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Wednesday, 03 September 2008 11:15

“SO OUR RICE BINS MAY ALWAYS BE FULL”

THE 1996 BALAY DECLARATION

Southeast Asian NGO Conference on Food Security and fair Trade

Held at
“Balay Kalinaw”, University of the Philippines (UP) Campus
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippins

13-16 February 1996
  
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THE VISION

Food Security is a basic human right embraced in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – a document that is increasingly mutually exclusive with the WTO and other such international engagements. It is such hastily conceived freer-trade efforts that are proving to be a destabilizing rather than the initially hoped-for stabilizing factor in national development. The lack of transparency in the negotiation process creates situation of considerable moral hazard in the circles of the decision-makers. The people to bear the brunt of the subsequent decisions are, of course, those who have little representation in those circles – namely the vast rural population. Agriculture free trade has greatly exacerbated the commoditization of natural resources fundamental to their livelihood. The resultant uncertain access to these resources leaves the rural communities with little incentive to, or means by which they can, continue to produce food for their family and others. It renders insecure and access (spatially, temporarily and financially) to safe, culturally preferred foodstuffs. It results in food insecurity.
 
The eleven statements contained in the Southeast Asian Council for Food Security and fair Trade’s (SEACON) Balay Declaration constitutes a vehicle for positive change. Its fuel is the populace’s increased political awareness and the increased time for reflection that the economic crisis has provided in the wake of the dizzying economic boom as bequeathed to the region’s populate in the wake of the previous decade’s boom. When engaged, the Balay Declaration will engage in securing popular result in secure access to decision making at the macro and macro levels; it will secure access for the rural communities to food reserved and resources to produce food; it will provide a means by which rural and regional communities can maintain their culture integrity in the face of tremendous pressures of conformity put upon them by globalization; it will extract agriculture and its intrinsic human and natural resources to re-engage in sustainable agriculture; it will empower the marginalized majority through strengthened democracy thereby providing the region with the means to equitably negotiated international trade as a supplement to regional production – not as a replacement.

The vision of the SEACON as it works to enact the Balay Declaration, then, is a Southeast Asia that is food secure with a healthy and stable social base necessary for communities and individuals to decide their own future rather than have it indirectly dictated through the elimination of options.

THE 1996 BALAY DECLARATION

Of the Southeast Asian NGO Conference on Trade and Food Security
13-16 February 1996

Gathered together in Metro Manila Philippines, from 13 to 16 February 1996, WE – development workers and representative of local, national, and regional people’s organization and non-government agencies; scholars and scientists; parliamentarians and advocates; and policy analyst and technical consultant from the seven (7) Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and joined by our partners and colleagues in the agriculture and food institutes, the academic and development community in other parts of Asia, Europe, and North America- hereby uphold these principles and declare the following:

  1. Food security in Southeast Asia must entail, at minimum, efforts to develop national and regional self-sufficiency in rice and /or other essential staples. Endowed with land and other natural resources, Southeast Asia should develop and sustain its capacity to provide its population with enough safe, culturally preferred staple foodstuffs.
  2. Preventing scarcities in basic foodstuffs entail stronger cooperation and complementation of agriculture efforts among countries on a regional level. And except for Singapore, Southeast Asian countries can produce enough food for its citizen. Policies aimed at addressing scarcities should therefore priorities regional exchanges and purchased of food, rather than the important of food from outside the region. Such purchases are underscores by recognition of the traditional Southeast Asian diet and the food choices that Asian makes. 
  3. The right of Southeast Asian countries to pursue policies aimed at national and regional food self-sufficiency should be acknowledged in international trade rules and in regional trade approaches. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the World Food Trade Organization (WTO), and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) provide a framework of accelerated trade liberalization that can endanger the food security of citizens in developing countries. Regional economic associations should promote common development, however, the inclusion of rice under the CEPT of AFTA will run counter to such an objective and instead accentuate regional disparities in food production security and sustainability.
  4. An immediate measure is to exclude staple foodstuffs from the list of commodities to be liberalized under the common Effective Preferential Tariffs (CEPT) schedule of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). To prevent and regional scarcities, Southeast Asian countries can undertake measure aimed at limiting the export of rice and other foodstuffs. Accelerated trade liberalization in agriculture under APEC should also oppose at all costs.
  5. An essential feature in promoting food security in the midst of trade liberalization is the maintenance and strengthening of the oversight process and mechanisms that monitor, evaluate, and approve the important of food commodities and the acceptance of food aid. Tariffs are inadequate protection for food sectors rendered vulnerable to new trade rules Government in the past have had resource to a strict process of determining need and approving the important of food commodities and the acceptance of subsidized food loans and grants. These processes and mechanisms should be restored or maintained and strengthened. In the case of the Third World Trade Organization (WTO), developing countries should be accorded easier access to waivers in the implementation of liberalization measure in sensitive sectors and commodities vital to food security.  
  6. Government should create national and regional buffer stocks aimed maintaining stable and remunerative prices for producer and assuring affordable suppliers for consumers. To balance the desire for affordable food prices on the one hand, and the need to reward producers with good price on the other, government should take concrete steps at regulating food markets. This responsibility cannot be surrendered entirely by the state. A vigorous effort to decartelize the food-marketing sector should be undertaken. Meeting these objectives will require the maintenance of strategic reserves. 
  7. To ensure that stockpiles actually meet the requirements of household food security, it is essential for governments to adopt policies that decentralize food capacities to the community level. The establishment of community-based food stockpiles is a decisive factor in the fight against hunger. They are important in the face of increasing urbanization and in a situation where the commercialization of farmland is on the rise government should adopt policies aimed at financially guaranteeing village-level stockpiles to sustain decentralized capacities.
  8. Sustainable agriculture is crucial to long-term food security and must be given high priority in both national and regional agriculture research programs. We must develop an alternative path to agriculture modernization, one that promotes diversified and holistic farming systems, and recognizes the value of indigenous farming techniques and practices. These farming systems are a reflection of a set of Asian cultures and values such as those underscored by the Vietnamese “doi-moi” (renovation), the Thai culture of the “cheuay luekua kun” (compassion and generosity), the Filipino spirit of “bayanihan” (mutual aid), the Indonesian practice of “sambatan” or the Laotian tradition of “liang sat” (traditional care of animals as both food and offering).
  9. The process of setting priorities in sustainable agriculture research must be farmer-led. We strongly urge the democratization of local, national and regional research systems to include farmers and NGOs as peer partners of scientists in planning and implementing the research agenda. We can produce enough for the needs of the population while restoring and preserving ecological balance by building on and enhancing the genius of local farmers and indigenous knowledge systems.
  10. Food security requires a comprehensive plan to protect and enhance the environment. Meeting food security objectives entail self-sufficiency targets for staple crops such as rice, which in turn entail a comprehensive effort to protect both upland and lowland ecosystem from ecological ruin. The present situation is one where shortfalls in food production are more a result of environmental disaster and harmful technology.
  11. Massive rice production being water intensive, it is in the interest of food security to preserve and rehabilitate the forests and watersheds essential for steady and sufficient water supply. In the wake of large migrations to the uplands, sustainable upland agriculture practices should also be promoted to ensure continuing food security for the upland peoples and to safeguard the environment.
  12. On the other hand, state and household decisions to increase production may result in greater food output, but may also mean irreparable harm to upland, lowland and coastal ecosystems. Food policy should therefore realistically consider situations where self-sufficient targets are subordinated to environmental concerns. 
  13. Protecting community control over genetic resources is both a moral and food security issue. We must prevent the earth’s genetic pool from failing under the control of transaction corporations. We strongly oppose the patenting of life forms. This degrades biological resources from a common heritage into tradeable commodities controlled by monopolies. We strongly urge Southeast Asia governments to cooperate with farmers and NGOs in developing sui generis systems of control over genetic resources during the period required by the World Trade Organization.
  14. Food security demands a set of national policies that are holistic, comprehensive and coherent, with food security occupying the highest priority. In addition to the measures already proposed, we advocated the following to be part of national policy: (1) most suitable food producing areas are designated as protected zones, where crop and land conversion has to be strictly prohibited or monitored; (2) public investment in infrastructure development are increased to support food production and reduce post-harvest losses; (3) a socialized food pricing policy; (4) include clauses in the multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and in the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) of the WTO that serve to unambiguously protect ready access to all natural resources inherent to agriculture (including human, land, water and genetic resources, among others) from corporate fancy.
  15. The government should insure that sufficient land is allotted to food production consistent with its food self-sufficient targets, and protect it from the encroachment of export crop production, industrial estates, subdivisions, road building, tourism development and other competing land uses.  
  16. The main bulk of food producers in the region are small farmers and fisher folks, a large percentage of whom are steadily becoming landless. Land and aquatic reform and the democratization of access to appropriate credit and capital, and food and natural resources in both upland and lowland, aquatic and forest areas provide impetus to the productive energies of poor rural producers. Studies have long disproved arguments against land reform on guard of economies of scale and have shown that small farms can be efficient, highly productive, and profitable, especially of operated through social and community cooperation and cooperatives. 
  17. Women play a key role in the food security of children, the family and the community, yet the role of women in agriculture is not adequately recognized and valued. Hence, opportunities must be provided for women’s full participation in policy and decision making that recognizes their role in food security. As food producers themselves, women must have equal rights and access to land, credit and training.
  18. The democratization of decision and policy making provide the lasting guarantees to food security. At all levels, people’s participation and the role of civil society actors in this enabling and empowering process should prioritize the interests of small food producers, which have been historically underrepresented vis-à-vis the consumer and trade sector.

We propose the establishment of food security councils at the local, national and regional levels that ensure the strong representation of producer interests, with the participation of consumers, business and civil society actors, and mediated by the state. These councils shall have the following functions: (1) monitoring levels of production, stock, consumption and prices of food commodities; (2) ensuring and administering emergency rice reserves; (3) monitoring agriculture land use and conversion; (4) recommending and monitoring the implementation of food policies and programs; (5) formulating contingency measures in the event of shortages; and (6) monitoring the site and sector-specific impact of trade liberalization on food production and marketing.

In concrete and in the immediate term, we ask for the immediate convening of a regional food security council under the ASEAN Council of Food and Agriculture Ministers, with representation at the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization. The Southeast Asian NGDO Liaison Committee on Trade and Food Security also asks for “observer status” at the official meetings of the FAO, ASEAN, and APEC, a process made especially crucial as we move towards the world Food Summit in November 1996.

Food security demands strong community and national action. But it also demands in understanding of the impact of regional and international politics on food. The institutionalization of democracy in regional and international policy and decision-making is essential to food security.

In sum, we reiterate the following:

  1. The immediate establishment of food security councils on the municipal, national and regional level;
  2. The easier access to waivers under the WTO for food security purposed and the immediate removal of rice from the CEPT list under the AFTA;
  3. The provision by FAO of consultative status to the Southeast Asian Council For Food Security and Fair Trade;
  4. The immediate establishment of national and regional buffer stocks and strategic reserves in rice and other locally produced essential staples;
  5. The 1999 review of the WTO is an extremely important opportunity that the region’s NGO, PO and Civil Society groups must prepare for and participate in so as to unambiguously state to the global community that Southeast Asia does not accept the commoditization of food and resources intrinsic to food production;
  6. The only basis for long-term food security is the support and promotion of initiatives, which lead to the attainment of sustainable agriculture.