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  • There is a strong interdependence between indigenous and local knowledge, biodiversity and the land where people live and thrive over centuries.
  • Collective tenure rights are critical for indigenous peoples and local communities’ collective action for sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, and for sustainable livelihoods.
  • Women have a key role in food security and poverty alleviation and therefore their tenure rights and participation in securing land need to be safeguarded.

At a Development Talk hosted by Sida, Land rights — combating climate change and advancing peace and gender equality, the importance of land rights and the Swedish government’s commitments to land rights as a priority for development were emphasised.

“With Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement, management of land and natural resources have a much greater role for sustainable development and climate action than before. Good governance and land tenure security is at the heart of the implementation that we need to do now” Ulrika Modéer, State Secretary to the Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden

One such avenue for implementation is the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility in Stockholm that was formally launched during the event. The Tenure Facility has been established to leverage greater levels of financial support for projects that scale-up the recognition of collective land and forest rights globally. It is a result of continued actions by many organizations working for justice and equity for indigenous peoples. By focusing on securing land rights, the global community has the ability to address climate change and entrenched poverty, promote sustainable development, and even achieve lasting peace in places suffering some of the world’s most unrelenting conflicts.

Indigenous peoples and local communities are stewards of vast areas of the world´s environment and biodiversity. In the context of mounting human pressure on the ecosystem, the need to make indigenous tenure security a fundamental part of the global conservation agenda has never been greater.

The contribution of indigenous peoples has been underestimated in the past, but has global consequences, as Joji Cariño, Senior Policy Adviser at Forest Peoples Programme, and SwedBio collaborator explains: “Biological and cultural diversity embody nature’s (including human) agency and intelligence. Securing land rights of indigenous peoples and local communities is fundamental for well-being of peoples and planet.”

Scaling-up strategies to secure indigenous and community land rights

But how do we implement policies to secure land rights and reduce inequality in our turbulent world? These were some of the questions tackled at a conference, part of the week’s events. 250 representatives from 65 countries from Indigenous organizations, women’s groups, governments, NGOs, civil society, multilateral banks, and the private sector shared experiences and synthesized their recommendations in a two-day exercise.

The UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year. It contains six articles to secure land and territories, but the monitoring of its implementation shows that the most common violation is to the rights to indigenous lands. The declaration is not yet fully implemented, because dominant thinking says that economic growth cannot be achieved without extracting resources from all territories.

“This is why indigenous peoples are fighting to maintain land under their own sustainable use and control to overcome these ongoing violations. Indeed 40 – 50 % of those killed as environmental rights defenders, are Indigenous peoples. But Indigenous movements are gaining momentum. Land is life, culture, identity and history, and indigenous peoples are defending the opportunity for sustainable livelihoods for future generations. Unfortunately, this is not understood by many” Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Director, Tebtebba Foundation.

With the very real threat of land grabbing, many articulated the need to change patterns of development. Also, the need for effective and transparent implementation, monitoring systems and legal services was also underscored.

“Just since September this year, 15 of our leaders have been put in jail, just because they defended their rights. We see a lot of progress if we look in the papers, but it has to be implemented” Rukka Sombolinggi, SG of AMAN, the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago Indonesia

Supporting and securing women’s rights

Another strong theme running through the events was the rights of women.

“Land is critical for women; land is life. Rural women, have a special relation to land, but there is a lack of legal rights for women, such as rights to own and inherit land and rights to resources. Women are invisible because their contributions are seen as cultural values. Despite the important role they have in protecting environment and water, their labour is not seen as work, rather as something private. However, as women we are now organizing at different levels, developing self-determined projects” Myrna Cunnigham, Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas (CADPI) in Nicaragua