Tue17Apr - Appeal of the Peasants ProtectTheWilderness

tony at cultureshop.org.uk tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Fri Apr 13 01:30:29 BST 2012

SUPPORT NEEDED: Come to the Appeal of the Peasants, April 17th

April Appeal of the Peasants ProtectTheWilderness

April 17th, 11AM @ Bristol County Court, Redcliff Street, Bristol, BS1 6GR

Please join us, and show your support for 
ProtectTheWilderness and for people trying to 
living in harmony with the land the world over-

protectthewilderness.co.uk  -new site up and running!

more info / press releases


Appeal of the peasants

Appeal of the peasants – protecting the 
wilderness to ensure that environmental education 
is based around a social and cultural ecology 
that understands the root cause of economic 
exploitation is the misappropriation of land. 
Through a deliberate policy of enclosure and 
privatisation that seeks to prevent economic self determination.

This April 17th, International Peasants Struggle 
day, Protect the Wilderness are joining in 
solidarity with the struggle for economic self 
determination of peasants around the world.

On the 17th of April Protect The Wilderness will 
have their appeal hearing with regard to the 
lawful occupation of The Wilderness Centre, in 
the Forest of Dean. On the 6th January Protect 
the Wilderness reopened the centre with the 
intention of disclosing a process of learning the 
skills and techniques required to move towards a 
home founded upon the principles of economic 
autonomy and ecological resilience. 
Re-appropriating the term sustainability in its 
full ecological sense to refer to an attitude 
that seeks harmony between the relation of forces upon which we depend.

This current cabinet of Gloucestershire county 
council believes it has the right to sell 
education resources that have been built upon 
over 40 years of investment. The council have 
forgotten that they are Trustees of the public 
purse. The Beneficiaries of property and capital 
held in trust by a county council are the people. 
They have no right of sale without fair and 
proper consultation with the Beneficiaries. This 
they have not done. By coming here to secure the 
Centre, we have continually offered them the 
chance to open an honest and respectful dialogue 
concerning these matters. They have failed to 
take this opportunity with the proper solicitude 
and humility we should expect from a public body. 
They have wilfully and belligerently refused all offers of mediation.

However through our honourable intention to 
protect the wilderness much has been revealed. 
Although the county council is an elected body it 
is also registered as a corporation- a harmless 
legal technicality, some would assume. Not so. We 
now have grave reasons to doubt such an assumption.

Gloucestershire County Councils CEO and other 
unelected agents within the council have active 
(and undeclared) interests in property development.

Should we not have a democratic process that 
formulates a policy of development that benefits 
the whole of society? How can we expect a small 
minority of individuals to truly know what the 
best course of action is for a social ecology as diverse as ours?

We identify our struggle with that of peasants around the world

Equity and The Peasants

The argument is quite simple; the county council 
had a legal obligation to make an equality impact 
assessment before making any decision to evict us 
from the wilderness centre. Their attempt to 
follow this requirement exposes their negligence, 
carelessness and complete misunderstanding of the 
situation. We are going to argue that the county 
council has not shown due regard to take into 
account our statutory needs as part of the 
decision making process. In doing so they have 
discriminated against us and our beliefs as a 
socio-economically deprived group.

Under the public sector equality duty contained 
in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 the 
county council is legally obliged to make an 
Equality Impact Assessment. Section 149 refers to 
the statutory needs that public bodies must 
regard when exercising their functions. The 
equality duty ensures that an authority must have ‘due regard’ to the need to:

Eliminate discrimination, harassment, 
victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act.

Advance equality of opportunity between persons 
who share a ‘relevant protected characteristic’ 
and others who do not share it; and

Foster good relations between people who share a 
protected characteristic and those who do not share it.

The public sector equality duty is intended to 
advance equality of opportunity to the extent 
that disadvantages suffered by persons with a 
“relevant protected characteristic” should be 
minimised or removed and encourage persons who 
share a “relevant protected characteristic” to 
participate in public life or in any other 
activity in which participation by such person is 
disproportionately low. Having due regard to the 
need to foster good relations involves having due 
regard (in particular) to the need to tackle 
prejudice and to promote understanding.

The protected characteristics to which the duty 
applies are age, disability, gender reassignment, 
pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or 
belief, sex and sexual orientation, also marriage 
and civil partnership. In respect of their 
requirement to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination.

Having due regard to means consciously thinking 
about the statutory needs as part of the process 
of decision making, when the proposals are still 
at a formative stage, and before a decision is 
reached. This means that consideration of those 
equality issues must influence the decisions 
reached by public bodies. The equality Duty must 
be exercised in substance, with rigour and with an open mind.

Indirect discrimination occurs where a condition 
criterion or practice is applied which would put 
people with one of the protected characteristics 
at a disadvantage, and the imposition of that 
condition, criterion or practice is not a 
proportionate means of achieving a legitimate 
aim, i.e. it cannot be objectively justified.

So where did the county council go wrong.

They said that they have to secure vacant 
possession of the site to enable the planned sale 
of the property in accordance with a decision 
taken by the council to sell it in order to 
generate capital receipts to support its “meeting 
the challenge” programme. The “challenge” of 
course being how to privatise everything without anyone noticing.

Unfortunately for them on the 6th of January we 
came along with the intention of “disclosing a 
process of learning the skills and techniques 
required to move towards a home founded upon the 
principles of economic autonomy and ecological 
resilience.” These are our signifies. Basically 
we believe that environment education has to 
inform action and right now it is action that is 
most urgently required. We don’t want to use 
labels and identities that would make further 
distinctions and discriminations. We want to 
create a style of political discourse that is 
inclusive, based in substance, rigorous and open 
minded. We believe that the concept of the Home 
can be used to enlighten such a discourse draw 
from intentions and affectations of a lived 
experience we all share namely being at home.

But the council needs labels. It needs to make 
distinctions and discriminations, direct or 
indirect. So for them we are squatters and 
trespassers local and non local environmental 
activists. They state in the assessment that, 
“none of the activists are homeless or from any 
vulnerable groups.” How did the council come to 
this conclusion? Well, all their actions so far 
have been managed in accordance with the 
Unauthorised Encampment protocol. The protocol as 
supplied in appendix 1 of their case bundle does 
not actually define an encampment. One would 
assume it would refer to temporary or mobile 
structures like tents or caravans- but we are 
living in buildings. Anyway they have their 
protocol and their rubber stamps at the ready. 
Gloucestershire County Council had a meeting on 
the 20th January to which we were not invited but 
the outcome of the meeting apparently ‘focused on 
‘the welfare of the squatters” before pursuing any other form of action’.

So on the 24th January a group of council 
officers came to visit us. One of them was a man 
in tracksuit who wanted to make individual 
welfare assessments with a form he had brought 
with him. He wanted to do this immediately but we 
were concerned that this would take up too much 
time so we suggested that we would complete the 
forms for collection the following day. When one 
of the council agents returned the next day we 
hadn’t filled in the forms because we thought 
they were inappropriate and demeaning’ why did we 
think this? This was a question the council never 
asked, but in the equality impact assessment they 
refer to this as such; ‘the detailed assessments 
have been refused’. Why were they refused? Well 
the form was of such poor quality we couldn’t be 
sure as to whether or not it was some kind of 
joke. Of the 10 questions there were two blatant 
errors one of which referred to education they 
corrected this error in the copy they later gave 
to the judge, in the court bundle it reads...

Do you need any help with education?

The forms the guy in the tracksuit gave us read:

Do you need help any education?

Not the most severe error but enough for us to 
question the professionalism of this so called public body.

I’ll spare you the details of the rest of 
meeting, they were mostly concerned with the 
adventure playground and the compost toilet. No 
the officer didn’t want to use them they were 
concern that the use of such facilities would 
engender gross health and safety violations. We 
tried to calm them down and get them to talk 
sense. At one point we tried to change the 
subject by suggested that these situation 
presented an opportunity to challenge this 
compensation culture that caused them so much 
concern. The lead officer took this very 
seriously and expressed his doubts as to whether 
reopening the wilderness centre was the best way 
to approach this issue. He even noted it down and 
presented it in their case against us. We did 
eventually explain to them the reasons we were 
here. However this was not noted down and it is 
this failure to listen that constitutes their 
neglect of duty and subsequent indirect discrimination against us.

The following week the council and other 
‘interested parties’ had a final ‘welfare’ 
meeting to decide how to get rid of us. We came 
along and managed to sit down before they 
realised who we were and asked us to leave the 
building. We promised them we would be available 
to answer any questions with regard to our 
welfare and the going concern of the wilderness 
centre. Needless to say they yet again ignored 
us. Satisfied with their protocol and impact 
assessment they made there decision and began their barrage of paper.

The impact assessments has to identify where any 
particular group is affected differently by a 
policy (namely the “Meeting the Challenge” 
programme) in either a negative or positive way. 
It lists each of the protected characteristics, 
other groups e.g. rural isolation, long term 
unemployed, health inequality, carers; 
socio-economically deprived groups; and finally 
any issues concerning community cohesion.

So here goes, the authorities need a label then a label we shall give them.

We are peasants.

Protect the wilderness (Peasants) vs Gloucester 
County Council (Evill councillors (as referred to in the Bill of Rights 1688))

Gloucester County council made no attempt to 
assess our beliefs and socio economic rights as 
defined in the equality act 2006 of which they have a duty to do so.
We have a right to pursue a livelihood that does not contradict our beliefs.
We refuse to participate in a system that is exploitative and unsustainable.
As homeless peasants we re opened the wilderness 
centre to initiate a movement towards the 
foundation of home that ensures the conditions of 
a livelihood in accordance with the principles of 
economic autonomy and ecological sustainability. 
We share the struggle for economic autonomy with peasants around the world.
We believe that environmental education is a 
necessary condition of a society built upon the 
principle of ecological sustainability.

Our beliefs can be articulated through these 
principles and the values which inform them. The 
principle of economic autonomy is that a home 
should be able to support and maintain all of the 
relations of production on which that home 
depends. The value which informs this principle 
is freedom albeit in its negative sense as a 
freedom from. The principle of ecological 
sustainability is that a home should be able to 
maintain a balance with the resources and 
relations of forces on which it depends. The 
value which informs this principle is that of harmony or balance.

The Peasant struggle is fully applicable to the 
framework of international human rights which 
includes instruments, and thematic mechanisms of 
the Human Rights Council, that address the right 
to food, housing rights, access to water, right 
to health, human rights defenders, indigenous 
peoples, racism and racial discrimination, 
women’s rights. However these international 
instruments of the UN do not completely cover nor 
prevent human rights violations, especially the 
rights of the peasants. We see some limitations 
in the International Covenant on Economic, Social 
and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as an instrument to 
protect peasants' right. Also, the Charter of the 
Peasant produced by the UN in 1978, was not able 
to protect peasants from international 
liberalization policies. The other international 
conventions, which also deal with peasants' 
rights, can not be implemented either. These 
conventions include: ILO Convention 169, Clause 
8‐J Convention on Biodiversity, Point 14.60 
Agenda 21, and Cartagena Protocol.

In articulating our rights with reference to and 
in solidarity with the Peasant struggle we refer 
to the Declaration of Rights of peasant – women 
and men proposed by La Via Campesina. the 
Declaration of the Rights of Peasants was 
formulated through the process of a series of 
activities, including the Workshop on Peasants' 
Rights in Medan North Sumatra in 2000, the 
Conference of Agrarian Reform in Jakarta April 
2001, the Regional conference on Peasants' Rights 
held in Jakarta in April 2002 and the 
International Conference of Via Campesina also 
held in Jakarta, in June 2008. La Via Campesina 
are calling for this document to form the basis 
of an International Convention of Peasants 
Rights, to be elaborated by the United Nations, 
with the full participation of La Via Campesina 
and other representatives of civil society.
The full text of the declaration is attached to 
this document. The following are specific 
articles that are relevant to our case;

Article I
Definition of peasants: rights holders
A peasant is a man or woman of the land, who has 
a direct and special relationship with the land 
and nature through the production of food and/or 
other agricultural products. Peasants work the 
land themselves, rely above all on family labour 
and other small‐scale forms of organizing 
labour. Peasants are traditionally embedded in 
their local communities and they take care of 
local landscapes and of agro‐ecological systems.
The term peasant can apply to any person engaged 
in agriculture, cattle‐raising, pastoralism, 
handicrafts‐related to agriculture or a related 
occupation in a rural area. This includes 
Indigenous people working on the land.
Declaration of Rights of Peasants ‐ Women and Men
The term peasant also applies to landless. 
According to the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO 1984) definition[1], the 
following categories of people are considered to 
be landless and are likely to face difficulties in ensuring their livelihood:
1. Agricultural labour households with little or no land;
2. 2. Non‐agricultural households in rural 
areas, with little or no land, whose members are 
engaged in various activities such as fishing, 
making crafts for the local market, or providing services;
3. 3. Other rural households of pastoralists, 
nomads, peasants practicing shifting cultivation, 
hunters and gatherers, and people with similar livelihoods.

Article II Rights of peasants
3. Peasants (women and men) are free and equal to 
all other people and individuals and have the 
right to be free from any kind of discrimination, 
in the exercise of their rights, in particular to 
be free from discriminations based on their 
economic, social and cultural status.
4. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
actively participate in policy design, decision 
making, implementation, and monitoring of any 
project, program or policy affecting their territories.

Art. III Right to life and to an adequate standard of living

1. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
physical integrity, to not be harassed, evicted, 
persecuted, arbitrarily arrested, and killed for defending their rights.

Article IV
Right to land and territory
3. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
toil and own the non‐productive state land on 
which they depend for their livelihood.

8. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
manage, conserve, and benefit from the forests.

9. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
reject all kinds of land acquisition and conversion for economic purpose.

11. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
agricultural land that can be irrigated to ensure 
food sovereignty for growing population.
Declaration of Rights of Peasants ‐ W
13. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
maintain and strengthen their distinct political, 
legal, economic, social and cultural 
institutions, while retaining their right to 
participate fully, if they so choose, in the 
political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Article V Right to seeds and traditional agricultural knowledge and practice

4. Peasants (women and men) have the right to conserve and develop their local
knowledge in agriculture, fishing, livestock rearing.

Article VI Right to means of agricultural production

1. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
obtain funds from the State to develop Agriculture
6. Peasants (women and men) have the right to be actively involved in planning,
formulating, and deciding on the budget for national and local agriculture.

Article VII
Right to information and agriculture technology
1. Peasants (women and men) have the right to obtain impartial and balanced
information about capital, market, policies, 
prices, technology, etc, related to
peasants’ needs.

Article IX
Right to the protection of agriculture values

2. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
develop and preserve local knowledge in agriculture.

Article X
Right to biological diversity
1. Peasants (women and men) have the right to the 
protection and preservation of
biological diversity.

Article XI
Right to preserve the environment
1. Peasants (women and men) have the right to a clean and healthy environment.
2. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
preserve the environment according to their knowledge.
3. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
reject all forms of exploitation which
cause environmental damage.

  Article XII Freedoms of association, opinion and expression

4. Peasants (women and men) have the right not to 
be criminalized for their claims and struggles.
5. Peasants (women and men) have to right to resist oppression and to resort to
peaceful direct action in order to protect their rights

Article XIII
Right to have access to justice
1. Peasants (women and men) have the right to 
effective remedies in case of violations of their 
rights. They have the right to a fair justice 
system, to have effective and nondiscriminatory 
access to courts and to have legal aid.
2. Peasants (women and men) have the right not to 
be criminalized for their claims and struggles.
3. Peasants (women and men) have the right to be 
informed and to legal assistance.

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