finesca Cosico from AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) in Philippines.

Even among the landless farmers, women are the ones who do hardest labour on the fields and seldom get recognized. Land rights for women farmers are seldom a reality. According to a factsheet, 'A Land Of My Own', published by Landesa and Oxfam India: "80 per cent of rural women in India are engaged in agricultural works but only less than 13 per cent women own any land. They work as labourers doing much of the pre-production, production, harvest and post-harvest activities but the contributions of women farmers always go unrecognized."

Indigenous peoples already had sustainable way of life, we destroyed that!

Jayesh Joshi, India
Photo credit: 
CNS: citizen-news.org
"We need to use the term 'mainstream' judiciously as it may be having adverse impact if over-used! We need to recognize that indigenous peoples had sustainable livelihood and sustainable model of co-existence already! It is the indigenous people who had the knowledge already how to live in a sustainable way, not us!" rightly said Jayesh Joshi from Voluntary Association of Agriculture General Development Health and Reconstruction Alliance (VAAGDHARA) in Rajasthan, India.

"Unfortunately it was the outsiders who destroyed forests and ways of farming of the indigenous people and penetrated their population with markets to such an extent that a person may find it difficult to earn enough for two meals a day but is likely to recharge her or his phone! We should have protected knowledge, practices and lifestyles of indigenous peoples. Post-2015 development agenda needs to address these issues" said Joshi.

"Agriculture practices must be removed from trade and kept away from corporations. Agriculture is part of our culture and if culture gets included in trade then we will ruin it. This is what has happened with trade taking over the agriculture in a big way. We need to ensure post 2015 development agenda is rights-based when we refer to education, health, nutrition security, food sovereignty, etc" stressed Joshi.

The road to redistributive justice might be long and journey challenging, but there is no other way to reach the aspirational goal of development justice! Redistributive justice, along with other components of development justice, need to drive post-2015 development agenda so that no one remains 'more equal than others'.

Bobby Ramakant, Citizen News Service - CNS
17 May 2015