Work at the United Nations

On this page:

Background
NGO Committee on Migration
Finding Space
CATA Testimony at UN Hearings with Civil Society on Migration
Migrant Workers and the Millennium Development Goals
CATA on U.N. Reform
Human Rights Violations in Rural Oaxaca
Links to Documents and UN Organizations


Background

In July 2004 CATA received official recognition as an NGO with Special Consultative Status to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Special Consultative status provides CATA access not only to international conferences but also to decision-making processes and meetings, as well as the ability to circulate written statements and make oral presentations to U.N. delegates. CATA plans to use this new consultative status to both influence international law, and to apply international law to local conditions, in order to have a greater impact on human rights issues regarding farmworker and immigrant communities. By involving its members directly in the activities within the UN, CATA is also building the capacity and understanding of migrant workers of their rights under international law.

Currently, CATA works with various agencies within the UN, including:
  • UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and Their Families
  • Commission on Human Rights
  • United Nations Forum on Forests
  • Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

NGO Committee on Migration

CATA serves on the executive committee and is a founding member of the NGO Committee on Migration.

For more information on the Committee and its work, go to:

http://ngocom.blogspot.com

For the past few months CATA has been active in providing input towards the Global Forum on Migration, to take place July 10-11 in Brussels. This Forum follows the Interactive Hearings with Civil Society held at UN headquarters in July 2006 in New York, and the subsequent High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development of the General Assembly in September 2006.

To read more about the Global Forum on Migration, go to:

www.gfmd-fmmd.org/lang.html

Finding Space: CATA Board Member Presents at the United Nations on International Migrants’ Day

Every year on December 18 the UN celebrates International Migrants’ Day. This year, the NGO Committee on Migration (on which CATA serves as a member of the Executive Committee) organized a panel entitled, "Protection of the Rights of Migrants: Opportunities and Challenges after the High Level Dialogue and Preparations for its Follow-up." Mariza Ibarra, a CATA Board Member had the unique and fortunate opportunity to speak in this event. She challenged the United Nations and its member governments to seriously look at the difficulties posed by severely restricting the opportunities for immigration and to look honestly at the human rights violations that are experienced by immigrants. To read a copy of her statement, go to:

Statement by Mariza Ibarra on December 18, 2006

CATA Testimony at UN Hearings with Civil Society on Migration

As part of the preparatory activities leading to the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, the General Assembly held informal interactive hearings with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations and the private sector on 12 July 2006 at United Nations headquarters in New York. The objective of the informal interactive hearings was to provide an opportunity for NGOs, civil society and the private sector to interact with Member States and offer input for the High-level Dialogue.

CATA was selected as one of only fifty two organizations from around the world to actively participate in the hearings.

Click here to read a copy of the statement made by Richard Mandelbaum

Migrant Workers and the Millennium Development Goals

CATA’s statement submitted to the 2006 ECOSOC Substantive Session

El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA) is a non-governmental organization governed by migrant and immigrant workers from impoverished and indigenous communities who have emigrated to the industrialized North.

CATA welcomes the thematic focus on employment, decent work, and sustainable development for the upcoming 2006 High Level and Coordination Segments of the Economic and Social Council, in particular the fact that ECOSOC has recognized the crucial importance of ensuring the labor and human rights of workers as a key factor in achieving sustainable development.

CATA therefore submits the following recommendations to ECOSOC, in order to inform the process leading towards the General Assembly High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in September 2006:

1. Receiving States should recognize the contribution to their economies of migrant workers by granting such workers the opportunity to remain with regular status and to integrate into Society, if that is their wish. So-called “temporary migration” programs, while often touted as mutually beneficial, in fact allow receiving states to enjoy a reliable supply of cheap labor while denying those workers the full range of rights, social services, and opportunities that full-time residents have access to. In addition, temporary migration programs require workers to spend long and repeated periods of time separated from their families, and almost invariably result in both gender and age-based discrimination in hiring practices.

2. Member states should grant to immigrant and migrant workers, including irregular immigrants, the same rights afforded to other workers, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Conventions of the International Labour Organisation. Migrant and immigrant workers around the world are rarely afforded the same rights under the law as other workers, which creates an incentive for employers to seek out immigrants for hire, in particular those without regular status. This in turn undermines the legal rights of non-immigrant workers by forcing them into a de facto position of competition with the immigrant workforce.

3. Member states, in particular industrialized nations of the global North (“receiving states”), should ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The treaty cannot provide meaningful benefit to migrant workers and their families until it is ratified by those industrialized states that receive the majority of migrants worldwide.

4. Member states should reduce the root causes of worldwide migration by eliminating discriminatory trade and economic policies in the industrialized North. It is clear that trade liberalization between states of vastly different wealth does not lead towards sustainable development. Furthermore, the rhetoric of trade liberalization and free markets often does not match policy: Agricultural subsidies in the global North continue to disrupt local, agriculture-based economies in poor nations, and trade agreements tend to allow for the free flow of goods, capital, and profits across borders, but not the free flow of people (i.e. labor). The economic desperation resulting directly and indirectly from such economic policies exacerbates the irregular migration that receiving states so regularly criticize.


CATA on U.N. Reform

Excerpt from submission to the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS)

CATA welcomes U.N. reform as called for by the Secretary General in his report, “In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights For All”, based upon the following principles:

  • That the over-arching goal of U.N. reform be to strengthen the ability of the U.N. as an institution to implement and enforce adopted language, free of political influence from individual states or blocs of states,
  • That the relationship between Civil Society / NGOs and the United Nations be advanced further under any such reform, based on the recognition of the positive effect that this relationship has had on the U.N. system and the unique perspective that only Civil Society can provide,
  • That the proposed Human Rights Council not only maintain the strong relationship with Civil Society held by the current Human Rights Commission, but that this relationship be deepened further,
  • And that the Charter language establishing a relationship between Civil Society and ECOSOC be expanded to establish a role for Civil Society in all the major bodies of the United Nations, namely the General Assembly and Security Council.

Human Rights Violations in Rural Oaxaca

Defending the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Protection of their Ancestral Forests

CATA is currently engaging the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) in order to seek justice for the community of San Isidro Aloapám, Oaxaca, community of origin for many of CATA’s members, including one CATA board member. Below is an article describing their struggle, originally published in January 2005 in Siembra:

Migration to the United States from Mexico has been occurring for centuries. Indeed, much of the southwestern United States belonged to Mexico before Mexican War of the mid-nineteenth century (which was instigated by the U.S.), and cultural and economic exchange took place long before the Conquest and process of colonization that began in 1492. However, in the past fifteen years the U.S. has seen a surge in migration from Mexico, an increase that can be attributed to neo-liberal economic policies including NAFTA and continued U.S. government subsidies to domestic farmers. These policies have served to undercut rural economies in Mexico and elsewhere – leading to a level of desperation that forces more and more people to migrate. In recent years CATA, a migrant workers’ organization based in the mid-Atlantic, has seen a marked increase in people migrating to the U.S. for work from more remote and indigenous regions of Mexico. Such people have deep ties to the land, and a deep reluctance to leave - and they maintain these ties to their home communities after emigrating to the U.S.

This migration of desperation is often exacerbated by local injustices, combined with the neglect – or even worse, complicity – of the Mexican government in human rights violations perpetrated against indigenous peoples. This past year CATA has begun aiding some of its members now living in Bridgeton, New Jersey, in seeking justice for their community of San Isidro Aloapam.

San Isidro Aloapam, a small Zapotec community located in Ixtlan de Juarez, Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, has for decades been locked in a struggle for justice with the larger neighboring municipality of San Miguel Aloapam. Since 1982, in collusion with the state government of Oaxaca, San Miguel has gradually usurped more and more land that rightfully belongs to the people of San Isidro, using such tactics as bribing local officials, intimidation, and violence. For instance, the state government has gradually reduced the official population count for San Isidro – a tally used in determining land use rights – despite the fact that the population of San Isidro has approximately doubled in the past twenty years. State agencies entrusted with protecting the environment and promoting sustainable forestry have continuously granted illegal logging permits to San Miguel – something the people of San Isidro believe has been achieved through bribery.

With land use rights comes the right to log the forest for sale, and the people of San Isidro watched helplessly twenty years ago as their forest was clear cut. They are determined not to let this happen again. Jorge Cruz, resident of San Isidro and member of CATA, explains, “The most important thing is the protection of the forest – that it not be logged anymore, that it not be exploited anymore.”

In 2000 the people of San Isidro began to mobilize to protect their rights and their forest, and submitted a legal challenge to the Agrarian Tribunal. In August of 2002 they protested when the municipal government of San Miguel seized yet more land belonging to San Isidro that was being used for growing crops, in order to plant more trees for their logging plantations. The peaceful protesters were retaliated against with violence, including an assault on a pregnant woman that resulted in miscarriage. Several residents of San Isidro were arrested on falsified charges, one of whom remains in prison to this day. “For having asked for justice, we are being imprisoned,” says Zenon Perez, resident of San Isidro and a CATA board member.

In addition to the organizing being done by CATA and other local organizations representing the people of San Isidro, international organizations and advocacy groups have begun to notice the human rights violations taking place there. Amnesty International described the August 2002 incident (UA 253/02 Fear for Safety, 13 August 2002), noting in their report that the men who had been arrested were all apparently beaten, and “a number of other people were seriously injured in the clash.” They also noted that police arrived at the scene and left without any attempt to stop the violence. The human rights violations occurring in Oaxaca have also been acknowledged by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Rodolfo Stavenhagen (E/CN.4/2004/80/Add.2; June 2003).

With CATA’s support the residents of San Isidro sent a letter to President Vicente Fox demanding that any members of their community still in prison be immediately released, that all charges be dropped, and that their rights to their forest lands be officially recognized. In the letter they not only make the strong case that their rights are being violated, but also explain the wider environmental repercussions to come if the situation is allowed to continue: “If they continue to clear cut the forest, the springs that provide drinking water to our village and neighboring villages will dry up.”

Both the state and federal governments have officially acknowledged receipt of the letter, but have not yet replied in a substantive way. CATA plans to continue the campaign and is preparing a letter of support to increase pressure on the state and federal governments to remedy the situation. In December 2004 President Fox issued a public declaration of his government’s commitment to ensuring the human rights of all Mexicans, and he must be held accountable to this pledge.

The goals of the people of San Isidro Aloapam are clear: “We want the federal government to recognize our rights to the land that belongs to us,” says Perez, “and allow us to protect the forest. What we want is the defense of our human rights – justice – and no more violence. Whether people are brown skinned or black or white, tall or short, big or small, we are all children of God, and justice should not be just for rich people, but for the poor as well.”


Links

Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Their Families
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
UN Forum on Forests
Global Commission on International Migration
High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development United Nations General Assembly
CATA UN Accomplishments


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CATA
P.O. Box 510
Glassboro, NJ 08028
Telephone: (856) 881-2507
Fax: (856) 881-2027
Email: cata@cata-farmworkers.org
CATA Pennsylvania
P.O. Box 246
Kennett Square, PA 19348
Telephone: (610) 444-9696
Fax: (610) 444-1033
CATA Maryland
P.O. Box 4362
Salisbury, MD 21803-4362
Telephone: 410-572-5959
Fax: 410-572-5999
CATA New Brunswick
2-4 Kirkpatrick St.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Telephone: 856-881-2507