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May 11, 2012, Rome, Italy - Today, at the 38th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), members States endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. The International Land Coalition (ILC), a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organizations supporting land rights for the poor, commends the endorsement of these Voluntary Guidelines as a remarkable advance towards people-centred land governance that is firmly anchored in a human rights framework.
The Voluntary Guidelines are meant to serve as the global reference for the governance of land, fisheries and forests. Through these guidelines, the CFS, hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), aims to promote “sustainable social and economic development that can help eradicate poverty and food insecurity, and encourages responsible investment.”
The Voluntary Guidelines now anchor the tenure of land, forests and fisheries in food security, the right to food, poverty eradication and sustainable development. Crucially, the Guidelines are largely consistent with other international treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and make a reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In commenting on earlier versions of the Guidelines, ILC members noted that they did support not strongly enough the needs of poor land users. Through the two-year consultation process, and inclusive negotiations, these and other shortcomings of the Guidelines improved substantially, increasing the likelihood that they will serve as a useful model that can be implemented by governments. An important innovation in the United Nations system was the creation of the Civil Society Mechanism of the CFS, which gave civil society organisations a strong role alongside governments and other stakeholders in the formulation of the Guidelines.
The Guidelines support access to systems of justice and transparent information concerning tenure, while promoting women’s land rights and gender equality. Moreover, the rights of indigenous peoples are protected through recognition of their ancestral domains. Non-state actors, such as multinational corporations, are given clear responsibilities to respect human rights.
The Voluntary Guidelines represent a first important step towards people-centred land governance. “The International Land Coalition will continue working with the CFS, the FAO, civil society and intergovernmental organizations to ensure their implementation, in particular by raising the profile of secure and equitable access to and control over land as a pre-condition to sound land governance,” said ILC Director Madiodio Niasse.
The ILC promotes the inclusion of the full spectrum of land users, including the landless, in decisions over territorial development, and by strengthening the protection of diverse, flexible and plural tenure systems, including the commons. ILC’s Tirana Declaration adopted in 2011 was the first condemnation of land-grabbing adopted by a range of organizations that included intergovernmental and civil society, and the Voluntary Guidelines reflects some of these growing areas of consensus.
Click here to read the final draft of the Voluntary Guidelines on the CFS website.