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Farmers' Rights to Participate in Decision-making - Implementing Article 9.2(c) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Chee Yoke Ling et al. (2016):
Farmers' Rights to Participate in Decision-making - Implementing Article 9.2(c) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
Working paper, APBREBES, 2016


Article 9.2(c) applies to all types of decision-making processes (e.g. administrative, legislative) and outcomes (e.g. policies, legislations, regulations, budgets, strategies etc.). It also applies to a wide range of subject matter given the broad scope of “conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA,” including the formulation of seed laws related to plant variety protection, seed certification and marketing. It is relevant to all roles of farmers related to conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA and given the importance of Farmers’ Rights in this regard, the right to participate is intrinsic for matters related to Article 9 itself, including the implementation of Article 9.2(c).
This paper clearly shows that the participation required goes beyond mere consultation. Article 9.2(c) applies to national level decision-making, which would include participation in subnational processes i.e. at the local and community level. However, this paper also demonstrates that decision-making at the national level is impacted increasingly by regional and international developments and processes, and these in turn, can adversely affect Farmers’ Rights and implementation of the Treaty. Of particular concern is decision-making related to UPOV and other intellectual property systems, bilateral, regional and plurilateral trade or intellectual property agreements as well as seed certification and marketing laws. Since regional and international decision-making affects national decision-making with implications for Farmers’ Rights, it is only logical that the right to participate should also apply to decision-making processes at the regional and international levels.
The operationalization of Article 9.2(c) at the national, regional and international levels is severely lacking. Farmers face considerable challenges in exercising their right to participate at all these levels, with the consequence that decisions including on policies and laws not only ignore their needs, but also adversely affect farmers’ freedom to operate. This is evidenced for example by the formulation of seed laws, in particular plant variety protection, seed certification and marketing laws that restrict and in some cases criminalize farmers’ right to freely use, save, exchange and sell farm saved seed/propagating material.
The challenges farmers face with regard to the right to participate include: the absence of legal recognition of the right to participate; the absence of appropriate mechanisms to facilitate farmers' participation; the lack of political will (often due to bias in favour of the corporate sector and/or various external pressures); and limited or no access to information and/or financial support.
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