Members of the Global Donor Working Group on Land (GDWGL) were active during CFS 46 in Rome to raise the profile of land tenure security and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGTs) in the context of national food security. GDWGL members held side events highlighting the benefits of responsible land investment for sustainable food systems and how telling stories of people-centred land governance can drive change to land policies and normative frameworks and how these link to the Agenda 2030. GDWGL members also held an informal meeting to give a first round of feedback on a proposed Global Land Governance Report concept note, as well has holding an informal meeting with CSOs to further explore how to formalize engagement between the two groups.

Side Event – Responsible land investment for sustainable food systems

This side event, organized by GDWGL partner DFID LEGEND (Land: Enhancing governance for Economic Development) in collaboration with GDWGL members and partners FAO, GIZ, ILC as a lead civil society partner (in turn supported by IFAD and CoRe), and the CFS Private Sector Mechanism, aimed to show the importance of equitable governance of land and natural resource tenure to sustainable investment in agriculture and natural resources, and in making sure that these investments, whether private or public, contribute to food security, improved nutrition, and to the SDGs.

Experiences from Ethiopia

GIZ and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture shared their experiences, challenges, and progress in their joint Support to Responsible Agricultural Investments in Ethiopia (S2RAI-ETH) project about mainstreaming the VGGTs into responsible agricultural investment processes. Christian Graefen, the project manager of GIZ, stated the basis for the project was the lack of monitoring and overall control on land investments in Ethiopia in the late 2000s, which resulted in issues of land grabbing. Mr. Alemayehu G/Selassie Atachew, representative of the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture, stated that their interest in this project stemmed from the desire to separate the serious investors in agricultural land from those wishing to speculate on land, an increase in the transparency on production and contribution to national food security, and a modernization of agriculture that would also reach small scale farmers.

GIZ, implementing the project on behalf of EU and BMZ, all three of whom are GDWGL members, aimed to increase the respect for and registration of legitimate tenure rights, participatory community consultations, and strengthen the incorporation of civil society in the process. The project addressed existing institutional and capacity constraints and helped to ensure that large scale land investments in the agricultural sector are based on best practice experience and in accordance with national and international standards of responsible land governance and agricultural, like the VGGTs and RAI.

Throughout implementation, the project cooperated closely with land registration programs from other organizations (e.g., DFID, USAID, FINNIDA, and FAO). It produced a number guiding tools and trainings, which were translated into Amharic for officials and experts at the federal and regional levels. Additionally, training on the VGGTs and on responsible agricultural investments were provided to potential investors. In order to monitor existing agricultural investments, the project developed the Commercial Agricultural Management Information System (CAMIS), a remote sensing tool allowing to monitor the performance of investment project.

Despite facing more general challenges in the sector, such as lack of capacities among government and investor staff, poor infrastructure, lack of market linkages, low agriculture technology and input supply, as well as poor data management, the project achieved positive impacts. For example, it contributed to a general paradigm shift away from a focus on large scale state land leases towards granting smaller areas and preferring out-grower schemes and contract farming models. This was reflected in the official reduction of the maximum areas granted to investors from 1,000,000ha to 1,000ha for domestic investors, and 3,000ha for foreign investors. It capacitated more than 800 partners from the government, investors, and civil society. On the ground, exchanges between affected communities and investors in 120 communities led to a reduction of conflicts due to an increase in dialogue.

The success of the S2RAI-ETH project led to the fact that BMZ and the EU Commission will subsequently roll out similar projects in Uganda, Laos, and a further country to be determined. This project shows that cooperation between private companies, government bodies, civil society, and local populations is key for successful responsible agricultural investments.

Lessons Learned from Multiple Perspectives

During the side event, ODI stated that there are multiple perspective of what constitutes responsible land investment and how to successfully implement it; however, legal compliance alone is not enough. There must be a recognition of the politics and power behind the management of natural resources, and there is a need to identify and recognise legitimate tenure rights at an early stage, create a level playing field for negotiation, be accountable around global principles, and monitor implementation of investments.

ODI’s 7 Responsible Land Investment (RLI) Lessons

  1. Timely identification of land rights issues is critical; if addressed later, are likely to escalate leading to conflicts and additional costs
  2. Legitimate tenure rights in and around investment sites need to be recognised, documented and, as far as possible, secured before companies negotiate land access
  3. Companies and governments need to establish fair and open negotiation processes to achieve community consent for investment plans
  4. Communities need effective, independent, politically savvy support to protect legitimate rights and negotiate effectively
  5. The business case for RLI is becoming clearer in economic terms, but companies still need to mainstream land rights in their core business decisions
  6. RLI is an important entry point for more inclusive agribusiness
  7. Positive regulation and a systemic approach to overall governance are essential to support RLI

The side event also featured perspectives from FAO and Sierra Leone on the practical linkages between the CFS-RAI and the VGGT, including making the investment approval process more robust to comply with international standards, the role and main concerns of the private sector in this process, and the challenges and opportunities in implementation for the government of Sierra Leone. ILC contributed by sharing their experiences with Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSP), speaking about initiatives in Malawi and Tanzania, developing a global Community of Practice (CoP) to link governments, CSOs, the private sector, and research to enhance the MSP landscape, advance equitable land governance and ensure that land investment is inclusive and responsible. Lastly, perspectives of the CFS-Private Sector Mechanism Secretariat were given on land, responsible investment and food security and the scope for improved partnerships.

First round of feedback on the global land governance report concept note

Members of the Global Working Group on Land (GDWGL) attending CFS 46 gave informal on the concept note for a Global Land Governance Report (GLGR), as jointly developed by GLTN/UN-Habitat, FAO, and ILC. During the session, presentation of the proposed objectives, content of GLGR and institutional structure for the development of the report was made. The presentation was followed by a productive round of questions and discussion to further clarify the concept note; with comments and inputs to better shape the concept note also received.

The concept for the development of the GLGR received universal support from those in attendance and it was agreed that all ideas expressed should be taken as proposals and in support of a continuous consultation with the GDWGL on the development of this report, subject to further upcoming discussion. The GLGR is meant to accelerate and elevate the global interest, value of and contribution of land tenure and governance to sustainable development; take the insights and lessons learned on land governance that have been gained, and consolidate those findings and link land to current global themes including social, economic and environmental development, peace and security.

The GLGR concept note stems from discussions by GDWGL members physical meeting held last March during the WB Conference 2019 about increasing global advocacy on land tenure, possibly by elevating land via the SDGs to deliver not just better measurement, but more progress and achievement. This is a discussion that also reflected upon the proposal by GLTN/UN-Habitat and GLII on the development of the GLGR report. The land community has had ongoing efforts to address the global challenges facing land tenure and to build synergy between land and other development sectors. The development of the VGGTs, SDGs, AU-F&G, NUA and others have provided opportunities to raise the profile of land tenure for sustainable development.

The existence of diverse data sources and the good will among land actors to strengthen governance issues has led to enhanced coordination. The value of land tenure has been underscored in several global reports with the need for land governance related issues featured, including land tenure linked to achieving land degradation neutrality, climate change, addressing conflict, and achieving gender equality, thematic items which could be taken forward with the GLGR for further profiling and policy direction. The question remains on how to better track and document outcomes associated with the progress made in the land governance sector and provide better alignment with changes in social, economic and environmental sectors. There is a lack of a reference point for doing this and the GLGR could potentially fill this gap.

The discussion at the CFS46 highlighted the potential objectives, content, and governance structure for the development of the report. Overall, the proposal for the development of the GLGR was found to be progressive and will benefit from additional strategic thinking on its objectives and positioning in contributing to better land governance for sustainable development. There was also a call to include a wide involvement of stakeholders in order to properly capture the complexity inherent in land tenure and governance issues and increase ownership, with example of the role that a wide front of organizations has had in successfully keeping land-related indicators in the SDGs, and the availability of a range of data that different land actors can provide to the report.

Both GDWGL members present in the meeting and those not in the meeting were invited to submit will have the opportunity to submit concrete and constructive suggestions on the GLGR concept to the Platform Secretariat before the Group’s next physical meeting for further consideration. At the next physical meeting scheduled to take place in Abidjan, GLTN/UN-Habitat, FAO and ILC will present an improved version of the concept note following inputs received during the meeting in Rome and any additional inputs to be received from members to present a concrete propositions on how the report will be developed including a draft structure of the report, and structural options for its development for members discussions, inputs and decisions on the way forward.

Dialogue centred on protecting indigenous peoples’ and women’s land rights

Members of the GDWGL met informally with CSOs last week at CFS 46 in order to explore how to further formalize the engagement between the two at the global level. The session was a continuation of an outcome from the GDWGL’s previous physical meeting at the WB Land Conference to continue exchanges with CSOs.

The CSOs present asked for greater support for human and land rights defenders, especially for indigenous people and women. The creation of a statistical database on indigenous people’s land tenure at the global level was mentioned as a tool that would help drive recognition of land rights at the national level and help implement programs across spatial scales. Saul Vincente Vasquez (IITC, Mexico) stated that such a database could help his organization plan, implement, and scale up a pilot project of creating development plans at the local level within indigenous communities.

Angel Strappazzon (La Via Campesina, Argentina) pointed out that the GDWGL could engage with CSOs by pushing for the translation of the VGGTs into additional languages, particularly indigenous languages, digitalizing tenure guidelines to be accessible via mobile phone, and to think strategically in the coming years, as the VGGTs are soon coming up on 10 years. Mrinal Kanti Tripura (Maleya Foundation, Bangladesh) seconded this notion of strategic thinking and added that the GDWGL could help CSOs by working towards achieving real impact on the ground by increasing country and global level coordination, including accessibility to funding streams.

The FAO pointed out that the GDWGL can help CSOs through capacity development. FAO helped indigenous communities in Colombia become stewards of a national park, who by working together with national park authorities, are now able to both claim ancestral land and make decisions on how the land is used by people who settled there due to internal conflicts. Another example was given of how DFID and FAO are working together in Tanzania to implement a manual on how to resolve land disputes, in this case pastoral and water rights conflicts. The manual is now being tested but it will take time to train the local partners in charge of implementing the project.

The GDWGL can further help CSOs by producing global goods that can benefit the public. While there may be a gap in the total number of languages that the VGGTs have been, they have been officially translated into 11 languages. The VGGTs are currently being translated into additional languages but the validation process takes time. There are also translated technical guides on how to implement the VGGTs.

There was agreement that secure land tenure is at the core of ensuring that indigenous peoples and women’s rights and land are protected. Conversations between the GDWGL and CSOs will be kept going until the World Bank’s Land Conference, but in thinking about how to formalize the engagement, discussions will have to be had on both sides concerning how to systematically structure the relationship.

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