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The Valley of 1000 Hills Declaration

Conference on Community Rights
The Valley Trust, 1000 Hills,
Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa

We the participants of the Conference on Community Rights held at The Valley Trust, 1000 Hills, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa, between 1 - 8 March 2002, who came from Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe, discussed the rights of local communities, and make the following declaration:

1. Human beings are an integral part of the community of life on Earth. Human well-being is derived from and depends on the health of this community. Accordingly, we must ensure that human actions do not destroy the web of mutually enhancing relationships that create the earth community.

2. The human species is social and the individual cannot live a solitary existence. We, therefore, believe that the local community is essential for the survival of the human species, and local communities create and use knowledge in partnership with other life forms to meet society’s basic needs of food, health, clothing and shelter.

3. The Industrial system has alienated us from the rest of the earth community and is increasingly privatizing biological, land and water resources. This privatization is destroying rural local communities and their natural resource base.

4. Many local communities have maintained an intimate relationship with the ecosystems on which they depend and have shared timeless connectedness with all life. It is, therefore, fitting that the local community is humanity's best manager of land, water and biodiversity. Privatisation and so-called free trade destroy this connectedness. By allowing the destruction of our local communities, we condemn other living organisms to accelerating extinction and further impoverish local communities.

5. The most potent instrument in this destruction is the patenting of living organisms. The Convention on Biological Diversity recognizes the rights of local communities and their role in generating agricultural biodiversity out of wildland biodiversity. Yet corporations are patenting living things and increasingly controlling agricultural production systems. We condemn this act as violence both to humans and to other living things.

6. The rights of Local Communities are being threatened by genetic engineering of crops – a dangerous technology that comes with corporate control, dependence on external inputs, and the undermining of regenerative systems of agriculture and sustainable use of biodiversity. We oppose the introduction of genetically modified organisms in agriculture and the increasing corporate control over Africa’s agriculture and biodiversity.

7. The world adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the precautionary principle. Because of genetic engineering’s negative effects we are concerned about the pollution of food and agriculture through genetic engineering and the way the biotechnology industry inevitably pursues its interests at the expense of the public good. This has led to the disastrous adventurism in Mexico, where the immensely valuable diversity of maize, developed by local communities over thousands of years, has been polluted with unintended genes from genetically engineered maize, some of which have not even been approved for human consumption. The food-base of the world’s communities must be protected from such adventurism. We call upon all governments to provide this protection.

8. Local communities have the inalienable right and responsibility to nurture, manage, exchange and further improve the biodiversity on which their livelihoods are based - for the benefit of themselves, ecosystems and of future generations. This is the basis of community rights, which cannot be made subservient to any other right or responsibility, and includes the right to life, food, land, water, healthy environment and a decent livelihood.

9. Community rights over biodiversity and indigenous knowledge are collective in nature, and therefore cannot be privatised or individualised. Current systems of intellectual property rights applied to biodiversity and traditional knowledge are private and monopolistic in nature and therefore incompatible with community rights.

10. In that context, the initiative of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to develop systems for the protection of traditional knowledge is highly inappropriate. WIPO should work to stop biopiracy that occurs because of biodiversity patents, and not to define the rights of communities which should be done by the communities themselves.

11. Access to water is a natural and fundamental right. It is not to be treated as a commodity traded for profit. People should have the right to freedom from thirst and should have adequate access to safe water for their needs.

12. We call on the global community to urge governments to acknowledge the community rights to land, water and biodiversity, protect them globally and initiate internationally legally binding frameworks for such protection.

13. Communities over millennia evolved equitable and sustainable ways of gathering, producing and sharing food based on cooperation and partnership, to meet their food needs. The present thrust towards corporatization of food production and distribution systems threatens the co-operative nature of communities, jeopardizes their ability to meet their food needs through culturally appropriate and equitable ways and thus destroys their sovereign right to food security.

14. The African Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources has been endorsed by the OAU Summit of Heads of State and Government in May 1998 in Ouagadougou and re-endorsed in July 2001 in Lusaka. It represents the African position on the protection of local community rights, farmers and breeders’ rights and the regulation of access to biological resources. We support this position and strongly urge all African governments to take steps to implement it at the national level.

15. We, therefore, urge the global community to support the implementation of the African Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources and desist from any activities or policies that directly or indirectly undermine its adoption and operation by African countries.

Gichinga Ndirangu (Kenya)
Gathuru Mburu
Dr Jack Githae
Vugutza Amadi
Zachary Makanya
Davis Ddamulira (Uganda)
Irene Makumbi
Dorothy Ndaba (Botswana)
Michaela Figueira (Namibia)
Bernadette Lubozhya (Zambia)
Emma Sitambuli
Godfrey Mwila
Julius Mugwagwa (Zimbabwe)
Fred Zinanga
Fred Kalibwani
Kent Nnadozie (Nigeria)
Jeanne Zoundijhekpon (Benin)
Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher (Ethiopia)
Sue Burnell Edwards (Ethiopia)
Million Belay (Ethiopia)
Dessalegn Mesfin (Ethiopia)
Hailu Araya (Ethiopia)
Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss (South Africa)
Cormac Cullinan
(South Africa)
Roger Chennels
(South Africa)
Belinda Bowling (South Africa)
Lulu Gundwana
(South Africa)
Elias Mkhwanazi
(South Africa)
Harald Witt
(South Africa)
Richard Haigh
(South Africa)
Vusie Khosa (South Africa)
Mohammed Haroon (Ghana)
Antonieta Coelho
Henk Hobbelink (Spain)
Liz Hosken (UK)
Radha Hola-Bhar
Nico Bermudez (Colombia)
Devlin Kuyek
Larry J. Goodwin
Carol Friedman (South Africa)
Fiona Worthington (Colombia)

Published in In Motion Magazine, June 8, 2003.