• 164 Citations
  • 6 h-Index

Research output per year

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Personal profile

Vision Statement

After several years working for human rights organizations and development NGOs, I decided to become a scholar to better understand the challenges facing social movements and human rights activists working towards more equitable and sustainable food systems. As a PhD researcher, I analyzed the contribution of peasant movements to the emergence of an alternative conception of human rights. I looked at the creation and institutionalization of new human rights by the transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina, with a focus on the right of peoples to food sovereignty, and the rights of peasants (to land, seeds, water, biodiversity, remunerative prices and participation in decision-making). At the time, I was working as Senior Advisory to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter (2008-2014).

My approach is multidisciplinary, empirical and inductive. In my research, I mobilize concepts from the socio-anthropology of rights, the sociology of social movements, rural sociology, international human rights law and development studies. My areas of thematic expertise are: human rights, food sovereignty, the right to food, land rights, peasant and social movements, agricultural trade and global governance, agricultural policy and food security.


I received my PhD in Political and Social Sciences from the University of Louvain (UCL) in 2013. While doing research on legal mobilizations within the transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina, I worked as a Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, from 2008 to 2014. I also worked closely with Geoffrey Pleyers and was very involved in his research group on social movements in the global age (SMAG). 

After completing my PhD, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Collège d’Etudes Mondiales in Paris (2014-2015) and at the French Institute of Pondicherry in India (2015-2016).

Since 2012, I have been following and actively supporting the process of negotiation of a new UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas, at the Human Rights Council. This process led to the recognition, with the adoption of the Declaration in 2018 by the UN Genera Assembly, of new human rights to land, seeds, biodiversity and food sovereignty, vested in individuals but also in groups and communities. I am fascinated by the engagement of agrarian movement in global norm-setting processes, and have explored, in different ways, their contributions but also the challenges that they face as makers of law.

Prior to becoming an academic, I worked for a number of human rights organizations and development NGOs, including FIAN in Belgium, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in France, and the Maquila Solidarity Network, Rights & Democracy, and Oxfam in Canada. I am now the President of FIAN Belgium and on the board of the FIAN International.

I hold a MA in business administration from the Louvain School of Management (UCL) and a MA in environmental management from the Free University of Brussels (ULB).

External positions

Member of the International Board, FIAN International

Nov 2017 → …


  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • GN Anthropology
  • JX International law

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Research Output

Open Access
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    Open Access
  • 8 Downloads (Pure)

    The Right to Land and Territory: New Human Right and Collective Action Frame

    Claeys, P., Jan 2020, Property Rights from Below: Commodification of Land and the Counter-Movement. de Schutter, O. & Rajagopal, B. (eds.). Routledge, Vol. (In-press). p. (In-press) 25 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  • The right to seeds and legal mobilisation for the protection of peasant seed systems in Mali

    Coulibaly, M., Claeys, P. & Berson, A., 5 Jun 2020, (Submitted) In : The Journal of Human Rights Practice. (In-Press), p. (In-Press)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Activities

    • 1 Participation in workshop, seminar, course

    The Oxford Handbook of Law and AnthropologyEditors: Marie-Claire Foblets, Mark Goodale, Maria Sapignoli, Olaf Zenker

    Priscilla Claeys (Speaker), Karine Peschard (Speaker)
    30 Nov 20182 Dec 2018

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


    Doctoral thesis HERA Award

    Priscilla Claeys (Recipient), 25 Apr 2017

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

    Press / Media

    Rural women's rights and gender issues

    Priscilla Claeys


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Expert Comment

    Ensuring the right to food for rural working people

    Priscilla Claeys


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities