On May 17, Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will discuss her administration’s goals, her perspective on land rights and land tenure security, and some of the challenges facing Liberia at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker in Washington DC. A live stream of the event will be available at 2:30 p.m. EDT on May 17.
Land tenure and resource rights are critical issues in Liberia, which emerged from a 14-year civil war in 2003, and where land rights remain a source of conflict. President Sirleaf has acknowledged the importance of improving land and resource governance and made it a priority for her administration. In her annual message to the national legislature in January, she said “the administration and management of land and governance of our natural resources continue to pose major challenges and will become one of our principal areas of concentration during 2013.”
USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), along with partner organization Thomson Reuters, have supported President Sirleaf and the Government of Liberia’s efforts to address land tenure and resource rights through the Liberian Land Policy and Institutional Support (LPIS) project. Through an inclusive and participatory process, LPIS helped develop a National Land Policy that recognizes customary property rights, and also developed a roadmap for the creation of a new land administration entity. While these achievements are notable, much remains to be done. Liberia has a complex land rights environment and the country’s infrastructure and government capacity were weakened by the prolonged civil war. According to Frank Pichel, Land Tenure and Property Rights Specialist, USAID, "President Sirleaf has recognized and prioritized the critical need for reform within land administration, and with the help of leadership at the Land Commission and the Deed Registry, has made significant strides over the last three years."
As co-chair of the U.N. Secretariat's High-Level Panel on the post-2015 Global Development Framework agenda, President Sirleaf is playing a leadership role in the development of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “We hope that President Sirleaf will take note of the growing support for the inclusion of a land governance indicator that could measure progress towards improved land rights for both women and men in the post-2015 MDGs,” said Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights. As we noted in a previous commentary, comparable land governance indicators would also help document and assess the status of land governance, identify priority areas for improvement, and measure progress over time.
Learn more about land tenure and resource rights in Liberia.
Jonathan White, writing for German Marshal Fund, discusses the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in the context of “Enlightened Capitalism.” Launched in 2012, the New Alliance seeks to lift 50 million people out of poverty in ten years by aligning local country plans, private sector investments, and G8 government commitments behind agriculture and nutrition in Africa. White notes that country ownership and public-private partnerships (PPP) are key to achieving the objectives of the New Alliance.
Overseas Direct Assistance (ODA) rose nearly three-fold in the New Alliance countries from 2000 to 2010, White notes. Public-private partnerships create an opportunity to link development assistance with private investment to achieve larger, more inclusive and broad-based development goals.
Work in Malawi, Ethiopia and Tanzania reveals that PPPs can connect smallholder farmers to markets, through for example, contract farming and benefit sharing models. USAID has advocated these types of models for many years; however, the key to success in the PPPs is the property rights that each partner holds, which in turn dictates who has a seat at the table during the negotiations over benefit sharing. USAID’s new Land Administration to Nurture Development (LAND) program in Ethiopia will push the boundaries of this model even further by securing the property rights of pastoral communities and linking them to private commercial abattoirs.
White correctly notes that each of the existing New Alliance “Cooperation Frameworks,” include commitments to address policy constraints, including for land and gender. In fact, he goes on to say that “Land governance is the weakest link in New Alliance country ownership, potentially threatening support for private sector engagement, and requires prioritizing the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, and the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment.”
Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights says, “It is for this reason that G8 countries, under U.S. leadership in 2012 and under U.K. leadership in 2013 are supporting implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines, including increased transparency in land transactions. Doing so, will create conditions fostering private sector investment for all producers—local smallholders to large scale commercial farms—thus lifting millions from poverty.”
In his conclusions, White argues that for the New Alliance to succeed each partner needs to continue to build trust. Governments need to support “transport, electricity, water, telecommunications, and physical storage, providing stable regulation and property rights…, contributing to research and extension services, and facilitating trade through customs reforms and compliance with international standards.” Governments also need to reduce interference in markets. The private sector needs to focus on creating greater transparency, including in land transactions. White notes that the “mutual accountability” built into the New Alliance Frameworks could also help build greater trust between private and public sector actors.
Strengthening women’s rights to own and inherit property provides them with greater opportunities to generate income and exercise control over family resources, which can improve women’s ability to feed and educate their children. This simple but powerful message is highlighted by Deborah Espinosa’s recent Huffington Post blog In Kenya, Land Rights Bring New Hope for Women and Girls. Espinosa is a senior attorney and land tenure specialist at Landesa, which implements USAID’s Kenya Justice project.
The Kenya Justice project works with local communities and traditional authorities to improve women’s knowledge and practice of their rights, including the rights to own and inherit land and property. One of the project’s notable successes is that local chiefs and elders now require spousal consent (with witnesses) for all land transactions, including leases. The Justice project has also helped to elevate the status of women in the local community. Last year, for the first time, women were elected as tribal elders. As Espinoza notes, “women's new roles as tribal elders and managers of family resources are creating a virtuous cycle - reinforcing the need for girls to be educated so they can assume important family and community responsibilities just like their brothers.”
The virtuous cycle has begun to produce tangible results. This year, for the first time, the number of girls enrolled in the local secondary school is almost equal to the number of boys, where boys had once outnumbered girls 3 to 1.
This week marks the first anniversary of the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (commonly referred to as the VGs) by the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The VGs are an international soft law instrument that outline principles and practices to which governments can refer when making laws and administering land, fisheries and forest rights.
The VGs are intended to: create a better environment for investments in agriculture, reduce land-related conflicts, recognize the rights of women, promote improved natural resource management, and address challenges related to global climate change. As Dr. Patrice Talla, Legal Officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), noted in a paper presented at the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty 2013, “By providing an effective basis for the governance tenure of land, fisheries and forests, the Guidelines provide a realistic method for achieving food security and protecting human rights by allowing vulnerable communities to ensure their own livelihoods through protecting their rights to their natural resources.”
Over the past year, the VGs have received increasing media attention and global recognition, including at the 2012 G8, G20 and Rio+20 meetings. The UN General Assembly has also encouraged countries to consider adopting the VGs. As awareness of the VGs continues to increase, demand for implementation is rising. As of April 2013, FAO had received requests for technical assistance to implement the VGs from 22 countries. “The real value of the Guidelines will, however, be determined by their contribution to changes in the lives and livelihoods of men and women around the globe, and particularly of the vulnerable and marginalized,” according to Andrew Hilton, Senior Land Tenure Officer at FAO.
In order to make improved land governance a reality, many organizations, including USAID, are working to support implementation of the VGs. FAO has become a focal point for implementation and has initiated a four-year program, which focuses on raising awareness of the VGs, developing capacity building tools, supporting countries with implementation, strengthening partnerships, and monitoring and evaluation. These capacity building tools will include technical guides and e-learning courses. The first of these technical guides, Governing Land for Women and Men, which focuses on the achievement of responsible gender-equitable governance of land tenure, was published earlier this year.
More recently, "under UK leadership, the G8 in 2013 is again focusing on implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines, and importantly, on creating more transparency around large-scale land transactions. G8 members are very serious about addressing land issues as they relate to food security and nutrition” says Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights.
Read more information on the Voluntary Guidelines from USAID.
Global climate change cannot be addressed effectively through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) without addressing land tenure and property rights systems. Critics of REDD+ initiatives fear that it could undermine indigenous and local claims as national governments enforce their central authority over forests.
USAID’s issue brief on Land Tenure and REDD+ identifies land tenure as the foundation for REDD+ success. The brief identifies critical challenges to REDD+ readiness and key priorities to ensure that REDD+ contributes to tenure security. Critical challenges include defining stakeholders, defining rights, and establishing responsibilities.
Political will to address land tenure and governance at both the national and local levels is crucial. Without clearly defining the rights of local stakeholders to participate in the governance of forests and share in the benefits from REDD+ management, there is a fear that the benefits from REDD+ will be captured mostly by central governments and political elites. Local stakeholders whose rights and claims are not adequately considered in REDD+ planning and implementation may continue to practice land uses that ultimately negate any additional carbon sequestered through REDD+ projects.
The right to full and effective participation will be challenged by REDD+ efforts being coordinated at the national level, which may prioritize expediency, statutory law, and centralization. Meanwhile, the right to benefit from carbon transactions is ill-defined, as is the responsibility to manage and protect forests. These challenges must be tackled by national governments in the early stages of REDD+ readiness. Rights of different stakeholders must be clarified and contesting claims managed prior to establishing REDD+ in an area.
In order to ensure that REDD+ contributes to tenure security, the issue brief recommends three priorities:
- Find the proper blend of centralization and decentralization to coordinate activities, reduce transaction costs, avoid corruption, and protect rights;
- Validate overlapping rights to trees, water, pastures, and sub-soils claimed by multiple stakeholders;
- Utilize standards as a tool for safeguarding rights in forest carbon projects.
See here for more information on land tenure and climate change.