TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

The Human Rights and Land Navigator connects responsible land governance with human rights. It shows how the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) are underpinned by human rights standards. It allows you to understand which human rights are at stake in specific aspects of land governance. This can inform policy advocacy for improved protection of land rights or help prepare litigation in land, property and natural resource related cases.

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The Navigator adds one more element that can help the political economy to change in the interests of the most vulnerable….It perhaps provides the missing link for us to achieve the needed changes at scale.

Adriano Campolina

Senior Policy Officer, FAO

What is the Human Rights & Land Navigator?

This online tool provides an overview of the linkages between the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) and international human rights standards. The basis is a detailed mapping of the VGGT (paragraph by paragraph) showing how human rights standards, including binding human rights obligations, underpin the voluntary instrument. It has been developed in collaboration between TMG Thinktank and the Danish Institute for Human Rights with financial support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

How can it be used?

Users can explore the database and apply own filters. Search results can be exported to Excel and PDF.

The database can be used by for example National Human Rights Institutions, human rights experts, land rights advocates, civil society and research organisations working on land issues to understand the human rights implications of specific land issues, prepare reports to international human rights mechanisms, and inform legal action and advocacy efforts.

What part of the VGGT does it cover?

The mapping of linkages covers all substantive parts of the VGGT (part 2-7). Part 1 of the VGGT was excluded from the mapping as it introduces the general objectives of the guidelines and their nature and scope. Part 7 of the VGGT refers to implementation, promotion and evaluation of the Guidelines themselves, including the role of the Committee on World Food Security, development partners and UN agencies. As it does not have a substantive focus, this section was also excluded from the mapping.  

Which human rights instruments are included?

Each paragraph (“i.e. the numbered paragraphs in the VGGT) have been mapped against a range of underlying human rights referring to the following international human rights instruments:

Core international human rights treaties, notably UN Covenants on civil and political rights and on social, economic and cultural rights; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UN Declarations, namely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in the rural areas; and

ILO Conventions, notably the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111). The ILO Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957 (No. 107), the predecessor of ILO Convention No. 169, although still in force in some countries, is not used in the mapping.

Other UN standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The UNGPs are not organised by human right. Rather, they refer to broad areas of state duty and business responsibility for all human rights. Therefore, the references to the UNGPs in the database are organised by general descriptions of: (1) the overall purpose of the UNGPs; (2) the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and (3) access to remedy for victims of business-related abuses.

Which instruments are not included?

It should be noted that regional human rights instruments have not been included in the mapping exercise. These may be added at a later stage.

The mapping only includes a restricted number of ILO Conventions, i.e. ILO Conventions Nos. 111 and 169. These are of most direct relevance to land tenure as this tool is primarily focussed on land governance. However, other ILO Conventions, including the ILO fundamental conventions on child labour, forced labour, freedom of association and collective bargaining, are also relevant to the VGGT

Details on method

The linkages between each paragraph of the VGGT and the underpinning human rights are made on the basis of the prior identification of the main human rights aspects (sometimes referred to as attributes) of each paragraph. The main human rights aspects have subsequently been clustered into 15 overall themes (same as the filter “land issues”).

The mapping is comprehensive but by no means exhaustive. Whereas human rights are interdependent and therefore all relevant to the VGGT, the mapping references the human rights more closely linked to the text of each paragraph. For example, while equality and non-discrimination should be considered universally applicable as principles and rights, for the purposes of user friendliness, it is not linked to every VGGT paragraph but only when the text references equality or similar. When the paragraph refers to consultation and participation, reference is made mainly to the rights to participation, access to information and self-determination, when applicable, although freedom of opinion and expression and of peaceful assembly and association are, for example, also relevant, among others. Similarly, although the right to health is also at play when discussing tenure security, it is not recalled in the mapping.

In order to guide and illustrate the rationale for the linkages and make the linkages as specific as possible, reference is made in explanatory notes to the interpretations and clarifications provided by the supervisory bodies charged with monitoring the application of the international instruments used in the mapping, wherever available. The explanations may relate to a human rights category such as ‘the right to adequate housing’ or to a specific article in a human rights instrument such as ICEDAW 14.2.a.

The linkages presented in the mapping refer to States’ obligations under international human rights law. Corresponding responsibilities of other actors, such as business enterprises, may also be identified and are, in some cases, explicitly recalled in the guidelines.

The mapping covers the paragraphs formulated in terms of what “States should” do, which represent the vast majority of the paragraphs in the VGGT. It does not show any linkages for the few paragraphs that describe what “States may” do.

Concerning Part 4 of the VGGT, notably the section on markets, the focus of the mapping has been placed on "safeguard" aspects that could be connected to human rights obligations. Moreover, as noted by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its draft general comment on land and economic, social and cultural rights, commodification of property rights can be a source of exclusion and increase insecurity of tenure. Therefore, States should adopt laws and policies to guarantee that titling programmes are not implemented solely to support the sale of land and the commodification of land tenure. Since the consideration of land as a mere commodity is foreign to the understanding of land enshrined in certain international human rights standards, such as those concerning indigenous peoples' rights, such instruments are included in the mapping concerning part 4 only to the extent that they refer to agrarian reforms and other measures to facilitate or restore access to land and natural resources.

Finally, States’ obligation to take steps, to the maximum of their available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of economic, social and cultural rights is relevant to the VGGT. However, the human rights norms enshrining this obligation, such as article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, are not included in the mapping. The choice has been made to refer directly to the economic, social and cultural rights in question. In some cases, the obligation under article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is recalled in the explanatory notes, such in the case of the paragraphs addressing the issue of corruption.

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