22.03.2012

Consensus reached on Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests

9 March 2012, Rome – The CFS-led Open Ended Working Group reached a path-breaking consensus on the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VG). This approval marks the final step of a far-reaching and inclusive consultation and negotiation process since 2009, involving 96 states delegations and various other stakeholders, such as UN agencies, civil society organizations and the private sector. The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) will convene a special session in May for the final approval of the VG. The consensus is a major achievement and clear sign of progress also from the right to food perspective.

The VG provide a framework of principles and standards to guide governments and other stakeholders in improving the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests. They aim at securing livelihoods and food security of all, particularly of vulnerable and marginalized people. The focus lies on recognizing and protecting individual and collective tenure rights in light of recent developments that put increasing pressure on land and other natural resources, which finds expression, inter alia, in large-scale purchases of farmland in the developing world.

The Voluntary Guidelines build heavily on and support the Right to Food Guidelines (2004), elaborating and spelling out Guideline 8 on "Access to resources and assets". Being essentially human rights-based, one of the main objectives of the VG is the progressive realization of the right to adequate food. A Human Rights-based Approach (HRBA) is reflected in the document: First, with regard to the goal, all programmes, policies and technical assistance related to the implementation of the VG should be consistent with States' existing obligations under international human rights law (Section 1.1). Second, with respect to the process dimension, the VG prominently endorse human rights principles as principles of implementation (human dignity, non-discrimination, rule of law, accountability, among others – Section 3B). Thirdly, on the outcome level, the Guidelines intend to raise the capacities of States and other actors to comply with their human rights obligations and responsibilities and of people to claim their rights. For example, States should provide access to means of resolving disputes over tenure rights through impartial and competent judicial and administrative bodies as well as effective remedies, which may include a right of appeal (Section 4.9; 21).

The framework contains, inter alia, guidance on the protection of human rights of indigenous peoples, including the principle of Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) in Section 9, reference to evictions (Section 16), investment in land and agriculture (Section 12), redistributive reforms (Section 15) and they also address responses to climate change and emergency situations (natural disasters and conflict) in Part 6. The aspect of gender-equality is cross-cutting the VG. All these themes have major repercussions on the further realization of the right to adequate food.

Against the background of their strong reference to human rights, the VG can be considered as an important example of successfully mainstreaming human rights and the right to food within FAO and the UN System. The new framework deepens the guidance provided by the Right to Food Guidelines in respect to access to land, natural resources and tenure rights, one of the priority issues on the right to food agenda. Overall, the VG constitute a major milestone and demonstrate how FAO can successfully act as a platform for reaching consensus on important issues related to food and agriculture.

FAO Press release:
http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/128907/icode

Final text of the VG: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/nr/land_tenure/pdf/VG_en_Final_March_2012.pdf

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For further information, please contact:
The Right to Food Team - FAO
Agricultural and Development Economics Division
Economic and Social Development Department
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 - Rome
www.fao.org/righttofood
Email: righttofood@fao.org
Tel: +39 06 57054285