Bangkok, Thailand, 13 Aug 2013 -- A three-day high-level technical workshop opened today to raise awareness of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. The FAO workshop brings together more than 80 representatives from some 20 Asian countries in an effort to help develop ideas that can be used to support improved governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the region.
According to Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific said improved governance of tenure is essential. “It is essential for food security, for poverty eradication, and for contributing to a foundation for responsible investment and for environmental sustainability. Millions of people depend on access to farmland and rangeland, to fisheries and to forests for their livelihoods. Secure and equitable access to natural resources is the key to development.”
The main objective of the guidelines is to provide internationally recognized principles and practices that can be used to improve tenure security and access to natural resources, whether in existing or new programmes and processes. The Guidelines can be used as a reference by States to develop relevant policies and laws. They can serve as a benchmark for acceptable practices for people in government, civil society organizations, private sector, and universities and research institutes. They also help address some aspects of globalized food and agriculture, such as responsible investments in agriculture.
However, according to Konuma, “The real value and impact of the Guidelines will depend on how much they contribute to improving the lives and livelihoods of men and women around the globe, particularly the lives of vulnerable and marginalized people.”
Over the past year, FAO has actively promoted the Guidelines in the international arena, and assisted countries interested in applying the Guidelines. Regional awareness raising workshops have taken place in Cameroon, Fiji, Guyana, Jordan, Morocco, Rwanda and Ukraine and attracted over 390 participants from more than 95 countries, including professionals working on the tenure of land, fisheries and forests in public sector, private sector, civil society organizations, academia and regional organizations.
Tenure situation in Thailand
Jirawan Yamprayoon, Chief of Inspector-General, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Thailand (MOAC) said in opening remarks, “Thai people have the right to buy and own as much land as they would like. Consequently, the wealthy, which constitutes around 10 percent of the total population owns more than 16 hectares per person, while the remaining majority of 90 percent of the people own less than 0.16 hectare of land per person. The state has the duty to protect the settlement and livelihood rights of farmers and the poor, taking into consideration justice and fairness so that the poor and small-scale farmers can have their own land for use in building up food security and security of settlement.”
Christoph Muziol, Senior Regional Advisor Land Governance, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) said, “Switzerland has been a strong supporter of and funding partner in the participatory development of the Voluntary Guidelines. Since then, Switzerland has committed to contribute 3 million Swiss Francs to the programme of work initiated by FAO to facilitate the implementation of the Guidelines at global level through awareness raising, technical assistance, partnership building as well as monitoring. In addition, a number of SDC-funded programmes and projects at global and national levels are already supporting the application of the principles of the Guidelines, complemented by new regional initiatives such as the Mekong Regional Land Governance Project that will start early next year.
The FAO role in implementing the Guidelines
Konuma also noted that FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva has emphasized the importance of the Guidelines in his international meetings since the Committee on World Food Security formally endorsed them on 11 May 2012. According to Graziano da Silva, “FAO is poised to play an important role, alongside governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector, when implementing these Guidelines at the national level. We believe that implementing the Guidelines is an important first step for countries to improve the performance of small-scale and commercial farmers in the agriculture sector, with the overall objective of achieving food security.”
The Guidelines are completely voluntary and do not establish legally binding obligations, or replace existing laws, treaties and agreements. Instead, they provide a framework that countries can use when developing their own strategies, policies, legislation and programmes. They provide stakeholders with their own context-specific answers to essential questions related to tenure rights and duties, such as legal recognition; transfers and other changes, such as restitution, redistributive reforms, expropriation and compensation; records, valuation, taxation and the resolution of disputes.
The workshop was made possible by financial support from SDC and the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UNREDD).