TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

Strengthening responsible land governance by linking land rights to human rights

New concept note outlines the rationale behind land rights project in Malawi

Nov 26, 2021

Strengthening responsible land governance by linking land rights to human rights

In Malawi, smallholders' access to land is under pressure from land scarcity, high population growth rates, urbanisation, and increasing investment in large-scale agriculture. In this context tenure rights are more frequently violated, especially the rights of marginal land users. These violations may lead to violations of human rights. For example the human right to food (Article 25 of the UDHR) may be violated when a land user whose access to food depends on secure access to land loses that access as a result of a land right violation.

Responsible land governance is key if Malawi is to live up to its commitments to sustainable development as promoted in the Malawi National Land Policy of 2002 (enacted in 2016) and the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT). Commitments, however, are not always followed by actions.

Therefore together with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), TMG has developed the Human Rights-Based Land Governance Monitoring Project, with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The project is building a monitoring methodology linking land conflicts to possible human rights violations, and the treaties in which these rights are set out. Because of the binding nature of such treaties, such a monitoring tool would better equip National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Society Organisations to demand that the state properly enforces land rights and fully implements responsible land governance.

An exploratory study of a land conflict case in Malawi in December 2021 - January 2022, will be followed by piloting of the tool in selected land conflicts in Malawi by TMG and the MHRC. The results of the pilot will feed in to national and global advocacy processes around responsible land governance. The monitoring tool, as well as a matrix linking the VGGT with human rights, will be available as digital versions by mid-2022.

More details about the approach, research agenda, and work packages of the human rights-based land governance monitoring project can be found in the newly-published project Concept Note.

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