Specific land access and land use principles, in force in particular traditional ethnic groups.
As a Swahili speaker from Tanzania, I have not often had the opportunity to meet or work with people from remote Maasai communities. However, I recently visited the villages of Naisinyai and Mundarara in the north of the country as part of a global research project on women’s land rights in pastoral communities affected by mining (the WOLTS project).
In 2018, every week more than three people were murdered, defending their land and environment from destructive industries like mining, logging and agribusiness. These killings represent the extreme end of a spectrum of violence and threats directed at land rights defenders.
There is a strong and compelling environment and development case to be made for securing indigenous and community lands. Securing collective land rights offers a low-cost, high-reward investment for developing country governments and their partners to meet national development objectives and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Securing community lands is also a cost-effective climate mitigation measure for countries when compared to other carbon capture and storage approaches.
Fred Nelson is executive director of Maliasili and Michael Taylor is director of International Land Coalition
Land rights have finally been invited to the party - sitting at the intersection of some of the world’s most urgent development, environmental, and human rights priorities.
On September 19, Liberian President George Manneh Weah signed into law the Land Rights Bill (LRB), a landmark piece of legislation that recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to their customary lands and gives customary land the same standing as private land in Liberia.
BERTA CÁCERES, ASSASSINATED in her home in March 2016, was just one of hundreds of Latin American environmental activists attacked in recent years. At least 577 environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) were killed in Latin America between 2010 and 2015 – more than in any other region. In addition to violence, EHRDs suffer legal threats and harassment, severely impeding their work. Before Cáceres' murder, she faced trumped-up charges due to her opposition to hydroelectric dams on her indigenous community's territory.
FRONT LINE DEFENDERS has documented 821 human rights defenders (HRDs) who have been killed in the four years since we started producing an annual global list in cooperation with national and international NGOs. Seventy-nine percent of this total came from six countries: Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the Philippines. The vast majority of these cases have never been properly investigated, and few of the perpetrators of the killings have been brought to justice.
Much of the world’s rural landscapes are technically managed by national governments with limited recognition of, or support for, the rights and management responsibilities of the rural poor who live in these areas. In an era of large-scale land acquisitions for global commodity production, this has led, in some cases, to governments allocating vast tracts of land and resources to companies with limited or no consultation of the people affected.
For hundreds of years, pastoralists in Ethiopia’s lowlands have relied on strong customary land tenure systems to survive. Historically, legislation has failed to clearly define communal rights to rangelands, and the specific roles and responsibilities for both communities and local government to administer and manage these resources. This legislative deficiency prevented pastoral communities from fully exercising their constitutional rights to land (Ethiopia’s Constitution broadly recognizes pastoral communities’ right to access land and prevents their involuntary displacement).