October 2017: In 2012, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) endorsed Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure, forests, and fisheries (VGGT, or the Voluntary Guidelines) to, inter alia, promote food security and sustainable development by improving secure access to land, fisheries, and forests. Five years on, stakeholders such as the World Bank and the International Land Coalition (ILC) are sharing lessons learned and progress towards the Voluntary Guidelines, and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), with partners and affiliated networks, launched the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility (the Tenure Facility).

In a report titled, ‘The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure: Five Years Later,’ the International Land Coalition (ILC) discusses key lessons learned from the work of its partners around the world, and assesses what the global land community can do “to collectively increase our impact and move towards the full application of the VGGTs.” Among achievements, the report highlights: the explicit use of the VGGTs to support land governance reforms in 12 countries across Africa, Latin America and Asia; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN’s (FAO) role in supporting national dissemination of the VGGTs; and the engagement of civil society organizations (CSOs) in influencing policy and eliciting responsible land governance commitments from diverse international institutions and private sector companies.

The publication notes, however, that six key challenges still need to be overcome to ensure consistent application of the Guidelines. It describes these as: the lack of engagement at the national level beyond the food and agriculture community; the lack of coordination between actors supporting land governance reforms; the absence of strong and effective multi-stakeholder land governance mechanisms in many countries; uncoordinated approach towards the VGGTs’ implementation, especially with regard to operational coordination and joint action to support CSOs and countries; insufficient consultation with all relevant stakeholders when applying the VGGTs at the national level; and the absence of a universal, regular and participatory monitoring mechanism that uses qualitative and quantitative data.

Picking up on this theme, a World Bank blog identifies VGGT-related investments as another area where “the VGGT’s potential has not fully materialized,” and calls for a “substantial new investment program on improving security of tenure on a mass scale in developing countries.” The blog highlights two major new initiatives towards this end: the launch of the Tenure Facility and preparations towards a ‘Land 2030 Global Initiative’ to enhance the commitment of countries and mobilize resources “to achieve ambitious targets of securing land and property rights by 2030.”

The Tenure Facility was launched on 3 October 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden, on the sidelines of the 3rd International Conference on Community Land and Resource Rights. It is an independent non-profit foundation that leverages financial support for projects scaling up recognition of collective land and forest rights globally, and preparations for the ‘Land 2030 Global Initiative’ to enhance countries’ commitments to achieve land-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets.

In a statement at the launch event, Jorge Muñoz, Practice Manager, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, said the Bank’s commitments in land projects, primarily through its International Development Association (IDA) window, will grow from $1.1 billion to about $1.6 billion over the next two years, with a focus on providing technical and financial support to five African governments – Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania – as they prepare new land projects. He also highlighted efforts to expand land governance initiatives in Colombia, Indonesia, Kosovo, Laos, Lebanon, and Nicaragua in collaboration with local and international partners.

Initiated by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) in 2010, the Tenure Facility grew out of a recognition that efforts to secure community land and forest tenure rights were not receiving sufficient resources to address the level of insecurity pervasive throughout much of the developing world. One of the core objectives of the Facility is to provide a space for local and national governments to collaborate with indigenous peoples and local communities as well as tools for governments to accelerate the process of recognizing community land tenure. During a three-year incubation period between 2014 and 2017, six pilot projects, implemented in Cameroon, Indonesia, Liberia, Mali, Panama, and Peru, tested and refined its operational niche and approaches. The RRI reports that the pilot phase nurtured innovative engagements between communities, the private sector, and public authorities to support indigenous and community land rights initiatives in an area covering an estimated two million hectares of forest.

A World Bank blog on securing land tenure for forest peoples, which analyzes some of the main lessons learned from the Tenure Facility’s pilot phase, cites a risk analysis based on the six country case studies, which “revealed a significant link between weak land tenure and financial risk for those investing in extractives and the production of commodities.” The blog relays the RRI’s findings that in more than 60% of the cases studied, failure to respect customary land rights of minorities and Indigenous Peoples was identified as the primary cause of the dispute, with this figure rising to 90% for the forestry sector. The article further highlights research by the World Resources Institute, which suggests that granting secure tenure to indigenous peoples and other rural communities could generate billions of dollars over the next 20 years in Latin America alone, “based on evidence of their ability to protect forests that are among the most carbon-rich in the world.”

During the Tenure Facility’s launch event, Muñoz also highlighted the roll-out of a new knowledge programme of the multi-donor Program on Forests (PROFOR) on ‘Securing Forest Tenure Rights for Rural Development.’ The study is reviewing the progress of tenure reforms in six Latin American countries (Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru), with a view to drawing lessons to help advance the realization of these reforms and inform similar initiatives in other countries. The study also aims to inform the work of World Bank programs in rural development, environment and natural resources, agriculture, social development, climate change, and carbon finance, by increasing attention and support to indigenous and community forest tenure as it relates to these areas of work.

This blog was written by Wangu Mwangi and was originally posted on the SDG Knowledge Hub.