From 2012 till now - How the Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure can be used as a global tool for engagement

By Harold Liversage, Lead Land Tenure Technical Specialist, and Elisabeth Steinmayr, Rural Development Consultant

CFS Plenary Session © FAO

Four years ago, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGTs). Since then, the Guidelines have gone on to become the global standard for land tenure governance, catalyzing new action around the world.

The VGGTs set out principles, technical recommendations and practices for improving the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests. The Guidelines promote secure tenure rights and equitable access as a means of supporting sustainable development, protecting the environment, and eradicating hunger and poverty. They also support the work of a range of development actors (including governments, the private sector, farmers and other partners) to engage with people who may not know how to respond to issues related to land rights. The Guidelines contribute directly to at least 14 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [1].

The past four years have seen the production of technical guides, workshops and training modules, as well as a greater dialogue among donor partners and national and regional governments. As a result, various countries have integrated the VGGTs into their policy frameworks. Within the SDG context, a global thematic event on the VGGTs has been included in the 43rd plenary session of the CFS from the 17th to 21st of October to offer all stakeholders an opportunity to share their experiences and take stock of the use and application of the Guidelines.

IFAD and the VGGTs

Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure © FAO
As an early advocate for the formulation of the VGGTs, IFAD has continued to support their development and application through its investment and representation on the FAO-convened VGGT Steering Committee. We have shared the Guidelines widely with our development partners and have supported their dissemination through initiatives such as the grant-financed "Dissemination and implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in selected West African countries (Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal)" implemented by the Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale (IPAR), which included sensitization workshops on the VGGTs for governments, civil society organizations (CSOs), farmers' and pastoralists' organizations, and building national policy dialogue platforms. The IFAD-supported grant "Supporting small-scale food producers’ organizations in the promotion and implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests" to the Associazione Italiana per l'Agricoltura Biologica (AIAB) has recently produced the VGGT People's Manual to make the Guidelines more accessible for farmers', fishing and pastoralist organizations, indigenous peoples, the landless, women and civil society. Perhaps more importantly, we have continued to promote and support investment in land and natural resource governance through its wider investments.

IFAD recognizes that the secure land and natural resource rights of its target groups are critical for the outcomes of its projects and programmes. It is a founding member of the International Land Coalition and hosts the Secretariat of the ILC. In 2008, the Executive Board approved IFAD’s Land Access and Tenure Security Policy. A review of this policy in 2013 found that it is fully in line with the VGGTs.

Over the past five years, IFAD has invested about USD 75 million in tenure security measures, with a similar amount leveraged in co-finance. The Fund's investment has played a role in creating an enabling environment for securing land and natural resource rights of poor rural people through the application of the VGGTs and other measures. In particular, IFAD’s investments have empowered poor rural people economically and socially, stimulating demand for greater tenure security.

Support for tenure security measures is typically integrated into broader rural development projects rather than being a standalone investment. This integration maximizes the impacts of tenure security measures on project outcomes, including higher-level poverty eradication and inclusive development. It also creates opportunities for strengthening engagement with other government ministries and agencies who may have an interest in improved land and natural resource governance but not a directly responsibility for land policy implementation (such as ministries dealing with agriculture, natural resource management agencies, finance institutions and local governments). The support these partnerships provide often leads to innovative solutions guided by the VGGTs, especially in response to challenges with implementing policy.

IFAD's emphasis on co-financing reinforces partnerships with other donors and development partners. IFAD continues to identify opportunities for strengthening the engagement of IFAD-supported project and programme staff in national policy dialogue processes. Furthermore, the Fund plays a key role in creating space for CSO engagement in land and natural resource governance through its involvement as the most active Intergovernmental Organization in the International Land Coalition as well as through the financial and technical support it provides to CSOs, including in particular farmer organizations.

IFAD's involvement on tenure issues at the forthcoming CFS

IFAD is looking forward to being involved in the CFS sessions on the VGGTs and will contribute to an official side event of the Global Donor Working Group on Land on Building the base of land governance evidence: frameworks and lessons learned from project, country and global-level monitoring and evaluation effort on the 18 of October at FAO. In addition, IFAD will host various learning events in collaboration with the World Bank, the Millennium Challenge Cooperation, the International Land Coalition Secretariat and other partners on improving impact assessments of tenure security measures and on securing community and indigenous people’s land and natural resource rights.

[1] Goal 1: No poverty; Goal 2: Zero Hunger; Goal 5: Gender Equality; Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities; Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities; Goal 13: Climate action; Goal 14: Life below water; Goal 15: Life on land; Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions and Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals.