Securing land tenure plays a key role in reducing poverty and hunger in the rural areas of developing countries, where the tenure rights of smallholder farmers and other marginalized groups often are not protected. Women are particularly vulnerable to losing their rights. Increased domestic and international investments in agricultural land by private and public corporations have also threatened the land rights of the rural poor, adding to the burden posed by global challenges such as population growth, climate change and unsustainable land management practices.
Land, forests and fisheries are sources of food, shelter, income and social identity. The governance of tenure determines if and how rights and associated duties to use and control land, fisheries and forests can be exercised. Many tenure problems, and even armed conflicts, arise because of weak governance.
Guidance for national policies and programmes
The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) adopted the «Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security» in Rome on 11 May 2012. The CFS is the United Nations’ foremost international and intergovernmental platform dealing with food security and nutrition. Switzerland actively participated in the preparation process of these Guidelines.
The Voluntary Guidelines set out principles and internationally accepted standards. They allow government authorities, the private sector, civil society and citizens to judge whether their proposed actions and the actions of others constitute responsible practices. The Guidelines are not legally binding, but they positively influence the drafting of national policies, legislation and programmes.
Switzerland supports the Guidelines
Switzerland not only considers these Guidelines an important step towards promoting secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests, but also as a direct means to support sustainable development and to eradicate poverty. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s contribution of CHF 3 million for the next three years will go into a dedicated multi-donor trust fund managed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
This investment will mainly serve to increase the awareness of the Voluntary Guidelines globally and regionally; to create and disseminate capacity development tools (such as Implementation Guides); and to forge partnerships with academia, competence centres and professionals (such as surveyors) in order to enhance the capacity in countries and across regions to improve the governance of tenure in a sustainable manner.