Opening Session: Fourth meeting Ad Hoc Technical Experts Group on Farmers’ Rights

May 5, 2021

The fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Farmers’ Rights of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) has officially started yesterday 4th May, with a daily agenda of debates ending on 7th May. The IPC is taking part in this important virtual meeting through the participation of four experts from IPC member organisations. This will be an important week, in which the IPC Working Group on Agrobiodiversity will support experts from farmers’ organisations and civil society in discussing options that countries could adopt for the implementation of farmers’ rights at the national level. In yesterday’s opening session, the IPC expert Alimata Traoré started her opening statement by highlighting her deep concern about a process which still struggles to facilitate the participation of peasants in this meeting’s discussions. She continues by stating that “We received the documents too late, only a few days before the start of this meeting. The document that is supposed to guide our discussions this week is very complex and we should all have sufficient time to study it before the meeting and to prepare ourselves.” Alimata Traoré underlines also the technical difficulty that farmers facing in having to attend this virtual meeting with often instable internet connections. This is the second virtual edition, after the third meeting of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group of last 25th-28th August 2020. “Under these circumstances, we reserve the right not to accept the report of this expert group meeting or a final options paper, if farmers’ representatives have difficulties to participate effectively and fairly due to the lack of timely availability of working documents in the four languages and the virtual modality” states Traoré. She affirms that the validation of the final options’ paper – to be presented at the ninth meeting of the Governing Body – should only be executed on the basis of a document received at least six weeks prior to the meeting, translated into all working languages, and for which viable options for physical attendance shall be previously evaluated. Her opening statement closes with a final message, affirming that “Our discussions are about rights that only become effective if they are recognised and enforceable in the form of laws. It is essential that this is reflected in the options, and Category 10 is key to this process and the mandate that the Governing Body has entrusted to us. I would therefore like our discussions to be organised in such a way as to ensure that we can address Category 10 in depth to make the best use of our time together.” Today, the Experts will continue to discuss the Options paper that the Group is working on. During yesterday’s meeting, several fundamental and critical issues were addressed, such as the collective nature of farmers’ rights and the importance of identifying farmers and indigenous peoples as rights-holders and not stakeholders. Although it is important to remember that this meeting is not a negotiation, today the Experts will enter the heart of the process by discussing the contents of the Options; we hope that all the experts will engage in a constructive discussion aimed at the realization and application of farmers’ rights at the national level, and not at protecting the positions of the private sector and the seed industry.