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Comparing Developing Countries’ Legislation on Forest Tenure Rights

    Namati Network member, Rights and Resources Initiative, released its report “What Rights? A Comparative Analysis of Developing Countries’ National Legislation on Community and Indigenous Peoples’ Forest Tenure  Rights,” on the eve of the upcoming Rio+20 conference.  The report finds that “hundreds of millions of forest peoples in tropical nations have, in the last 20 years, quietly gained unprecedented legal rights to the land and resources owned under customary law. The esearch also finds, however, that more than one-third of the rules governing land rights in most of the forests of Africa, Asia and Latin America significantly limit a community’s ability to exercise those rights.”

The new report provides the most comprehensive global legal analysis to date of the status of forest tenure rights held by Indigenous Peoples and other local communities in more than two-dozen developing countries. The nations covered in the study account for approximately 75 percent of the forests of the developing world, home to some 2.2 billion people.

According to the primary researcher, Fernanda Almeida, all 27 countries analyzed in the report have laws that recognize the legal rights of communities, on a national or regional level.  However, the laws must be “good laws” and furthermore must be effectively implemented.

The report has already garnered international attention from civil society actors and members of the private sector.  Luis A. Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation, in an Op-Ed in the International Herald Tribunal, stressed the importance of granting ownership rights to communities that reside in forests, calling it an “innovative idea.”

However, community land titling depends on a sustained commitment from governments to protect lands and natural resources.  As Ubiñas explains, even “some of the countries with rights on the books now find themselves at the center of a growing and troubling land grab by commercial investors focused on clearing forests for agriculture, with little concern for the local communities that call them home.”

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro spurred Indigenous and community leaders to pressure governments for legal rights to their traditional forestlands.  Rio+20 provides a timely and unique opportunity for the international community to affirm its commitment to strengthen community rights and ownerships of the world’s natural resources.  According to Andy White, coordinator of RRI, “if these laws ever make it off the books billions of hectares and millions of people will have access to one of the most effective tools available for eradicating poverty and conserving limited resources.”

To access a Press Release of “What Rights? A Comparative Analysis of Developing Countries’ National Legislation on Community and Indigenous Peoples’ Forest Tenure Rights,” click here 

To access the full report, click here.

June 5, 2012 | Namati