#LandRightsNow through Responsible Land Governance

Contributing to the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the #LandRightsNow mobilization week, the IASS Global Soil Forum releases a short film with experiences from civil society, government and scientists on the implementation status of the Tenure Guidelines

The protection and recognition of land rights for Indigenous Peoples and local communities is an urgent matter as increasing resource demands coupled with ongoing land degradation has set the global stage for violent land conflicts and forced evictions. According to a recent report from 2016, while up to 2.5 billion people worldwide rely on indigenous and community lands, secure rights are only in place for one-fifth of this land. The responsible governance of land and natural resources for the benefit of all is not only a matter of human rights, but also for the protection of the climate. The World Resources Institute reports that legal rights to forests in the hands of communities leads to lower carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation.

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (Tenure Guidelines) provide a historic opportunity to recognise and secure tenure rights. Endorsed by the most inclusive body of the United Nations- the Committee on World Food Security under auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Tenure Guidelines can play a pivotal role in managing conflicting demands in an equitable, sustainable way. They set out human rights-based principles for the responsible governance of land and natural resources for the benefit of all, with an emphasis on vulnerable and marginalized people. The difficulty lies in putting  the Tenure Guidelines by governments into practice.

To what extent have the Tenure Guidelines already been implemented nationally and what effect has this document had on the ground to support local communities in their struggle for the protection and recognition of rights to land and natural resources?
To discuss the state of the implementation of the Tenure Guidelines, a diverse group of land governance experts from government, civil society, and academia were invited by the IASS Global Soil Forum to a two day workshop in December of 2015 to the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. Statements from workshop participants were the basis for the short film Towards Responsible Land Governance – Strategies for the Implementation of the Tenure Guidelines, presenting national experiences and successful strategies used to implement the Tenure Guidelines.

In some cases, governments have had to educate their own workforce about the Tenure Guidelines. Both governments, as well as local and international organizations have been successful in raising awareness within local communities about land tenure rights and the opportunities presented by the Tenure Guidelines for recognition and protection of those rights.  Christina Timponi from the Ministry of Agrarian Development in Brazil commented: “It is a very wide text. I think our role as government is to make it simpler and easier, so that the civil society movements can make it part of their narrative”.

Nathaniel Don Marquez from the Asian NGO coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC), Philippines, said that his organization “commissioned three studies, one of which compared the different principles of the Voluntary Guidelines [Tenure Guidelines] with the major laws in the Philippines, to see if we are complying with the guidelines, which are present, and where are the gaps.”

Delphine Ortega-Espès from organization La Via Campesina in Argentina noted that although the Tenure Guidelines are voluntary, they can be used to create legal precedent. “In Argentina we used the Guidelines to develop a new law. This wasn’t approved in the Congress, but it was already an opportunity for us to work with other peasant organizations … and then we had a second law, with which we have been working with the Secretary for Family Agriculture. We already had the possibility to use this law less than two months ago. We could use it to stop first evictions using it, so it already creates a precedent for the future. This shows that we can go from something which is supposedly voluntary, such as the Guidelines, to something binding.”

Silke Hattendorf from the German development organization giz laid out three strategies of strengthening the human rights aspects of implementation: “The implementing organization [should] have a clear human rights policy, in which you can embed the VGGT [Tenure Guidelines] as a human rights document, to do trainings for colleagues in the field and at a programme design level, and to collect positive examples from the field, from implementation work, and to share those”.

Watch the film to learn about national experiences and strategies to implement the Tenure Guidelines from the perspectives of government, civil society, science and academia. Their implementation is crucial to achieving the goals of the internationally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Join together with organizations all over the world under the #LandRightsNow banner to call on world leaders to take action for Indigenous and Community Land Rights! The Global Mobilisation Week culminates on 9 August 2016, the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. www.landrightsnow.org