First global guidelines on land tenure, forests, fisheries adopted

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) on May 11, 2012 endorsed a set of far-reaching global guidelines aimed at helping governments safeguard the rights of people to own or access land, forests and fisheries.

The guidelines are based on an inclusive consultation process started by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2009 and then finalized through CFS-led intergovernmental negotiations that included participation of government officials, civil society organizations, private sector representatives, international organizations and academics.

The new “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security” outline principles and practices that governments can refer to when making laws and administering land, fisheries and forests rights, according to the FAO.

The UN food agency said the aim of the guidelines is to promote food security and sustainable development by improving secure access to land, fisheries and forests and protecting the rights of millions of often very poor people.

“Giving poor and vulnerable people secure and equitable rights to access land and other natural resources is a key condition in the fight against hunger and poverty. It is a historic breakthrough that countries have agreed on these first-ever global land tenure guidelines.  We now have a shared vision. It’s a starting point that will help improve the often dire situation of the hungry and poor,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

While the guidelines acknowledge that responsible investments by the public and private sectors are essential for improving food security, they also recommend that safeguards be put in place to protect tenure rights of local people from risks that could arise from large-scale land acquisitions, and also to protect human rights, livelihoods, food security and the environment.

The guidelines also addresses a wide range of issues including:

· Recognition and protection of legitimate tenure rights, even under informal systems

· Best practices for registration and transfer of tenure rights

· Making sure that tenure administrative systems are accessible and affordable

· Managing expropriations and restitution of land to people who were forcibly evicted in the past

· Rights of indigenous communities

· Ensuring that investment in agricultural lands occurs responsibly and transparently

· Mechanisms for resolving disputes over tenure rights

· Dealing with the expansion of cities into rural areas

“Some of the issues addressed by the Voluntary Guidelines go back centuries even. The fact that these guidelines tackle those entrenched issues as well as newer concerns is what makes them so significant,” said Graziano da Silva

By Ekow Quandzie

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