097 Indigenous peoples’ communal access to land: tenure rights and country experiences

A review of the status of indigenous peoples' collective rights to land, territories and resources through the UNDRIP and VGGT

Organizers

  • FAO
  • EU
  • RRI
  • RMI
  • Ekta Parishad
  • UNPFII
  • CADPI

Abstract

Indigenous peoples' and local communities' lands are traditionally used, managed or governed collectively by a variety of men and women - usually farmers, pastoralists, hunter-gatherers, fisher-folk and others using forests, water bodies and pastures as a common resource - under community-based governance. This governance is often based on longstanding traditions defining, distributing and regulating rights to land, individually or collectively, and is usually referred to as customary or indigenous land tenure.
Customary or indigenous land tenure is not static. It is in constant evolution, adapting to changes, new ways of production, technological innovation and migration. It also adapts to changes in the legal and political systems with every generation adjusting how they use their land to meet new needs and aspirations.

The formal recognition through legal titles, records, cadastre systems, etc. of customary tenure systems increases protection of indigenous communities from forced evictions, resettlements and unauthorized use of their land, as well as access to the benefits of development activities. It also supports the preservation of traditional knowledge and of indigenous food systems. In this context, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) adopted in 2012 by the CFS provide a major instrument for governance of tenure for indigenous peoples. In addition, the respect and implementation of the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) also provides indigenous peoples with a tool to foster control over their lands and their development.

The event will provide an overview of the status of indigenous peoples' collective rights to land, territories and resources, with particular focus on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the VGGT. The event will also showcase experiences from different stakeholders in the context of indigenous peoples' communal access to land as well as in the context of the Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (RAI), and will provide a space to discuss how the CFS can contribute further to this critical theme. 

In addition, the event will also provide an opportunity to focus specifically on indigenous women's rights as well as to present the Global Campaign for the Empowerment of Indigenous Women for Zero Hunger, which was launched by the FAO DG in January 2018. 

Key speakers/presenters

  • Brian Keane, Rapporteur of the Permanent Forum, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
  • His Excellecy Mohammad Hossein Emadi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Iran to the UN Agencies in Rome.
  • Tito E. Diaz, Sub-Regional Coordinator for Central America, FAO
  • Mattia Prayer Galletti, Lead Technical Specialist – Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Issues, IFAD
  • Ramesh Sharma, Campaign Coordinator, Ekta Parishad
  • Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Director, Africa Program and Gender Justice, RRI
  • Aura Leticia Teleguario, Executive board, Fondo para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas de América Latina y el Caribe, FILAC

Main themes/issues discussed

Indigenous peoples' and local communities' lands are traditionally used, managed or governed collectively by a variety of men and women - usually farmers, pastoralists, hunter-gatherers, fisher-folk and others using forests, water bodies and pastures as a common resource - under community-based governance.

This governance is often based on longstanding traditions, and is usually referred to as customary or indigenous land tenure. Customary of indigenous land tenure is not static. It is in constant evolution, adapting to changes, to new ways of production, technological innovation and migration.
It also adapts to changes in the legal and political systems with every generation adjusting how they use their land to meet new needs and aspirations.

Securing the rights to collective tenure rights embedded in customary tenure systems increases protection of indigenous communities from forced evictions, resettlements and unauthorized use of their land, as well as access to the benefits of development activities. It also supports the preservation of traditional knowledge and of indigenous food systems.

The formal recognition through legal titles, records, cadastre systems, etc. of customary tenure systems increases protection of indigenous communities from forced evictions, resettlements and unauthorized use of their land, as well as access to the benefits of development activities. It also supports the preservation of traditional knowledge and of indigenous food systems. In this context, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) adopted in 2012 by the CFS provide a major instrument for governance of tenure for indigenous peoples. In addition, the respect and implementation of the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) also provides indigenous peoples with a tool to foster control over their lands and their development.

The side event builds on the theme of the 2018 Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues "Indigenous Peoples' Collective Rights to Lands, Territories and Resources" and to the theme of the 2018 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples “

Summary of key points

  • Indigenous peoples’, pastoralists and nomadic peoples’ collective rights to lands, territories and natural resources are interdependent with cultural rights, identity, language, self-determination and spirituality.
  • Indigenous peoples, pastoralists and nomadic peoples hold valuable ancestral knowledge, in particular about biodiversity conservation, seed management, resilient practices in the face of climate change and sustainable management of ecosystems. 
  • Development strategies and projects must apply thoroughly the free, prior and informed consent process when engaging with indigenous peoples, pastoralists and nomadic peoples.
  • The recognition of indigenous peoples as such is still rare in Asia and Africa. Advancing this recognition is necessary to progress in other rights such as collective land tenure.
  • The collective dimension of indigenous peoples, pastoralists and nomadic peoples’ tenure poses a challenge for governments, which understand land rights mostly as individual. There is a need to increase dialogue between them and indigenous peoples in order to foster a better understanding.
  • Indigenous women play important roles in forest governance, commercial cultivation, management of forest products for their own consumption, cattle rearing etc. They must not be portrayed as victims, but as important contributors to the communities.
  • Rural households are increasingly being led by women, especially because of migration and conflict. This trend must be considered in policy design and the inclusion of women in decision-making processes must be ensured. 
  • A major challenge to reporting progress on the SDGs is the lack of appropriate indicators that account for indigenous peoples, pastoralists and nomadic peoples.
  • Donors have a big responsibility in ensuring that their funds are used respecting the rights of indigenous peoples, especially free prior and informed consent.

Key take away messages

  1. The systemic exclusion faced by indigenous peoples, pastoralists and nomadic peoples’ needs now systemic inclusion to fully recognize and acknowledge their rights.
  2. To effectively recognize pastoralist nomads, States must recognize their mobile systems and provide adequate services and technical advice on issues such as animal husbandry and range management. In addition, their rights to ownership of their lands must be recognized and integrated in all State policies and programmes.
  3. Several mechanisms can be used by indigenous peoples to claim their collective rights to lands. After being subjected to forced evictions, the Ogiek people brought their case to the African Commission in 2008. In 2017, the court ruled in their favor in an unparalleled legal victory that sets a precedence for all indigenous peoples across the continent.
  4. Collective rights of indigenous peoples to land, territories and natural resources is paramount to achieving the overall rights of indigenous peoples and to their food security.
  5. The traditional customary rights of indigenous peoples must be recognized, secured and guaranteed in order for them to realise their rights and food security, and allow them to keep managing their natural resources sustainably.
  6. Free, prior and informed consent must always be respected when engaging with indigenous peoples in any kind of project that might affect them direct or indirectly. 
  7. The SDGs present a unique opportunity to improve on the reporting on the progress of the SDGs. However, Governments must improve indicators on indigenous peoples of hunger and extreme poverty in their territories.
  8. In 2017, the CFS embarked in the development of Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, which will be finalized by October 2020. Indigenous food systems must be integrated in these guidelines.
CFS - Side Event 097  Indigenous peoples’ communal access to land: tenure rights and country experiences