[FAO-Voluntary Guidelines] Responsible Governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security

The purpose of these Voluntary Guidelines is to serve as a reference and to provide guidance to improve the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests with the overarching goal of achieving food security for all and to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.

These Guidelines are intended to contribute to the global and national efforts towards the eradication of hunger and poverty, based on the principles of sustainable development and with the recognition of the centrality of land to development by promoting secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests.

The eradication of hunger and poverty, and the sustainable use of the environment, depend in large measure on how people, communities and others gain access to land, fisheries and forests. The livelihoods of many, particularly the rural poor, are based on secure and equitable access to and control over these resources. They are the source of food and shelter; the basis for social, cultural and religious practices; and a central factor in economic growth.

It is important to note that responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests is inextricably linked with access to and management of other natural resources, such as water and mineral resources. While recognizing the existence of different models and systems of governance of these natural resources under national contexts, States may wish to take the governance of these associated natural resources into account in their implementation of these Guidelines, as appropriate.

How people, communities and others gain access to land, fisheries and forests is de ned and regulated by societies through systems of tenure. These tenure systems determine who can use which resources, for how long, and under what conditions. The systems may be based on written policies and laws, as well as on unwritten customs and practices.

Tenure systems increasingly face stress as the world’s growing population requires food security, and as environmental degradation and climate change reduce the availability of land, fisheries and forests. Inadequate and insecure tenure rights increase vulnerability, hunger and poverty, and can lead to conflict and environmental degradation when competing users fight for control of these resources.

The governance of tenure is a crucial element in determining if and how people, communities and others are able to acquire rights, and associated duties, to use and control land, fisheries and forests. Many tenure problems arise because of weak governance, and attempts to address tenure problems are affected by the quality of governance. Weak governance adversely affects social stability, sustainable use of the environment, investment and economic growth. People can be condemned to a life of hunger and poverty if they lose their tenure rights to their homes, land, fisheries and forests and their livelihoods because of corrupt tenure practices or if implementing agencies fail to protect their tenure rights. People may even lose their lives when weak tenure governance leads to violent conflict. Responsible governance of tenure conversely promotes sustainable social and economic development that can help eradicate poverty and food insecurity, and encourages responsible investment.

In response to growing and widespread interest, FAO and its partners embarked on the development of guidelines on responsible tenure governance. This initiative built on and supports the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security (Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food), which were adopted by the FAO Council at its Hundred and Twenty- seventh Session in November 2004, and the 2006 International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD).

At its Thirty-sixth Session in October 2010, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) encouraged the continuation of the inclusive process for developing these Guidelines with a view to submitting them for the consideration of the CFS, and decided to establish an open-ended working group of the CFS to review the first draft of the Guidelines.

These Guidelines closely follow the format of other FAO voluntary instruments that set out principles and internationally accepted standards for responsible practices: Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food; Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides; Responsible Management of Planted Forests: Voluntary Guidelines; and Fire Management Voluntary Guidelines: Principles and Strategic Actions. These instruments are relatively short documents that provide frameworks that can be used when developing strategies, policies, laws, programmes and activities. They are accompanied by a wide range of additional documents, such as supplementary guidelines that provide technical details on specific aspects when necessary, training and advocacy materials, and further guidance to assist with implementation.

These Guidelines were endorsed by the CFS at its Thirty-eighth (Special) Session on 11 May 2012.

They were developed by the open-ended working group in sessions in June, July and October 2011 and in March 2012. They are based on an inclusive process of consultations that occurred during 2009-2010. Regional consultations were held in Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Jordan, Namibia, Panama, Romania, the Russian Federation, Samoa and Viet Nam. These regional consultations brought together almost 700 people, from 133 countries, representing the public and private sectors, civil society and academia. Four consultations, held specifically for civil society of Africa (in Mali); of Asia (in Malaysia); of Europe and Central and West Asia (in Italy); and of Latin America (in Brazil), were attended by almost 200 people from 70 countries, and an additional private sector consultation drew over 70 people from 21 countries. These Guidelines also incorporate proposals received through an electronic consultation on the zero draft. Proposals to improve the zero draft were received from the public and private sectors, civil society and academia, and from around the world.

These Guidelines are consistent with, and draw on, international and regional instruments, including the Millennium Development Goals, that address human rights and tenure rights. When readers of these Guidelines seek to improve tenure governance, they are encouraged to regularly review such instruments for their applicable obligations and voluntary commitments, and to gain additional guidance.

Click here to download full guidelines.

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