Global Soil Forum workshop “Using the Voluntary Guidelines to Secure the Commons” on tenure rights to common lands, fisheries and forests

How can land tenure and property rights help us to achieve a world without hunger? To answer this question and identify avenues for action, the IASS Global Soil Forum and the German Institute for Human Rights hosted a half-day workshop on 2 June 2014 as part of the international Policies against Hunger conference in Berlin. Particular attention was paid to the need for tenure security for the commons, i.e. lands, forests and fisheries that are managed and/or owned collectively.

The 27 participants from 13 countries gave insights into the tenure rights situation in their respective countries and spoke about the recent threats to those rights. Mainly from local or national civil society organisations, the participants were united in their experiences of (inter)national investors who have recently started to lease or buy up big plots of land. Land deals, which are usually negotiated with national authorities, have triggered the displacement of entire communities and indigenous peoples in almost all the countries concerned. Governments or community leaders have given away land in expectation of revenues for the state.

“When I hear the word commons I think of the grassroots, the people down there.
When you go to Ghana you see just how many concessions are given to people to mine and how polluted our waters are from the mines. Concessions for our forests are given to timber people, who just cut down the trees indiscriminately.
They do not give our farmers any compensation. They are creating serious problems on our lands, and that is against our farmers’ rights.
This is very sad and it is the commons that are being used.”

King-David Amoah is a farmer and president of the ECASARD farmers’ platform in Ghana

The participants discussed the degree of registration and formalisation of tenure rights they would prefer in their specific contexts. Various civil society organisations have started to put strategies in place to support social movements or lobbying activities for the protection of the tenure rights of local populations to commons.

The insights gained into the different national contexts as well as the concerns and strategies of the participants will feed into the “Technical Guide on Tenure Rights to Commons” that the IASS is currently drafting on behalf of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Prepared within the framework of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT), the aim of this technical guide is to increase the uptake of agreed points by national governments. Thus in outlining concrete strategies for the recognition and protection of tenure rights to commons, the guide should be responsive to local needs.



Elisa Gärtner
Global Soil Forum
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)

Phone: +49 331 28822 318