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Shaping Just Transition: TMG Research's strategic contributions to building momentum for a land tenure and climate agenda in the three Rio Conventions

Building momentum around climate action and land tenure

by Frederike Klümper | 2024-02-27

Shaping Just Transition: TMG Research's strategic contributions to building momentum for a land tenure and climate agenda in the three Rio Conventions

In the quest for a sustainable and resilient future, the recognition of the connection between land tenure and climate action has emerged as a pivotal narrative. TMG Research has been strategically contributing to building momentum in 2023 for a comprehensive land tenure and climate agenda within the three Rio Conventions.

Setting the Stage: Recognizing Land Ownership in Global Agendas

TMG's journey begins in 2019, a landmark year when UNCCD Parties took a groundbreaking step by adopting a decision on land tenure. This commitment gained further traction at COP 15 in May 2022, where TMG played a crucial role in advocating for the recognition of land rights in targeted areas. Post-decisions, TMG initiated a research process with partners, monitoring the implementation, and establishing networks with civil society organizations (CSOs), local communities, and national focal points (NFPs). The insights gained from these experiences form the basis for TMG's strategic contributions and resulted in the development of 6 solution pathways. TMG has completed 10 case studies in four countries, addressing various land tenure issues in Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target areas. These studies not only provide a comprehensive overview of implementation challenges but also lay the foundation for a robust global, national, and local network, comprising community-based organizations, CSOs, and Rio Conventions NFPs (Global Soil Week Country Reports: Benin, Madagascar, Malawi, Kenya I, Kenya II).

The Ripple Effect: Interconnected Conventions, Climate Pledges, and Land

Lessons learned from our work on the ground and scientific analysis provides a clear picture: land tenure is not only of highest importance for UNCCD; it is of fundamental relevance for all three Rio Conventions. The Conventions, tasked with addressing urgent global challenges, base their solutions to a certain extent on land. Taking the example of land-based restoration measures, countries' climate pledges commit to making 1.2 billion hectares of land available, primarily for activities like afforestation. In navigating this landscape, TMG emphasizes the pivotal role of gender equality and land rights as essential enabling factors for effective implementation. TMG underscores the importance of coordinating global and local actions to create synergies between climate, environmental, and sustainable development efforts. By employing its "Gegenstromprinzip," TMG creates learning spaces that bridge the global and local, convening strategic dialogues among diverse stakeholders.

A Global Imperative of the Climate Agenda

The climate agenda is very dynamic, with many interested parties pushing their own agendas. The protection and reforestation of tropical forests can make a remarkable contribution to climate change mitigation. Yet climate change and mitigation efforts have far-reaching implications for soils, land use and governance, and thus ultimately for communities. This issue has been also part of the recently published Bodenatlas. Why are land rights so important to the climate agenda? Land rights, customary and formal, determine who has control over and access to land, which in turn affects land use practises, deforestation rates and the protection of vital carbon-absorbing forests. Securing land rights for indigenous peoples and local communities can promote sustainable land management and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In 2023, TMG was committed to building momentum, creating learning spaces and positioning itself at the intersection of strategic local and global partners in the tenure and climate agenda.

Through strategic engagement in the following five events and accompanying research in 2023, we are catalysing collaboration and working at the interface to strengthen the discourse on land rights at the global level and local level:

Empowering Women through Land Rights: The First Workshop on Women's Land Rights and the Rio Conventions

In collaboration with UNCCD and the Robert Bosch Foundation, TMG organized a workshop on women's land rights under all three Rio Conventions. With over 60 participants from 30 countries, this event laid the foundation for discussing alignment and coordination of the Conventions. The workshop not only fostered synergies, but also highlighted the critical role of women in land governance. TMG's commitment to protecting women's land rights was further demonstrated through the digital reporting tool, Haki Ardhi, which will be officially launched in 2024.

Testing Land Rights in the Climate and Biodiversity Debate: The African Climate Summit and the Global Biodiversity Framework

TMG, in collaboration with ZUG – Zukunft Umwelt Gesellschaft, organized an event to discuss just biodiversity conservation. The panel discussion focused on integrating participatory, gender-responsive approaches with biodiversity conservation, leveraging TMG's experience in promoting human rights-based approaches to responsible land governance. At the Africa Climate Summit, TMG continued the dialogue on land rights and gender-responsive climate action, emphasizing safeguards amidst discussions on carbon markets, just transition, and loss and damage.

Safeguards for Carbon Markets: Prioritizing Local Communities' Tenure Rights

At the 2023 Global Landscapes Forum in Nairobi, TMG Research led a panel discussion on "Safeguards for Carbon Markets." This session highlighted the imperative to protect the tenure rights of local communities as the demand for voluntary carbon credits continues to grow globally. The session's recording and white paper provided a comprehensive look into this complex issue, setting the stage for TMG's key work in 2024.

Translating Research into Action: Building a Community of Practice for UNCCD COP 2024

The Regional Exchange Workshop focused on the UNCCD and its implementation of the UNCCD Decision on Land Tenure. This workshop served as a platform for civil society and national focal points to exchange knowledge and develop a roadmap for the UNCCD COP16 in 2024. Discussions around our six solution pathways, laid the foundation for a community of practice dedicated to advancing land tenure and governance.

Joint Roadmap and Outlook for 2024

In summary, TMG Research's journey in 2023 reflects a commitment to fostering a comprehensive land tenure and climate agenda, which is based on a rights-based, just and equitable approach to climate action. To achieve this, we must maintain robust environmental and social safeguards. We must ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable among us, including women, youth and indigenous peoples, are not only heard but also included in our strategies for a sustainable future. Because when we find a solution for the land rights of the most vulnerable under the Rio Conventions, we find a solution for all. Together with our community partners, we strive to put the rights of these groups at the centre of the implementation of the three Rio Conventions. As TMG endeavours to bring the complex issue of land rights and associated power dynamics into the discussion, the activities in 2023 and the join roadmap developed aims to lay the foundation for a decisive 2024, marked by the 30th anniversary of the UNCCD, which will be hosted by Germany during the 2024 Desertification and Drought Day and the UNCCD COP16 as well as the UNCBD and UNFCCC COP in 2024.

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