In mid May 2012, the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS) officially endorsed the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security”.
The “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security” (see previous article) outline principles and practices that governments can refer to when making laws and administering land, fisheries and forest rights. The wide range of topics include organising land transfer, traditional rights of usufruct and strengthening the rights of women and indigenous communities. The aim is to counter the global trend towards land grabbing with responsible investing in land. “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,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
The adoption of the Guidelines has been welcomed by representatives from civil society, the private sector and politics, although they have also demanded that they be swiftly and effectively implemented. “Secure access rights to land and other productive resources are important for people’s survival in rural areas,” said Michael Windfuhr of the German Institute for Human Rights. Now it is up to German development policy to turn these Guidelines into a benchmark for their activities in advising and supporting partner countries. Private investors should also use the Guidelines as minimum standards in order to fulfil their human rights responsibilities.” Ángel Strapazzón, of Movimiento Campesino Indígena-Vía Campesina Argentina, said: “We welcome the Guidelines, but with awareness that they fall short in some areas that are key to the livelihoods of small-scale food producers. Despite this, we call on governments and intergovernmental agencies to implement them and urgently improve governance of tenure for food security.” Luc Maene, Chairman of the International Agri-Food Network, representing the private sector, said: “In many places, land tenure systems are effectively non-existent. To us in the private sector and to our farmer partners, it is important that there should be effective local administration of land registries without corruption. Fair, transparent rules benefit everyone.”
The adoption of the Guidelines is the result of a process lasting three years and involving civil society, scientists and the private sector. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that the next step will be to develop a series of technical handbooks designed to help countries adapt the guidelines to their local contexts and put them into play. It has also announced that it will be providing targeted technical assistance for governments towards that end.