What are the prospects for securing the land rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and women in the foreseeable future?
Significantly, the report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, under Goal 1 to “End Poverty”, sets a target to “Increase by x% the share of women and men, communities, and businesses with secure rights to land, property, and other assets”.
The importance of land in achieving socially inclusive economic growth, environmental sustainability, peace and security, food security and sustainable rural and urban development is gaining prominence in the political agenda, not just at the United Nations, but across the broad spectrum of society.
At the recent World Conference of Indigenous Women held in Lima, Peru, this October, over 200 participants stated: “Today, at this time of compounded crises of climate change and impending irreversible loss of biological diversity, Indigenous Women underscore the duty of States to protect the territories of Indigenous Peoples, as critical areas for the social, cultural and ecological recovery and resilience of humankind and the natural world.” Another global conference on Community Land Rights held in Interlaken, Switzerland, set the target of doubling the area of secure community land rights in 5 years (by 2018).
Reaching these ambitious targets on community land rights will require strengthened land governance actions by multiple actors. As highlighted in articles in this newsletter, failures in land governance become manifest in heightened land and natural resource conflicts, this time exemplified by conflicts in the palm oil sector.
Private sector initiatives such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) can and should play a key role in terms of pushing for legal reform and better land governance in the countries where member companies are operating, such that companies are better able to implement their operations in a sustainable manner.
Land governance matters for all of society with governments, international financial institutions, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities, and business each making contributions.
In Kenya, the Chepkitale Ogiek community have documented their customary bylaws for the first time to ensure the continued conservation of their ancestral lands and natural resources, stating that “We have never conserved. It is the way we live that conserves”. This act of community governance was immediately followed by informing the various authorities of the bylaws governing their lands, and to seek their support for the Ogiek implementing them.
Recent meetings of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have also included negotiations and draft decisions pertaining to the role of indigenous peoples and local communities in ecosystem management, restoration and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
I hope you enjoy reading more about these issues in this edition of our newsletter.
Joji Cariño, Director