Tenure Guidelines are a first step, but much more is needed to ensure peoples’ rights to land and natural resources
Rome, May 11, 2012 – A first essential step has been made, but there’s still a long road ahead before peoples’ rights to land, fisheries and forests are fully recognized and respected. Civil Society Organizations actively involved in the negotiations on the guidelines believe that they represent significant progress made in the governance of natural resources and food security.
The guidelines are the result of multi-year-discussions between governments and civil society representatives and reaffirm basic human rights principles such as human dignity, non-discrimination, equity and justice when applied to tenure. Nonetheless, they fall short on issues that are key to the livelihoods of small scale food producers, failing to sufficiently challenge practices such as land and water grabbing, which contribute to food insecurity, violation of human rights and degradation of environment.
The new instrument developed by the CFS rightly recognizes the key role of women, peasant farmers, fishing communities, pastoralists and indigenous peoples. The negotiation process itself, which included consultation and participation of social movements and other civil society organizations, can be considered an achievement in itself.
Representatives of small-scale food producers were invited to have their say at all stages, bringing real life experience into the negotiations. The process proved able to bring a wide range of voices to the debate, making it easier to find solutions to difficult and contentious issues, such as tenure of land, fisheries and forests. This way of working should serve as an example to the entire UN system.
However, the guidelines fall short on a number of crucial issues, thus failing to provide a comprehensive set of rules to counter effectively widespread grabbing of natural resources. The text is too weak in prioritizing essential support to small-scale producers, who are the absolute priority if governments are to achieve sustainable development. It’s also disappointing that the guidelines fail to further protect the rights of indigenous peoples already recognized by international instruments and don’t include water as a land resource.
While Civil Society Organizations still disagree with several parts of the text, they will work to ensure that the guidelines are implemented in a way that strengthens the rights of small-scale food producers and commit to use them as a tool to advance their struggles. CSOs call on governments and intergovernmental organizations to implement the guidelines effectively and urgently to contribute to a sustainable and equitable governance of natural resources.
List of Civil Society Organizations: