La Vía Campesina and its Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform

Authors

  • SATURNINO M. BORRAS JR

    1. 1Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies, Saint Mary's University, 923 Robie Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 3C3
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  • Saturnino M. Borras Jr, Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies, Saint Mary's University, 923 Robie Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 3C3. e-mail: sborras@smu.ca

  • I am deeply indebted to Jennifer Franco of the New Politics-Rural sub-programme at the Transnational Institute (TNI) for her substantive input to this work, saving it from serious and embarrassing mistakes, and making its arguments clearer and sharper. I also thank Terry Byres, Libby Haight, Cristóbal Kay, Marc Edelman and Sofia Monsalve for their very helpful comments on an earlier draft. This essay draws from an earlier article of the author (Borras 2004) published by the Transnational Institute (TNI). Full disclosure: I was part of the founding organizing team of La Vía Campesina, and was a member of its International Coordinating Committee from 1993 to 1996. Since mid-1996, I have followed La Vía Campesina's progress, but as an outsider.

Abstract

Vía Campesina's ‘Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform’ (GCAR) has made a significant impact (inter)nationally in reshaping the terms of the land reform debates. However, its impact on other land policy dynamics has been marginal. Meanwhile, the campaign inadvertently exposed latent class-based and ideological distinctions within the transnational network. This essay explains how the GCAR emerged, and has been able to influence the broader global land reform debates, but has not been able (so far) to significantly impact other major dimensions of the land policy debates. It argues that if GCAR is to retain relevance, it must deepen and broaden its current position on land to go beyond the parameters of conventional land reform. Moreover, it must also find ways to better integrate ‘global issue framing from above’ with ‘local/national campaigns from below’ if it is to strengthen its process of ‘issue/campaign externalization/transnationalization’. Doing this may require the network to rethink some of its well-established organizational practices and ideological perspectives.

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