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Reuters Alert News: Climate Conversations - 6 ways to secure land rights for sustainable development
June 11, 2012
By Andy White and RRI Partners
Women gather forest products in Budhikhamari village, in Baripada in India’s Orissa state. Photo: Vasundhara/RRI
Clear and respected land rights in favor of rural communities are fundamental to global success in slowing climate change, lifting the poorest people out of poverty, and saving the world’s finite resources. Yet, the advances that have been made since the first Earth Summit 20 years ago are far from sufficient.
Despite the enactment of laws to recognize community rights of forest-dwellers, implementation has been weak: 97 percent of forest lands in Africa and 60 percent in Asia remain contested, and many of the gains that have been made in Latin America are tenuous. This uncertainty and instability weakens investment in infrastructure and continues to constrain progress on many global development goals.
To build on the progress so far, avoid future conflicts, and complete the work necessary to attain truly fair and sustainable development, global leaders in Rio de Janeiro and around the world should:
1. Place tenure rights at the center of the Rio+20 and other global development agendas. Advances in the rights of indigenous peoples and communities since 1992 have been accomplished because of the strong push by citizens and despite weak recognition of their important roles.
Now with a solid empirical foundation, leaders need to prioritize a commitment to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and communities to forest land and resources. Recognition of community rights should be included in the successor to the Millennium Development Goals.
2. Include the issues of secure tenure and rights as underlying conditions for green growth. Clear, secure, and just property rights are essential for sound investment in sustainable development. New standards and mechanisms to vet investments need to be established, and are in the interests of governments, communities and investors.
The world should build on the commitment exhibited by the recent adoption of voluntary guidelines on land tenure to establish mechanisms to increase transparency of all transactions and ensure free, prior and informed consent.
3. Widely implement a new model of rights-based and community-led conservation.
The 1992 Earth Summit supported conventional conservation models, many of which displaced people and didn’t produce the desired results. Rio+20 can encourage a new conservation paradigm - one that is based on human rights, respects cultures, and furthers conservation.
4. Provide support for African countries to significantly advance the recognition of community tenure rights. The recognition and clarification of community land rights requires tremendous new political will and investment in Africa.
During Rio+20 and in subsequent global summits, some African countries can highlight the legislative progress they have made. Emerging and donor economies should dedicate more energy and financial support to help Africa address its challenge - with much greater urgency.
5. Recognize that laws on the books are not enough. Existing laws need to be changed to recognize community tenure and rights. The massive legislative progress since 1992 is an essential first step towards securing forest tenure rights. Governments must now make firm commitments to implement the laws that recognize and protect the tenure rights of Indigenous Peoples and communities, and enact new legislation where necessary ensure realization on the ground.
6. Seize new opportunities to secure and implement rights to forests for the poor. Innovative private–public partnerships to finance forest tenure reform need to be established.
Many in the private sector now recognize that insecure forest tenure rights pose substantial risks, both financial and in terms of company reputation. Leaders must look beyond the conventional forms of overseas development assistance to leverage greater support from the new major investors in forest areas - the agribusiness, extractive and infrastructure sectors.
The development of mechanisms to channel private-sector support for implementing widespread forest tenure reform would have a real effect, allowing us to turn the tide and finally achieve the goals of sustainable development set out in the first Earth Summit 20 years ago.
Participants at Rio+20 must recognize the urgent need for action. Without it, there is a substantial risk that civil conflicts will grow, resources will be squandered, forests will be lost or degraded, and indigenous peoples and other communities will continue to suffer unjust and avoidable poverty.
The Rights and Resources Initiative is a global coalition of international, regional and community organizations advancing forest tenure, policy and market reforms.
Posted By David Robeck at 12:43pm on June 11, 2012
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