Pushing hard for land rights

12.10.11.  A big hello from the beginning of day three, writes Pablo Manzano, Global Coordinator of the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISP). It’s the second time I have attended a UNCCD event and things are much smoother here once you are more familiar with the overall environment of UN discussions.

Pablo Manzano

The second day of the conference witnessed the first side event organized by IUCN. In some ways UN conventions are similar to film festivals, where many of the interesting things go on during the unofficial sections. At UNCCD side events, new and exciting research results are provided and discussion forums are opened to a wide range of Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society organizations, thereby enriching the debate and the array of ideas.

In the second day’s side event we talked about land rights and governance in drylands, and we presented our recent publication on how pastoralists defend their land rights and also the work done so far in Garba Tula in Northern Kenya securing land rights and governance. We counted on the collaboration of Khadija Razavi (CENESTA, Iran) and Jessica Smith (UNEP-WCMC) as panellists. Even if the attendance was modest due to the coincidence in time of other events, the debate was interesting and rewarding.

The technical issues on land degradation are right now centred on best practices and pure management techniques, but during our work we have detected that land rights (or their alienation) are a major driver of land degradation worldwide. One cannot expect users of a rangeland for example, to implement sustainable management of the pasture if they have no power to decide on that management. If they do have this power but there is no security that they will have it in the future – and if they suspect they won’t – they will often not think of sustainable management strategies, but rather of short term profit ones. Where security of land rights is put in place, conversely, land degradation is very often halted. This is why the Drylands Programme team of IUCN is pushing for the inclusion of land rights and land tenure issues in the agenda of UNCCD.

Once a side event is done, the arguments are there to be introduced in the meetings that Jonathan mentioned yesterday. Some short statements can be introduced in the plenary so that the issue is re-addressed in the contact groups. So somehow, even if they are called side events, they are placed at the centre, as everything spreads from them.

There’s barely time for anything more, but fortunately we could enjoy yesterday the Korean food, a curious mixture between the spiciness and the marinated vegetables typical of China and the seafood and the algae typical of Japan.

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