75 Are the Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure (VGGTs) Strengthening Indigenous and Community Land Rights?

Experiences from the Field.


  • ILC
  • Land Rights Now
  • FAO


Up to 2.5 billion people are dependent on land or natural resources that is held by communities and indigenous peoples. Yet only about 10% of these land rights have been formally recognized by governments.  This leaves a large segment of the world’s population vulnerable to dispossession.

Indigenous peoples rely on land, forests and natural resources as a source of food and shelter, and as a basis for social, cultural and spiritual practices. Over the centuries, they have developed sustainable practices and management systems, which are now endangered by lack of recognition of their rights.

Therefore, recognition of indigenous and community land rights is crucial for realizing human rights, achieving food security and addressing climate change. . In this context, the recognition and respect of Free, Prior and Informed Consent plays a critical role in safeguarding indigenous peoples and communities’ land rights.

In some regions there is a call from governments and investors to make indigenous and community lands available for large-scale agriculture. In some communities land rights have been individualized and an open market created where land is transferred away from communities. In other places there have been new recognition of community and shared use rights.

Panelists will share experiences from countries and reflect on how the Tenure Guidelines (VGGTs) could or are being applied in these situations.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Cristina Timponi Cambiaghi, International Land Coalition (Moderator)
  • Saul Vicente, International Indian Treaty Council
  • Helmer Velasquez, CONGCOOP - Guatemala
  • Fabio Pitta, Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos - Brazil
  • Wesley Menezes, INCRA, Government of Brazil
  • Marcela Villareal - FAO


The speakers discussed the relevance of the VGGTs in addressing the problems of securing land tenure for indigenous peoples and marginalized communities, who continue to face land-grabbing in many countries.

The VGGTS have been accepted by governments as a basis for policies and civil society has found them to be a relevant tool for analyzing laws and policies.

The People’s Manual on the Guidelines on Governance of Land Fisheries and Forests, published by the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty with support of the FAO, has been important tool for indigenous peoples to analyze policies and problems.  Yet the process of governments incorporating the VGGT into their actions has been slow, resulting in the lack of capacity to revert conflicts and human rights violations.

In some places indigenous community lands rights have not been prioritized, and communities are losing their land permanently to commodity producers driven by market speculation, in crops such as palm oil and soybeans. Detailed cases from Guatemala and Brazil were discussed. Many peasant communities who have long histories of sustainable land use have not benefitted from recognition of community land rights and they are similarly impacted by land-grabbing.

Positive government actions to address the problem of landless peasants/family farmers in countries such as Brazil were discussed, as well as the need for policy coherence across jurisdictions. Nevertheless the actions have still limited impact compared to the imperative of responsable land governance.

The standard of Free Prior and Informed Consent needs to be implemented in projects involving land and it is a continuous process.

Key outcomes/take away messages

Five years is just the beginning for implementing the VGGTS. We are starting to see important changes but need to sustain them. The different perspectives from governmental and civil society actors in the same country (i.w. Brazil) is showing the existing gap in what still need to be done.

The use of the VGGTs has to be tailored to the reality of the country, advancing and not pushing back the land reform processes based on the priority set by the legitimate right-holders     

Capacity development of indigenous peoples and other stakeholders is key. More capacity building material is useful.

In many cases the change is happening too slow. Action needs to be taken to protect the land rights of indigenous peoples and marginalized communities and prevent land-grabbing and human rights violations.

Side Event - 75 - Are the Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure (VGGTs) Strengthening Indigenous and Community Land Rights?