Time for Action – Tales of Voice, Visibility and Opportunity


AUTHOR: George Barrett

Hosted on the International Land Coalition’s website

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed [sic]” Thomas Jefferson (1776).

As the 2015 Global Land Forum draws to a close it provides an opportunity to reflect not only on the debates that have taken place over the last week in Dakar, but additionally in the 20 years since the foundation of the International Land Coalition.

From Mozambique to Scotland, Bolivia to Mongolia, small-holder farmer to supranational organisation, the Global Land Forum has provided a unique platform to foster cross-sector dialogue and knowledge-exchange between the multiplicity of participants, bringing together over 700 voices in a purportedly equal space for visibility and opportunity.

The Forum has demonstrated how issues of land transcend entrenched North-South dichotomies, highlighting how land is central to the existence of the global community and underpins so much of our day-to-day lives from issues of tenure, food security and sovereignty, water rights and gender interactions.

Yet, at the time of writing, the civil society and inter-governmental community find themselves at a critical juncture. As we move towards the post-2015 development agenda and the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), there is an irrefutable need to advocate the recognition and act upon the needs of the billions of people dependent on land and natural resources as a source of livelihood and identity.

There is some hope, given that goals one and two speak to land rights. Target 1.4, whilst still in draft form, states that “by 2030, ensure that all men and women, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, including access to basic services, ownership, and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology, and financial services including microfinance.”

However, in spite of a mere 239 years difference, there are certain parallels to Jefferson’s earlier writings. Given the lack of explicit recognition of community land rights in the SDGs, the civil society and inter-governmental community occupy a space whereby it is considered necessary to apply pressure for “an ambitious set of goals” and ensure that the “goals are implemented and not just another set of warm words”, as Civicus’ Danny Sriskandarijah discussed in his video address.

There is thus a distinct opening, with it considered that organisations, such as those present at the Global Land Forum, have a duality of responsibilities to act as an on-the-ground governance    mechanism and concurrently a tool for advocacy and lobbying.

Throughout the course of the week this uniqueness of opportunity has been argued to be worthy of harnessing, in order to target the needs of the world’s most marginalised communities. With it being suggested that a paradigmatic shift in thinking is required, with the marginalised viewed as primary investors and shareholders rather than passive agents, and multi-stakeholder dialogue considered constructive rather than a space for bureaucratic feuding.

In two years the Global Land Forum will meet again, in a significantly different context. One whereby the millennium development goals will have been analysed and the SDGs will be shaping development policy and practice. It is hoped that by that time laudable strides will have been taken. Yet, without the collective contribution of civil society and inter-governmental organisations success is highly unlikely.

From the Global Land Forum, experiences, stories of best practice and new knowledge can be drawn upon to bring about positive change. It is thus undeniable that there is no better time for action.


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