Farmers’ Networks Urge Government Action Against Land Grabbing
IPS, 11 October 2011

ROME,ITALY: Civil society organizations and global farmers’ networks are gathered in Rome this week to ask governments to stop the “disastrous practice of land grabbing”, as the FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS), meeting from 17-22 October 2011, addresses land governance. After six years of negotiations involving governments, international organizations and civil society groups, this session is expected to adopt voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of land and other natural resources. These guidelines would protect and strengthen access to land, fisheries and forests for indigenous peoples and small-scale producers.

On the occasion, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter stressed that “land rights are the first building block on the road to achieving food security, and without international consensus on how land should be governed, the interests of vulnerable land users will continue to be swept aside.” While the guidelines would be voluntary, the reporting on their implementation should be binding, Mr. De Schutter said, noting that they could provide much needed guidance to States about how conflicts over land use should be addressed. “If countries do not face international monitoring and are not encouraged to report to their national civil societies about the progress achieved, much of the added value of the voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests will be lost,” he stressed.

It should be recalled that in October 2010, Special Rapporteur De Schutter submitted his report on Access to Land and the Right to Food to the 65th session of the UN General Assembly. In the report, he explores the threats posed by the increasing pressures on land and on land users including indigenous peoples, smallholders and special groups such as herders, pastoralists and fisherfolk, as well as how States and the international community could better fulfil the right to food by giving increased recognition to land as a human right. The report argues that, while security of tenure is indeed crucial, individual titling and the creation of a market for land rights may not be the most appropriate means to achieve it. Instead, the report suggests, the strengthening of customary land tenure systems and the reinforcement of tenancy laws could significantly improve the protection of land users. Drawing on the lessons learned from decades of agrarian reform, the report emphasizes the importance of land redistribution for the realization of the right to food. It also argues that development models that do not lead to evictions, disruptive shifts in land rights and increased land concentration should be prioritized.

Read the article … Read a UN press release on De Schutter’s statement … Download De Schutter’s report on Access to Land and the Right to Food [pdf] … Visit the CFS 37 website … More on the negotiations on the voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of land tenure …