Thursday, February 6, 2014

After slowdown, global fight for land rights at tipping point

Carey L. Biron in IPS: Global trends towards a strengthening of legal rights over land for local and indigenous communities appear to have slowed significantly in recent years, leading some analysts to warn that the fight for local control over forests has reached an inflection point with a new danger of backtracking on previous progress.

The past five years have seen less than 20 percent of global forestland put under community control compared to the previous half-dozen years, according to new research released Wednesday by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a Washington-based coalition of 140 international organisations. Further, the group says that far fewer legal safeguards were put in place during this latter period, while those laws that have been passed have been weaker.

 “If private companies and governments from the developed countries don’t weigh in, all of this progress could be lost – this could be it,” Andy White, RRI’s coordinator, told IPS. “Even though there’s a lot of talk on this issue right now, no one is really investing – not the donors, not the big companies, not the developed country governments. No one is putting money behind the words to help developing countries to do the mapping, the registries, the consultations that will be required to get this done.”

The slowdown comes despite a significant uptick in the public discussion over land and indigenous rights, with multinational corporations, national courts and Western donors increasingly acknowledging the issue’s importance and pledging to strengthen safeguards for forest tenure. Development workers say this disconnect between words and actions highlights both a lack of prioritisation on land rights and, given the rising rhetoric, an opportunity for future action....

Aztec drums in the 16th century Florentine Codex

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