If those desiring to use someone else’s land happen to take the law in their own hands and occupy land which they do not own, Mr. De Schutter is fine with that. “The non-violent occupation of land by landless movements should not be criminalized,” he writes in his report.
In response to my question at his press briefing, Mr. De Schutter shared a couple of his suggestions with reporters about how governments can best redistribute land. One of his suggestions was to tax large landowners at such a high rate that they will be incentivized to sell their land to small farmers at below market rates. Another suggestion of his was for the government to simply expropriate land from large landholders if the government does not believe that the land is being used productively.
The bottom line for Mr. De Schutter is that “State-led agrarian reforms” (i.e., government-enforced land redistribution) are preferable to “market-led agrarian reforms.”
And, says this UN czar, where UN member states fail to establish land redistribution schemes, “they should provide justifications for not having done so.”
To whom should these justifications be submitted for review? Mr. De Schutter wasn’t very specific, except to suggest some sort of global governance structure:
“International human rights bodies should consolidate the right to land and take land issues fully into account when ensuring respect for the right to adequate food. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights could play a leading standard-setting role in clarifying the issue of land as a human right by issuing a general comment in that regard. Acting in their monitoring capacity, human rights bodies should examine the justifications offered by Governments that fail to put in place land redistribution programmes or policies with similar aims, despite the existence of a high degree of concentration of land ownership, combined with a significant level of rural poverty attributable to landlessness or inequitable land distribution.”
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is one of those unaccountable UN bodies of “independent experts” that monitors the implementation of a UN treaty by its state parties. In this case, the treaty is known as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the United States ratified back in 1977 during Jimmy Carter’s thankfully short presidency.
The “Covenant” itself is simply an expression of goals and aspirations of the member states toward which they pledged to work. It provides for “international assistance and cooperation” toward the improvement of basic conditions in the member states, while leaving it up to each member state to devise its own legislative measures as it deemed appropriate. The Covenant contains no compulsory enforcement provisions. Nor does it provide a basis for interference in the political or judicial mechanisms of each member state.
Enter the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which took it upon itself the right to issue its own interpretation of the provisions of the Covenant. The committee took the general aspirational language of the Covenant and filled in the gaps with its own specific “elements” such as which groups had standing as aggrieved parties, the “entitlements” ensuing from each right, and the “justiciable” aspects of each right.
For example, the committee expounded on the Covenant’s “recognition” of a “core right” to adequate housing as including much more than basic habitability. The committee in its infinite wisdom concluded that “(A)dequate housing must be in a location which allows access to employment options, health-care services, schools, child-care centres and other social facilities.” Moreover, the committee warned, “the building materials used and the policies supporting these must appropriately enable the expression of cultural identity and diversity of housing.”
The committee went far beyond anything found in the actual Covenant itself by claiming that the “right to housing should be ensured to all persons irrespective of income or access to economic resources” and instructed the state parties to “establish housing subsidies for those unable to obtain affordable housing.”
One wonders how many of the members of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have actually built a house or a business or have risked their own capital to develop land for productive use. Yet it is this unaccountable body, trumpeting their own interpretations of treaty provisions as if those interpretations were to have any binding effect on the member states, to which the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food would turn for enforcing his notion of a ‘human right’ to someone else’s land.
Socialism and global governance go very much hand in hand at the United Nations.
Joseph A. Klein is the author of a new book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.
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