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PAN AP Congress intensifies commitment to people's movements in advancing food sovereignty and gender justice
Media Release
Friday, September 6, 2013 - 15:00

(Penang, Malaysia) - Carrying the theme, "Empowering Communities, Protecting the Environment and Building Sustainable Livelihoods", the PAN AP Congress, 2-4 September 2013 in Penang, Malaysia brought together 84 delegates from 23 countries.

In his keynote address, Rafael Mariano, National Chairperson of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) emphasised the "unstoppable land-grabbing and plunder of natural resources by big local and foreign investors, and the tightening control of agro-chemical transnational corporations (TNCs) over food and agriculture has intensified landlessness, hunger and poverty."

Meanwhile these TNCs continue their business as usual producing highly hazardous pesticides and chemicals that create ecological and human health disasters. Shweta Narayan from the Community Environmental Monitoring in Bhopal called for justice for the Bhopal survivors and for Dow Chemicals to be made liable and accountable for the world's worst industrial disaster in 1984. Even after 29 years, the survivors still await just compensation, adequate medical assistance and treatment and comprehensive economic and social rehabilitation.

In a panel discussion, Dr. Meriel Watts, senior scientist with PAN AP and representing PAN Aotearoa spoke of the poisoning of our ecosystem including pollution of rivers, land and air by highly hazardous pesticides such as neonicotinoids. Consequently, bees, bats and many species of beneficial organisms are disappearing as well as biodiversity loss is increasing. The livelihoods of millions of people in the Asia Pacific who depend on agro-diverse farming systems where pollinators and other species play an important role are at risk.

Sarojeni V. Rengam, Executive Director of PAN AP in her presentation said, "We are facing high food prices and their volatility, loss of food self-sufficiency, loss of food culture and food contaminated with pesticides, GMOs and other pollutants". She added, "The root causes are neo-liberal policies including a new Free Trade Agreement, Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and corporate monopoly control. These spearhead the unprecedented push for profits and control of resources and people."

Rengam said, "As a result, small food producers are being impoverished and losing their livelihoods and their lands and access to the forest and aquatic resources. As peasants, plantation and agricultural workers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples and women resist this onslaught, they are criminalised, beaten, raped and killed. And yet they continue their resistance. They win against all odds."

This message of people's resistance, struggle and victories was part of the celebrations that marked the 30th anniversary of PAN International. To mark this occasion, PAN AP launched the book "Realise, Resist, Reclaim: Celebrating 30 years".

Throughout the three day event, the delegates shared the impacts and responses to these challenges, and mapped out concrete plans to address these challenges. Various resolutions were adopted such as the calling for the progressive ban on highly hazardous pesticides; support for peasants who uprooted the genetically engineered golden rice in field trials in the Philippines and demand for the government to stop these field trials; to support the demands of the farm workers and residents for free land distribution and ouster of the military in Hacienda Luisita (a sugar plantation) in the Philippines; moratorium on Bt brinjal in Bangladesh; and for governments and corporations to stop land grabbing in Asia.

The Congress culminated with their strong commitment to work together to support and strengthen grassroots movements and groups of marginalised peoples to not only advance but reclaim the rights of the peoples to food sovereignty, gender justice and ecological agriculture.

Closing the Congress on the 3rd day, the delegates endorsed the consolidated strategies and called for strong partnerships of people's organisations and Civil Society Organisations in the strengthening of movements of small food producers to empower communities, protect the environment and build sustainable livelihoods.

Contact: Vasentha - vasentha.sampasivam@panap.net

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