Tenure Guidelines are a first step, but much more is needed to ensure peoples’ rights to land and natural resources

Published: 11th May 2012

Civil Society Organizations’ joint reaction to the Guidelines on Land, Fisheries and Forests delivered today by the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS)

A first essential step has been made, but there’s still a long road ahead before peoples’ rights to land, fisheries and forests are fully recognized and respected. Civil Society Organizations actively involved in the negotiations on the guidelines believe that they represent significant progress made in the governance of natural resources and food security.

The guidelines are the result of multi-year-discussions between governments and civil society representatives and reaffirm basic human rights principles such as human dignity, non-discrimination, equity and justice when applied to tenure. Nonetheless, they fall short on issues that are key to the livelihoods of small scale food producers, failing to sufficiently challenge practices such as land and water grabbing, which contribute to food insecurity, violation of human rights and degradation of environment.

Inclusive negotiation process an achievement in itself

The new instrument developed by the CFS rightly recognizes the key role of women, peasant farmers, fishing communities, pastoralists and indigenous peoples. The negotiation process itself, which included consultation and participation of social movements and other civil society organizations, can be considered an achievement in itself. Representatives of small-scale food producers were invited to have their say at all stages, bringing real life experience into the negotiations.

The process proved able to bring a wide range of voices to the debate, making it easier to find solutions to difficult and contentious issues, such as tenure of land, fisheries and forests. This way of working should serve as an example to the entire UN system.

However, the guidelines fall short on a number of crucial issues, thus failing to provide a comprehensive set of rules to counter effectively widespread grabbing of natural resources. The text is too weak in prioritizing essential support to small-scale producers, who are the absolute priority if governments are to achieve sustainable development. It’s also disappointing that the guidelines fail to further protect the rights of indigenous peoples already recognized by international instruments and don’t include water as a land resource.

While Civil Society Organizations still disagree with several parts of the text, they will work to ensure that the guidelines are implemented in a way that strengthens the rights of small-scale food producers and commit to use them as a tool to advance their struggles. CSOs call on governments and intergovernmental organizations to implement the guidelines effectively and urgently to contribute to a sustainable and equitable governance of natural resources.

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Notes to editors

List of Civil Society Organizations

International and regional:

  • Action Aid
  • Arab Network for Food Sovereignty
  • Asian Rural Women’s Coalition
  • Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA)
  • FIAN International
  • FIMARC (International Federation of Adult Rural Catholic Movements)
  • Food Sovereignty Network South Asia (FSNSA)
  • Friends of the Earth International (FoEI)
  • GROOTS International
  • Huairou Commission:  Women, Homes, and Community
  • International Indian Treaty Council (IITC)
  • Institute of Hunger Studies
  • International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF)
  • International Food Security Network (IFSN)
  • La Via Campesina
  • MIJARC (International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth)
  • Oxfam
  • Peuples Solidaires en association avec ActionAid
  • REDSAN-PALOP (Regional Civil Society for Food Security in the Portuguese-African Countries)
  • Share The World's Resources
  • USC Canada
  • WHY Hunger
  • World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous People (WAMIP)
  • World Forum of Fishharversters and Fishworkers (WFF)
  • World Forum of Fisherpeoples
  • World Rural Forum (WRF)


  • ACTUAR – Association for Cooperation and Development, Portugal
  • Associazione Università per la cooperazione e lo sviluppo, Italy
  • CCFD-Terre Solidaire, France
  • Crocevia, Italy
  • Collectif pour la Défense des Terres Malgaches - TANY (Madagascar/France)
  • Federación Agraria Argentina y Mujeres Federadas Argentinas, Argentina
  • Focus on the Global South, India, Philippines, Thailand
  • Institute for Motivating Self-Employment (IMSE), India
  • Instituto Mayor Campesino (INCA), Colombia
  • La Unidad de la Fuerza Indígena y Campesina (UFIC), México
  • MARAG, India
  • Mazingira Institute, Kenya
  • Movimento de la Juventud Kuna (MJK), Panama
  • Portuguese National Farmers Confederation, Portugal
  • ReAlimentar – Portuguese Civil Society Network for Food Security, Portugal
  • Spire, Norway
  • SWISSAID, Switzerland
  • Terra Nuova, Italy
  • The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature, Jordan
  • Transnational Institute, Netherlands
  • UK Food Group, Great Britain

Contact information

Spokespeople available:

  • Angel Strappazzon, Farmers – Argentina – Language: Spanish
  • Rehema Bavuma, Fisherfolk – Uganda – Language: English
  • Ujjaini Halim, Fisherfolk – India – Language: English
  • Lalji Desai, Pastoralists – India – Language: English
  • Sofia Monsalve, FIAN – Colombia – Langagues: Spanish, English

Other CSO representatives from Actionaid, FIAN and Oxfam [+others] will be available in Rome for interviews in different languages including French and German.

Media Contact in Rome:

Ashley von Anrep, +39 3397904006 – Ashley.vonanrep@csm4cfs.org