International talks convened at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in March 2012 to finalise negotiations on a proposed set of voluntary global guidelines on responsible governance of land tenure and access rights to land, fisheries and forest resources have concluded successfully. The proposed guidelines are now set to be considered for final approval by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at a special session in Rome in mid-May.
The “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 and other actors can refer to when administering land, fisheries and forests rights in order to serve the best interests of their populations and promote food security and rural development.
The guidelines were developed over the past three years in a far-reaching and inclusive consultation process involving governments as well as civil society organisations, nonprofits, farmers' associations and the private sector. They come within the context of intensifying competition for land and other natural resources resulting from a variety of factors, including population growth, urbanisation and large-scale purchases of farmland in the developing world by both overseas interests and domestic investors.
The guidelines cover a wide range of issues, including promoting equal rights for women in securing title to land, creating transparent record-keeping systems that are accessible to the rural poor, and how to recognise and protect informal, traditional rights to land, forests and fisheries.
Once officially approved by CFS, they will serve as an authoritative reference for national authorities when passing laws and setting policy related to access- and ownership rights for land, fisheries, and forest resources. The guidelines are also intended to give investors and developers clear indications on best practices and to provide civil society land rights groups with benchmarks they can use in their work on behalf of rural communities.
Ninety-six countries (plus the European Union as an FAO Member organisation) along with nongovernmental groups, civil society organisations, UN agencies and other international organisations, farmers associations, and private sector representatives took part in several rounds of talks by an Open Ended Working Group established by CFS to negotiate the text of the guidelines. The last and final round of negotiations was held in March at FAO's Rome headquarters.
CFS will consider that text for final approval at a special session, tentatively scheduled to be held in Rome on 18 May.
CFS is the top international platform for all stakeholders to work together to ensure food security and nutrition for all. It is made up of governments, UN agencies, civil society organisations, agricultural research systems, financial institutions, private sector associations and private philanthropic foundations. The CFS Secretariat includes staff from FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).