Getting our Priorities Straight:Why Indigenous and Community Land Rights Matter in the Light of Global Challenges

Many of us have been raised with the idea that you do not take what does not belong to you. This is, however, not always so obvious. Every single day, especially in the developing world, people are driven off their land for the sake of foreign investments. In the last decade alone foreign investments have led to the acquisition of more than 81 million acres of land worldwide –an area the size of Portugal, with unspeakable consequences for many rural and forest dwellers across the world.This is caused by the widespread and enduring lack of clarity and recognition of indigenous and community land and resource rights. When land rights are weak or insecure Indigenous Peoples and local communities risk losing access to land and resources they heavily depend on. Unfortunately insecurity of land tenure is commonplace in the developing world. Today the ownership of roughly half of the rural forest and dry land areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America is contested, placing the lives and livelihoods of at least two billion people atrisk.

Securing and protecting that ownership is not only of great importance
for social and economic development, but also for progress on human rights,
food security, environmental conservation and confronting and adapting to
climate change. This is due to the fact that land rights contribute to a
diverse range of benefits and social values. As
shown in a compiled report by the International Land Coalition
(ILC)
, access to land rights is linked to food security, productivity,
well-being and dignity, empowerment, gender equality and environmental
protection. That means that securing indigenous and community land and resource
rights is key in the face of global challenges, such as eradicating hunger and
poverty, promoting gender equality and ensuring environmental protection.
Moreover, as stated by Jenny Springer in a guest blog
from the Rights and Resources Initiative
 (RRI), ‘explicit inclusion of secure land rights for local communities and
Indigenous Peoples is key to “leaving no one behind” in global sustainable
development goals
’.

image

Photo Credit: Rights & Resources Initiative

Many organizations worldwide have come to acknowledge the need to join
hands in securing indigenous and community land and resource rights. During the
2013
Interlaken Conference on Scaling-up Strategies to Secure Community Land and
Resources Rights
 this has led to the development of The Global Call to Action on Indigenous
and Community Land Rights. Guided by the ILC, RRI and Oxfam, the Global Call to
Action has the goal ‘to double the area of land recognized as owned or
controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities by 2020’. Building on
the efforts of existing networks and organizations, this global network is set
to facilitate greater collaboration and collective action around the world. Through
these efforts change will happen by enabling and supporting the recognition,
implementation, and upholding of indigenous and community land rights at the
national level, which is where rights and tenure governance institutions are
determined. Only then will we move forward, while leaving no one behind.

To draw attention to, and move towards the stated goal of, the Global
Call to Action, Oxfam, ILC and RRI are organizing a Policy Roundtable on
‘Scaling up strategies to secure Indigenous and Community Land Rights’ at the
Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty. At this invited session
experiences from local communities and civil society organizations around the
world are brought together to serve as an opportunity to build and expand
collaborations, commitments and investments for strengthening indigenous and
community land rights from local to global scales. The speakers, including
Samuel Nguiffo, Richard Smith, Peter Veit, Jennifer Corpuz and Rachael Knight,
will highlight the current challenges that undermine tenure security for
indigenous and community land right and will identify concrete examples of
positive change that should be supported and up-scaled.

The session will take place on Wednesday, March 25, from 1:00 pm to
2:30 pm in Washington DC. Click here 
for more information on the session. If you are not able to attend the session:
don’t worry. You can follow the Policy Roundtable live by clicking here.

 Other sessions at the World Bank Conference of your interest on
indigenous and community land rights, are:

01-04: Identifying and dealing with
under-performing land investment projects, 
Tuesday,
24 March 8:30am – 10:00am MC 4-800

02-02: Turning land rights commitments into practice in the sugar sector , Tuesday,
24 March 10:30am – 12:00pm MC 13-121 

02-10: Building on community tenure to
manage landscapes sustainably
Tuesday,
24 March 10:30am – 12:00pm MC 7-100 

03-07: Approaches to administering
customary and community rights  
Tuesday,
24 March 1:00pm – 2:30pm MC C1-200 

04-05:
Evaluating the impact of interventions to
improve tenure, 
Tuesday,
24 March 2:45pm – 4:15pm MC C2-131 

06-07: Legal mechanisms to improve land
rights of forest dwellers, 
Wednesday,
25 March 8:30am – 10:00am MC C1-200 

07-02: Leveraging climate change policies
to promote local forest rights, 
Wednesday,
25 March 10:30am – 12:00pm MC 13-121 

08-09: Research on communal lands and
land conflict, 
Wednesday,
25 March 1:00pm – 2:30pm MC 7-100 

09-05: Effectively strengthening
indigenous rights, 
Wednesday,
25 March 2:45pm – 4:15pm MC C1-100 

09-08: Land tenure issues in East Asia:
Ensuring sustainability and traditional rights, 
Wednesday,
25 March 2:45pm – 4:15pm MC 6-100 

12-04: Securing community rights: Legal
and technology options, 
Thursday,
26 March 10:30am – 12:00pm MC 4-800 

13-06: Mechanisms to secure forest and
range lands, 
Thursday,
26 March 1:00pm – 2:30pm MC C1-100 

14-05:
Improving accountability for communities, Thursday, 26 March 2:45pm – 4:15pm
MC C2-131

Maarten van Bijnen

Maarten is currently working on land grabbing issues with the Popular Campaigning Department at Oxfam Novib. Currently, pursuing his Masters at Radboud University, Maarten has a keen eye for design and visuals. In an alternate universe, he would be in Tanzania making films, but for now, he is here trying to figure out his thesis question at Oxfam Novib. You can also follow him on Tumblr.

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