Consensus reached on guidelines for land tenure and access to fisheries and forests
FAO media release, 13 March 2012

ROME, ITALY: The final round of the intergovernmental negotiations on the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the context of National Food Security was held from 5-9 March 2012, at the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, ending with a successful outcome. About 96 member countries, along with civil society organizations, UN agencies and other international organizations, farmers associations, and private sector representatives took part in three rounds of negotiations led by an Open Ended Working Group of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), under the auspices of FAO. The guidelines will now be considered for final approval by the CFS at a special session in Rome in mid-May. Upon adoption, the focus will shift to implementation.

The guidelines cover a wide range of issues, including promoting equal rights for women in securing title to land, creating transparent record-keeping systems that are accessible to the rural poor, and recognizing and protecting informal, traditional rights to land, forests and fisheries. Once officially approved by CFS, they will serve as an authoritative reference for national authorities when passing laws and setting policy related to access- and ownership rights for land, fisheries, and forest resources. The guidelines are also intended to give investors and developers clear indications on best practices and to provide civil society land rights groups with benchmarks they can use in their work on behalf of rural communities.

Section 9 of the guidelines is devoted to indigenous peoples and other communities with customary tenure systems. Among other issues, the guidelines highlight that land, fisheries and forests have social, cultural, spiritual, economic, environmental and political value to indigenous peoples and other communities; and that indigenous peoples exercising self-governance should provide equitable, secure and sustainable rights to those resources, and promote effective participation of all members in decisions regarding their tenure systems. States should ensure that all actions are consistent with their existing obligations under national and international law, and with due regard to voluntary commitments under applicable regional and international instruments; provide appropriate recognition and protection of the legitimate customary tenure rights, including to the ancestral lands; consider adapting their policy, legal and organizational frameworks to recognize customary tenure systems; draft tenure policies and laws taking into account the social, cultural, spiritual, economic and environmental values of land, fisheries and forests held under customary tenure systems and with the full and effective participation of all members of affected communities; and respect and promote customary approaches to resolving tenure conflicts. Read the release … Visit the CFS webpage on land tenure … Download the guidelines [pdf] …