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COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS STARTS DAY OF GENERAL DISCUSSION ON GOVERNANCE OF LAND TENURE

Holds Two Panels on Pressures on Land and Speculation, and on Protection of Security of Land Tenure, including Gender Dimensions
14 October 2019

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this morning started its day of general discussion on obligations of States under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and governance of land tenure. Two panel discussions were held in that context.

The first panel discussion centred on “Pressures on land and speculation”. Speaking were Lorenzo Cotula, Principal Researcher, Law and Sustainable Development, International Institute for Environment and Development; Christophe Golay, Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights; and Ana Jacquline Gomez Tierra, President of the National Institute of Colonization of Uruguay. Iris Krebber, Head of Agriculture and Land at the Directorate General for Economic Development and International of the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, also spoke by videoconference. Olivier de Schutter, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the General Comment on governance of land tenure acted as moderator.

Venezuela, Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida, Housing and Land Rights Network - Habitat International Coalition, Claudia Lazzaro and Archana Soreng made statements following the presentations.

Panellists explored various issues in the second panel discussion titled “Protection of security of tenure, including gender dimensions”. Participating were Miloon Khotari, Independent Expert on Human Rights and Social Policy; Viviana Osoro, Programme Coordinator at ESCR-Net; Jean Maurice Durand, Senior Expert on Land Governance, Food and Agriculture Organization; and Swari Utami, Expert member of driving team of social forestry acceleration, Directorate General of Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia. The discussion was moderated by Michael Windfuhr, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the General Comment on governance of land tenure.

Following the presentation, Guatemala, Colombia, the National Institute of Colonisation of Uruguay, Landesa and Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Archana Soreng made statements.

Documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to hold the second part of its day of general discussion, with panels on “Concerns related to land by indigenous peoples, traditional groups and other vulnerable groups”, “Land rights and conflict”, and “Land under changing environmental conditions and climate change”.

Opening Statements

SANDRA LIEBENBERG, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, said that this general discussion was part of a consultative process in the context of the drafting of a General Comment on land and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as land issues had come increasingly to the fore of the Committee’s work. Committee members had witnessed an increased competition for land and other natural resources, in urban and rural areas alike: competition for arable land, the sprawling of urban areas, pressures resulting from large-scale development projects, etc. The discussion today would be very rich. It would help the Committee frame the contours of the General Comment.

OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the General Comment on governance of land tenure, said there would be five panel discussions. The Committee was preparing the General Comment as questions about the governance of land increasingly emerged in the context of the Committee’s work. While these issues were by no means new, the recent global food price crises and increased prevalence of land-grabbing had led to numerous developments such as the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, and the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.

Panel Discussion on “Pressures on land and speculation”

LORENZO COTULA, Principal Researcher, Law and Sustainable Development, International Institute for Environment and Development, said that land was life for millions of people but pressures on land were growing. In recent years there had been a surge of agrobusiness plantations and extractive industry projects, particularly in developing countries. People with weakened land rights or with limited say on land governance like women, youth, migrants and indigenous communities were particularly vulnerable to dispossession. There was often a misalignment between national laws on land, and local systems of rights, beliefs and practices. The issues paper outlined a few interesting topics for discussion. There was broad-based support for the recognition by national governments of customary rights. Programme design and implementation mattered: it was important to support the place of women, for instance. A broader agenda that addressed dispute settlements, inter alia, was also necessary. Existing due diligence and land-management systems should be adapted, in line with human rights norms. The General Comment should address the repression of land rights defenders; the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights; and problems of the international investment regime related to land-based investments.

CHRISTOPHE GOLAY, Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, said many rights enshrined in the Covenant were impacted by forced evictions and displacement. The Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas included two articles that were noteworthy, namely articles 5 and 17. Mr. Golay, in that regard, stressed the importance of addressing standards of living and the right to live in security, peace and dignity, inter alia. A lot of States had opposed the introduction of so-called “new rights”. It was not sufficient to talk about access to land; it was important to state that indigenous peoples had a right to land and territory and peasants had a right to land and access to natural resources.

ANA JACQUELINE GÓMEZ TIERRA, President of of the National Institute of Colonization, Uruguay, stressed the need to address the needs of the most vulnerable sectors of the population in a context marked by, inter alia, concentration of land ownership. Public policies that were related to the rights of workers should be developed with a comprehensive approach that incorporated, notably, access to education and financing. A co-ownership policy had been developed to recognize and protect the rights of women, as well as acknowledge their historical contribution. Uruguay’s land policy required inter-institutional work and the participation of civil society. A comprehensive approach of rural development was very important.

IRIS KREBBER, Head of Agriculture and Land, Directorate General for Economic Development and International, Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, said that, while there had been some progress, notably as regards the implementation of a multi stakeholder approach, there was still no robust, tangible and monitored action that would indicate a form of progress. The land issue had to be cracked for the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved. This era of “bilateralization” opened up new risks. It was critical to address the issue of expropriation in the public interest, which was an overstretched term; it would be useful for the General Comment to define it. The debate had to be sharpened and moved from soft to hard international law.

Venezuela, Guatemala, Jordan, Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida, Housing and Land Rights Network - Habitat International Coalition, Claudia Lazzara, Archang Soreng and Columbia made statements following the presentations.

Panel Discussion on “Protection of security of tenure, including gender dimensions

MICHEAL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the General Comment on land tenure, said Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests that had been developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization were a good basis. It was important to look not only at rural land titling processes, but also at those in place in urban settings.

MILOON KOTHARI, Independent Expert on Human Rights and Social Policy and Former Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, said guiding principles had been laid down by Raquel Rolnik, a previous Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, from which the Committee could draw to work on the General Comment. He highlighted the good practice that had been put in place in India in 2017 - the granting of land rights to slum dwellers aiming to improve living conditions and protect from threats of eviction and demolition - and underlined the link tying landlessness and homelessness. It was important to provide legal protection against forced evictions, notably to those who did not hold titles. Land rights had to be explicitly recognized as human rights.

VIVIANA OSORIO, Programme Coordinator at ESCR-Net, said ESCR-Net was working to promote women’s right to land. In order to have access to land, some women had to marry. Others, who were disabled, faced numerous obstacles in accessing land. Land hoarding had impacted communities of small-scale fishery, with a disproportionate impact on women. Land hoarding had also left women particularly vulnerable to displacement. States must redress the imbalance that determined the probability that women were able to enjoy their right to land, through a gender-sensitive approach that tackled gender stereotypes.

JEAN MAURICE DURAND, Senior Expert on Land Governance at the Food and Agriculture Organization, said that ensuring land security required that States respected legitimate land rights. Holding a land title did not always grant land security. The process of titling and land registration must be adapted to the social and cultural context, and should be transparent. The inclusion of non-State actors and civil society organizations was also beneficial. All of this contributed to preventing corruption. In that regard, the Food and Agriculture Organization would develop a technical guide outlining strategies based on human rights, such as the implementation of mechanisms for participation, for instance. Co-titling could contribute to mitigating gender disparities.

SWARI UTAMI, Expert member of the driving team of social forestry acceleration, Directorate General of Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, said that the 1999 law on social forestry implemented measures targeting social forestry communities. Several ministerial regulations on this matter had been enacted. The policy sought to support people whose livelihood was dependent on social forestry. The Government aimed at reducing forest degradation and social gaps. After a community had been granted a license, the Government provided it with other means of empowerment, such as loans. To ensure protection and inclusion of the poorest, it was important that all tenure security be formally recognized. The Government established guidelines on work with the community and conflict-resolution. There were also multi-stakeholder working groups at the national and provincial levels.

Following the presentation, Guatemala, Colombia, the National Institute of Colonization of Uruguay, Landesa and Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights made statements.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CESCR19.19E