Articles

Global Forum Vows Commitment to Land Rights

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Jaya Ramachandran | IDN-InDepth NewsReport

ROME (IDN) - Farmers, pastoralists and indigenous peoples from around the world have expressed concern about the increasing levels of land grabbing and land concentration. These, they say, are embedded in wider political and economic choices, including poorly regulated investment frameworks and poor governance that do not respond to the needs of rural communities. In fact these undermine democratic processes, create unhealthy environments and unequal societies, and perpetuate poverty and hunger.

Statements to that effect emerged from an international gathering convened by the International Land Coalition (ILC) in Antigua, Guatemala, from April 23 to 27 to discuss territorial governance and food security in the context of rapid urbanisation and shifting patterns of land use throughout the developing world. The discussions were joined by 273 members and guests from 47 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

The importance of the global event in Guatemala, in the heart of Latin America was underlined by the fact that the region has experienced radical transformation of its agricultural sector and its rural landscape. No region better epitomizes inequalities in land access and the intensity of the disputes for land. Latin America is also is also known for the vigour of its peasant movements and the vibrancy of debates over land rights.

"The 36-year civil war suffered by Guatemala led to both the fragmentation and concentration of land. In response to these disturbing developments, the forum aimed to create a new platform for dialogue and consultation in Guatemala and to forge a more just and inclusive process for this country," ILC said in a press release.

"Given the extent of commoditisation of farmland, transnational land transactions, severe land degradation, and the profound transformation of rural landscapes as a consequence, we have reached a critical period in which states must make genuine efforts to protect the rights of impoverished and vulnerable groups, in particular small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples, or increased conflict and instability may jeopardise the economic stability of countries, including Guatemala," said Madiodio Niasse, Director of the International Land Coalition.

The Rome-based International Land Coalition is a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations working together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity-building. and works for secure and equitable access to and control over land.

"We hope that the discussion we have started will open a new era of dialogue and consultation to have better equity in the way this country addresses land issues," Niasse said.

Antigua Declaration

A significant outcome of the Global Land Forum and the ILC assembly was the Antigua Declaration, which "recognises the need for land to be looked at not just as a productive asset, but to be valued for the various functions that it plays, including cultural, spiritual and ecological functions; it highlights that land is a means of establishing the dignity and inclusiveness of people".

The declaration stresses the importance of land rights, arguing that these are fundamental to addressing the common challenges of humanity, including overcoming poverty and hunger, recognising the rights of Indigenous Peoples, mitigating and adapting to climate change, reversing desertification and land degradation, sustainable development and peace-building.

The declaration also acknowledges the growing international consensus on land governance that includes collective rights and respects territorial visions of development, human rights, gender equality and environmental sustainability, as well as the decisive role of small-scale producers and family farmers in present day and future food production systems in achieving food security for all.

"We are disturbed, however, by the gap between aspiration and reality," adds the declaration explaining that "agrarian economies are profoundly affected by corporate and other interests that are external to local territories, taking control of land, productive resources and food value chains, alienating land-users from their environment, and posing great risks of marginalising small-scale producers and family farmers."

Consensus

The global gathering reached consensus "concerning the idea that investment in land is indeed needed, but that models of investment should take into consideration the need to mobilise resources directly from smallholder farmers, as they are uniquely positioned to maintain the integrity of the land, taking into account territorial perspectives."

Moreover, noting the impact of increased commercial pressures on land, the territories most at risk are those of indigenous peoples, notes the declaration. "The rights of indigenous peoples to protect their land must be defended, as land is the source of cultural identity," asserts the declaration.

Other issues in focus during the forum included strong support for promoting women's land rights and gender justice, denouncing all forms of human rights violations, the importance of environmental sustainability for achieving the Right to Food, and transparency and accountability in dealing with land issues.

In a re-affirmation of their commitment to promotion and supporting the operationalization of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure and the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, ILC members also approved a proclamation on people-centred land governance as an annex to the Antigua Declaration, which outlines ten specific actions that are essential for furthering the pro-poor dimensions of these international norms.

"The realisation of the Global Land Forum has benefited both Guatemalan civil society and peasant organisations in Guatemala, enabling us to share learning on themes of agriculture and rural development, and serving as a bridge that allows us to communicate directly with the state, national government and private sector," said Helmer Velásquez, Director of ILC member CONGCOOP, representing the national organising committee.

"Securing land rights for all, especially for the rural poor, for the landless and for women is an unparalleled means to achieving redistributive justice, especially in agrarian economies. It helps mobilise investment from the bottom, increase agricultural outputs, boost trade, expand food processing capacities and accelerate the development of rural infrastructure, hence triggering a virtuous circle of growth, prosperity and equity in wealth distribution," said ILC director Niasse.

"The results of the Global Land Forum, including the Antigua Declaration, will help to guide and transform the way ILC members, from grassroots organisations to intergovernmental agencies, treat these issues for years to come," he added. [IDN-InDepthNews – May 17, 2013]

2013 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Picture: Women leaders from Asia together with Otto Perez Molina, President of Guatemala | Credit: ILC

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook:
http://twitter.com/InDepthNews
http://www.facebook.com/IDN.GoingDeeper