People-Centred Land Governance for Impact Investing in Sustainable Forestry

Prevent land grabbing: Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Land Tenure

At the Global Land Forum in Antigua, Guatemala, the International Land Coalition reported about the observed increasing levels of land grabbing and land concentration that 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, undermine democratic processes, create unhealthy environments and unequal societies, and perpetuate poverty and hunger.

To avoid negative effects like land grabbing, Impact Investing for Sustainable Forestry (IISF) requires strict guidelines for responsible governance of land tenure rights.

Therefore we would like to draw attention to the “Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT)“, and to the “Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (ALPFG)” which can assist impact investors during decision making for responsible landscape investments. Furthering  people-centred land governance, the International Land Coalition commits to action on the above mentioned guidelines and formulated in the Antigua Declaration ten actions to be essential to achieving people-centred land governance. We would like to introduce these actions as an overview for impact investors which intend to invest in sustainable forestry.

1) Respect, protect and strengthen the land rights of women and men living in poverty, ensuring that no one is deprived of the use and control of the land on which their well-being and human dignity depend, including through eviction, expulsion or exclusion, and with compulsory changes to tenure undertaken only in line with international law and standards on human rights.

2) Ensure equitable land distribution and public investment that supports small-scale farming systems, including through redistributive agrarian reforms that counter excessive land concentration, provide for secure and equitable use and control of land, and allocate appropriate land to landless rural producers and urban residents, whilst supporting smallholders as investors and producers, such as through cooperative and partnership business models.

3) Recognize and protect the diverse tenure and production systems upon which people’s livelihoods depend, including the communal and customary tenure systems of smallholders, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, fisher folks, and holders of overlapping, shifting and periodic rights to land and other natural resources, even when these are not recognized by law, and whilst also acknowledging that the well-being of resource-users may be affected by changes beyond the boundaries of the land to which they have tenure rights.

4) Ensure gender justice in relation to land, taking all necessary measures to pursue both de jure and de facto equality, enhancing the ability of women to defend their land rights and take equal part in decision-making, and ensuring that control over land and the benefits that are derived thereof are equal between women and men, including the right to inherit and bequeath tenure rights.

5) Respect and protect the inherent land and territorial rights of indigenous peoples, as set out in ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including by recognizing that respect for indigenous knowledge and cultures contributes to sustainable and equitable development and proper management of the environment.

6) Enable the role of local land users in territorial and ecosystem management, recognizing that sustainable development and the stewardship of ecosystems are best achieved through participatory decision-making and management at the territorial-level, empowering local land users and their communities with the authority, means and incentives to carry out this responsibility.

7) Ensure that processes of decision-making over land are inclusive, so that policies, laws, procedures and decisions concerning land adequately reflect the rights, needs and aspirations of individuals and communities who will be affected by them. This requires the empowerment of those who otherwise would face limitations in representing their interests, particularly through support to land users’ and other civil society organizations that are best able to inform, mobilize and legitimately represent marginalized land users, and their participation in multi-stakeholder platforms for policy dialogue.

8) Ensure transparency and accountability, through unhindered and timely public access to all information that may contribute to informed public debate and decision-making on land issues at all stages, and through decentralization to the lowest effective level, to facilitate participation, accountability and the identification of locally appropriate solutions.

9) Prevent and remedy land grabbing, respecting traditional land use rights and local livelihoods, and ensuring that all large-scale initiatives that involve the use of land, water and other natural resources comply with human rights and environmental obligations and are based on:

  • the free, prior and informed consent of existing land users;
  • a thorough assessment of economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts with respect to both women and men;
  • democratic planning and independent oversight; and
  • transparent contracts that respect labour rights, comply with social and fiscal obligations and are specific and binding on the sharing of responsibilities and benefits.
  • Where adverse impacts on human rights and legitimate tenure rights have occurred, concerned actors should provide for, and cooperate in, impartial and competent mechanisms to provide remedy, including through land restitution and compensation.

10) Respect and protect the civil and political rights of human rights defenders working on land issues, combating the stigmatization and criminalisation of peaceful protest and land rights activism, and ending impunity for human rights violations, including harassment, threats, violence and political imprisonment.

Further information on “Land Tenure Risk and Industrial Concessions in Emerging Market Economies

Alexander Watson