From aspiration to transformation: Taking stock of commitments and initiatives to secure indigenous and community land rights

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By Fionuala Cregan, Coordinator, Land Rights Now

While the recognition and defense of indigenous, community, and rural women’s land rights occurs at the local and national levels, the international arena can play a key role in influencing political will toward the realization of these rights.

The past decade has seen unparalleled progress on the global acknowledgement that secure community land rights are not only matters of justice, but also vital components of achieving global climate and development goals. Ten years ago, the 2007 signing of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples marked an important recognition of the unique historical circumstances of indigenous communities, and helped to strengthen and connect their movements. In 2012, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) promoted secure land tenure rights as a means of eradicating hunger and poverty. And in 2015, the historic inclusion of land rights within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) paved the way for community land rights to be situated within the global development agenda.

In addition to new binding and nonbinding international agreements, myriad civil society and multi-stakeholder initiatives and tools have been established to push for change. Just some of these include the Interlaken Group, LandMarkMegaFlorestais, and the Tenure Facility. The LandRightsNow initiative—a component of the Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights (GCA)—evolved during the Bern International Conference in 2015 and was officially launched in March 2016. As a solidarity movement of organizations and communities united to promote the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, the GCA has already succeeded in expanding to more than 550 organizations; creating online spaces for dialogue on land rights; and linking local initiatives to global movements.

As a result of these diverse efforts, the international architecture has shifted significantly. Now, land tenure is part of broader discussions on global development goals, poverty alleviation, and climate change mitigation At the same time, much more is required to translate these efforts into country- and local-level transformations.

This October 3-5—as some of the leading organizations and individuals working to secure indigenous and community land rights gather in Stockholm for the largest international conference advancing joint efforts on these issues—we have an unprecedented opportunity to take stock of these international support structures, and determine how to best use them to spur genuine change on the ground.

Over two days, the global architecture strategy session will bring indigenous and community leaders together with representatives of the private sector, governments, and international organizations. By working together on themes including global advocacy, raising awareness and mobilizing for change, developing indicators to monitor progress, mobilizing the private sector, and advancing multi-stakeholder dialogue, the session will develop an action plan for supporting communities working to secure their own rights and mobilizing key stakeholders to champion securing collective land rights.

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