Guyana hosting regional meet on land, forest access guidelines

The Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Environment ministries are hosting a meeting for government, civil society and other stakeholders from the Caribbean region to discuss the implementation of the ‘Voluntary Guidelines’ on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forest, in the context of food security.

Around 80 participants, including from academia and private sector representatives, will explore the potential for implementing the guidelines at a meeting set for June 19 to June 21, a press release from the UN’s Food and Agri-culture Organisation (FAO) said.

The guidelines are based on a consultation initiated by the FAO.

The meeting will identify priority actions and ways to improve governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests and promote links with existing initiatives to create regional and national networks, the release said.

The meeting is being facilitated by the FAO with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the International Fund for Agri-cultural Development (IFAD).

The Voluntary Guidelines represent an extraordinary international agreement on the governance of tenure, which places secure access to land, fisheries and forests firmly in the context of food security. They are “based on an inclusive, transparent consultation process started by FAO and finalised through intergovernmental negotiations led by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS),” the press release said. The process involved representatives from UN member states, civil society organisations, the private sector academia and international organisations. The Guidelines were originally endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at its 38th Special Session on May 11, 2012.

The Voluntary Guidelines promote food security and sustainable development through improved, transparent, equitable, secure access to and control over land, fisheries and forests, and by protecting the legitimate tenure rights, whether formal or informal, of millions of people, many of whom are poor and food insecure. They set out principles and internationally accepted standards for responsible practices.

While the Guidelines do not establish legally binding obligations nor replace existing laws, treaties and agreements; they provide a framework that states can use when developing their own strategies, policies, legislation and programmes.

The Voluntary Guidelines also offer stakeholders their own context-specific answers to essential questions related to tenure rights and responsibilities.

These include legal recognition, allocation and transfers of rights and other changes in tenure, such as restitution, redistributive reforms, expropriation and compensation. They also provide direction on the recording of tenure rights, their valuation and taxation and the resolution of disputes including trans-boundary measures.

Global recognition//high level endorsement

The Voluntary Guidelines were endorsed by the Director General of the FAO Jose Graziano da Silva, who signalled the end of the formal negotiation process as a milestone achievement for the first comprehensive global instrument on tenure to be prepared through inter-governmental negotiations.

The CFS endorsement in May 2012 was also covered by numerous news agencies worldwide and has been followed up by further global recognition by a wide variety of international bodies and other organisations. These include the General Assembly of the UN in December 2012, followed by its request of all relevant UN bodies to ensure the speedy dissemination and promotion of the Guidelines.

In January 2013, there was a call to action and implementation among ministries from 80 countries gathered at the Fifth Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Summit. Ministers were requested to confirm their intention to implement the Voluntary Guidelines in accordance with national priorities. Business enterprises were also urged to comply with the Guidelines domestically and abroad.

In addition, specific reference to the Guidelines was made in the reports of recent G8, G20, Rio+20 and UN agency meetings.

Francophone parliamentarians of 57 countries were also lobbied to support them and they were endorsed by the FAO Council as an FAO priority and mainstreamed into the FAO strategic objectives and all relevant work.

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