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The Politics of Transnational Agrarian Movements


  • Saturnino M. Borras Jr.

    1. holds the Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia (e-mail address: He is also Adjunct Professor at the College of Humanities and Development (COHD), China Agricultural University in Beijing, and Fellow of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI) and of the California-based Food First. His books include Pro-Poor Land Reform: A Critique (2007), Transnational Agrarian Movements Confronting Globalization (2008, co-edited with M. Edelman and C. Kay) and the edited Critical Perspectives in Rural Development Studies (2009). In January 2011, he will join the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague.
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  • This article is based partly on a joint paper with Jennifer C. Franco of the Transnational Institute (TNI) (Borras and Franco, 2009). For their comments on the earlier co-authored piece, I would like to thank the participants in the workshop, Global Citizen Engagements, held at IDS, University of Sussex, in 2008, especially John Gaventa, Peter Newell and Rajesh Tandon. I am grateful to Jennifer Franco for her input, and would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. Any remaining errors are mine. Disclosure: the author was a founding member of Vía Campesina and was a member of its International Coordinating Commission from 1993 to 1996.


The transnational agrarian movements (TAMs) which have emerged in recent decades have been actively engaged in the politics and policies of international (rural) development. Intergovernmental and non-governmental development agencies have welcomed and supported TAMs in the context of promoting international ‘partnerships for development’. The analysis in this article revolves around the politics of TAM representation, intermediation and mobilization around the issue of land. It focuses on La Vía Campesina in relation to three other coalitions: the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, IPC for Food Sovereignty and International Land Coalition. It is argued here that ‘people linked to the land’ are socially differentiated and thus have varied experiences of neoliberal globalization. Their social movements and organizations are just as differentiated, ideologically, politically and institutionally. This differentiation is internalized within and between TAMs, and partly shapes TAMs’ political agendas and strategies in their interaction with international development institutions.