© Matheus Alves Zanella

The commons are a fundamental safety net for many rural families. However, communities across the globe face involuntary loss of commonly managed resources due to increasing pressure on natural resources, land grabbing, and user conflicts. This is often due to an unclear legal status.

The Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) provide a historical opportunity to recognize, protect and support tenure rights to commons.

The adaption of the VGGT in a national context has important implications for food security, sustainable resource management as well as the livelihoods of rural populations.

Negotiated in a multi-stakeholder process, the VGGT were endorsed in 2012 by the Committee on World Food Security. The translation of tenure rights into tangible practice is challenging, as it often implies changes in the distribution of power. Not only governmental recognition is required to make land tenure rights real. The communication, protection, enforcement and monitoring of these rights is of equal importance. The people themselves should be empowered and strengthened in their capacities to participate on equal footing in decision-making processes, thereby laying claim to their rights.

How can the VGGT be used to secure collective tenure rights of natural resources for local communities? Requested by FAO, the IASS is currently preparing a Technical Guide which provides strategies and good practices to recognize, protect and support collective tenure rights to commons. The guide is being prepared in close consultation with international stakeholders from civil society organizations, government institutions and science.

Project period: 2014-2015
Project team: Charlotte Beckh, Isabelle Bleeser, Elisa Gärtner, Theo Rauch, Jes Weigelt
Partner: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)


Workshops / Events

  • 2 July 2014, Berlin: Workshop “Using the Voluntary Guidelines to Secure the Commons” held in the context of the Policies Against Hunger Conference, in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the German Institute for Human Rights
  • IASS public talk on “Collective Action and Property Rights for Natural Resource Management” by Ruth Meinzen-Dick, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • 29- 30 July 2014, Potsdam: Workshop “Strategic Guidance to Strengthen the Commons”, Meeting of the Sounding Board of the Technical Guide on Commons
  • 10-11 November 2014, Addis Ababa: Workshop “Sharing Practices to Recognize and Support Commons and Collective Tenure Rights”, in cooperation with GIZ Office in Addis Ababa, held in the context of the Conference on Land Policy in Africa
  • 12 November 2014, Addis Ababa: Side Event “Pathways to Realize Collective Tenure Rights to Natural Resources” at the Conference on Land Policy in Africa (11-14 November 2014)
  • Session at the Global Soil Week 2015