Priscilla Claeys

Priscilla Claeys

Priscilla Claeys

PhD in Political and Social Sciences, MSC in Environmental Management, MA in Business and Administration | Associate Professor IN CAWR


Redefining Human Rights From Below. 

Peasant Movements and the Recognition of New Rights. 

A growing number social movements demanding food systems transformation are using human rights to make their claims. Emblematic of this trend is the adoption, in 2018, of a new international legal instrument protecting the rights of peasants, small-scale food producers and agricultural workers. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNDROP) is unique because it was elaborated from the bottom-up, with the direct involvement of peasant organizations. In this keynote address, Priscilla Claeys explores the implications, for social movements, of using human rights to frame their demands. She shows how agrarian movements achieved the recognition of new human rights, such as the right to land and the right to seeds, after 17 years of struggle, and analyses the key factors that enabled this success. She uncovers some of the challenges linked to participation of those most affected by hunger food insecurity in global governance. She also explores some of limitations of the UNDROP from a feminist and women’s rights perspective. In her conclusion. She draws insights from her own experience as a scholar-activist and shares lessons for academics hoping to contribute to food system transformation. She shows that the fight to define human rights is deeply political.



Priscilla Claeys is Associate Professor in Food Sovereignty, Human Rights and Resilience at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience of Coventry University (UK). She received her PhD in Political and Social Sciences from the University of Louvain (UCL) in 2013. She worked as a Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, from 2008 to 2014. Her research areas include the right to food and food sovereignty, agrarian movements, global food governance and human rights. Priscilla is particularly interested in understanding processes of legal mobilizations by which social actors use and seek to transform the law to advance their claims. She is also passionate about food security governance, feminism and gender equality and ways to encourage inclusion and diversity in policy-making spaces. She has published Human Rights and the Food Sovereignty Movement. Reclaiming Control (Routledge 2015) and co-edited two books. Her research has notably featured in the Journal of Peasant Studies, Sociology and Globalizations. She is on the International Board of FIAN International. She previously worked for a number of human rights organizations and development NGOs.