Stefan Verwer, Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights

“Land-rights defenders face growing threat”, that is the headline at Aljazeera America today ( http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/5/land-rights-defenders-face-…). The conclusion stems from a recent report by Global Witness (https://www.globalwitness.org/campaigns/environmental-activists/how-many…), which flags the confrontational fact that worldwide there is an increase in killings of activists, with indigenous communities hit hardest.

Globally the importance of indigenous and community land rights is increasingly being recognised. However, this recognition has not resonated in concrete actions on the ground. Local communities and indigenous peoples are still being criminalized, whilst the rate of forced evictions in many countries only seem to increase.

According to Joan Carling, the Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and member of the steering group of the Global Call to Action: “Indigenous peoples have become squatters of their own land. In the pursuit for national development our lands continue to be expropriated, exploited and we continue to suffer from massive displacements and marginalization.”

All over the world communal lands are still under threat, seriously affecting livelihoods for the people who have been living on these lands for ages. It’s only fair to say that the lack of recognition and protection of indigenous and community land rights is quickly turning into a global crisis, seriously undermining global environmental and development goals.

Joji Carino, director of the Forest Peoples Program: “Indigenous peoples and communities are seeking justice. Protection is needed through laws and rights need to be upheld.” Silas Siakor (Sustainable Development Institute in Liberia) adds that “Its time to mobilise. We need tougher regulations on land grabbing, voluntary mechanisms are not enough.” Leading organizations, working on issues pertaining to indigenous and community land rights, have therefore joined forces under a Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights and are starting a global campaign to “Double the area of land recognized as owned or controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities by 2020.”

This global goal will be realized by:

  1. Coordinating national actions across the world that demand and support the creation and implementation of policies and practices that protect community and indigenous land.
  2. Fostering collaboration, cross-national linkages, and collective action on Indigenous People’s and local communities’ land rights around the world
  3. Showcasing successful strategies to secure indigenous and community land rights – and amplifying the successes of existing networks and organizations – through intense publicity, strategic communications, and by making useful tools, resources and tactics widely available.
  4. Influencing policy makers and those in power to adopt practices and pass legislation and policy that protect community and Indigenous land rights.
  5. Increasing public awareness of the importance of indigenous and community land rights.

The ILC Global Land Forum marks an important moment for the Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights, as it marks the beginning of a massive mobilization effort to unite those people working on indigenous and community land rights around the world.

The campaign will amplify and strengthen  existing efforts around the world. By mobilizing the broadest international solidarity actions with  movements of indigenous peoples and local communities and those working to advance their rights, we seek to actually make the change necessary to secure indigenous and community land rights around the world and secure the livelihoods if indigenous peoples and communities globally.

Joan Carling concludes: “As we gathered here today as a coalition for land governance, let us walk the talk and take actions to mobilize our institutions, organizations, constituencies and contribute to a real change on the ground: let work together and ensure that land rights and land security become a reality for the millions of indigenous peoples and local communities around the world.”

Be part of the campaign and share your experience: its time to act: #landrightsnow

Sign on to the campaign here: http://eepurl.com/bm2VLD

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