When communal lands are parceled up and individual titles are given out, the result has often been a disaster, as in the case of Thailand. Communities that had held relatively stable tenure over their land for many generations lost them in just a few years after the new titles were used as collateral for bank loans, generating destitution and despair. In cases where the poor were given credit to buy land from willing sellers, as in Brazil, Guatemala, and South Africa, the results have been no better.
It was a chance for world leaders to revisit the "sustainable development" goals made ten years ago in Rio de Janeiro, and to rise above narrow self-interest to solve the gravest ecological problems facing our planet. But in Johannesburg, corporate interests set the agenda for sustainability on their own terms: nonbinding, voluntary agreements; public-private partnerships; and a push toward economic globalization as a panacea for the world's social and ecological problems.
In 2003, we continued our well-researched analysis and worked to forge international alliances with human rights, labor, and trade activists, and people's movements, using the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a strong moral yardstick to unite single-issue causes under the banner of economic and social human rights.
If we believed everything we saw in the mainstream media, 2002 would have seemed a very gloomy year indeed. Yet, despite the specter of war, we find reasons to be optimistic about the rapidly gelling global movement for human dignity of which we are a part. Behind the headlines, there are genuine reasons for hope. At Food First, we feel that the global justice movement is coming together like never before.