Pattaya, Thailand, 11 Jun 2014 -- As territorial disputes and competition for increasingly scarce land and natural resources intensify, government and key land stakeholders across Asia and the Pacific are being urged to improve governance relating to issues of land tenure in both rural and urban contexts.
“Millions of people, particularly the rural poor, depend on access to farmland, forests, rangeland and fisheries for their livelihoods,” Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific told a regional multi-stakeholder consultation on land tenure. “Improved governance of tenure is essential for food security, for poverty eradication and for contributing to a foundation for responsible investment and environmental sustainability.”
Land is a fundamental resource for the realization of human rights, poverty reduction, economic prosperity and sustainable development. Nevertheless, due to its scarcity, land is in demand by a wide range of stakeholders for different and often conflicting reasons, for example, shelter and livelihoods, access to credit, investment, cultural heritage, and political power. However, not everyone’s right and access to land is secure.
In addition to contributing to a deficit in social justice, poor or weak governance of land tenure has other consequences, Konuma pointed out.
“As we know there is growing competition for the use of land and natural resources,” Konuma said. “Securing and equitable access to natural resources, especially in the poor, is therefore key to development.”
“Land and tenure security issues are always highly political and controversial, but they are extremely important particularly to improve the lives of the poor, women, indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups,” said Clarissa Augustinusis, Head of UN-Habitat’s Land and Global Land Tool Network Unit. “Through partnerships, development of pro-poor land tools and approaches and promotion of continuum of land rights approach, GLTN partners are able to promote secure land and property rights for all,” she added.
“There is an urgent need to re-focus on land in Asia-Pacific as a resource to be managed for the benefit of all, rather than a commodity which derives income for the few,” said Donovan Storey, Chief of ESCAP’s Sustainable Urban Development Section while speaking on behalf of Rae Kwon Chung, Director of ESCAP’s Environment and Development Division. “Land is a finite resource, which must be managed more effectively to support the region's ambitious development goals for both rural and urban populations.”
Governance of tenure is a priority for FAO, UN-Habitat and UNESCAP and is being mainstreamed in all relevant work of the agencies. For example, FAO is assisting countries to modernize and improve tenure of land, fisheries and forests in order to ensure food security and good nutrition for all. UN-Habitat, on the other hand, is promoting inclusive cities, climate change adaptation and sustainable urban development. UNESCAP recognized that addressing tenure security issues is key for sustaining social economic development in the region.
The two day regional consultation is co-convened and organized by FAO, UNESCAP and UN-Habitat and called for greater regional action on the management of land as a resource to underpin the sustainable development goals in both rural and urban areas.
The consultation is designed to share knowledge, experiences and good practices developed by the participants from across Asia and the Pacific. They will consider regional-level collaboration, identify strategic options to respond to key challenges including the application of the Voluntary Guidelines and the Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) at country level, the use and application of Global Land Tool Network’s pro-poor land tools and approaches, the initiatives towards sustainable urban development agenda of UN-Habitat and the promotion of the overall social and economic progress by UNESCAP. The group will also discuss the impact on land tenure caused by rapid urbanization and urban expansion, natural disasters and climate change.