Global Support to Voluntary Guidelines Implementation

By Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights

This morning, I had the honor, on behalf of USAID, to chair the first session of the World Bank’s annual Land and Poverty Conference, titled Global Support to Voluntary Guidelines Implementation. This conference has become the premier event on land and resource governance – it was standing room only at the opening session. This event’s growing attendance and importance highlights the increasing recognition that resource governance is central to alleviating poverty, promoting economic development, limiting conflicts, and protecting against the worst impacts of climate change.

In the last decade, the private sector, civil society organizations, host governments, donors and academics have committed to better understanding of and methodologies for increasing agricultural productivity across the globe. In 2012, G8 leaders at Camp David launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The New Alliance is a partnership between G8 governments, private companies and national governments toward making policy reforms to enable more investment in agriculture. Increasingly, the global community recognizes that good land governance is necessary for increased investment, and to mitigate against risks that could undermine productivity for all producers.

To that end, a number of global organizations have increasingly focused attention on the need to provide stakeholders with guidelines or principles for good land governance. Two of the most important efforts have been undertaken by the Committee for World Food Security: the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines (VGs) for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (which were adopted in May 2012) and the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) (which are currently being developed). The process by which the Guidelines were adopted were in many ways unprecedented in their transparency, with participation from many civil society organizations, the private sector, multilateral institutions and more than 95 member states.

I was joined in opening session by Andrew Hilton, Patrice Talla, Francesca Romano, and Neil Pullar from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO); and Christina Blank, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the FAO, IFAD and WFP.

As the panelists discussed today, in the year since the Voluntary Guidelines were adopted, numerous organizations have recognized the importance of this tool as a means to promote more critical thinking about which policies make the most sense for improving resource governance. For my part, I am pleased to note that the G8 last year, under the U.S. Presidency, took a leading step forward in supporting implementation of the VGs, and a broad-based consultation process and pilot use of the RAI. This year, under the U.K. Presidency, we will see further progress supporting the VGs and RAI.

In the last year, bilateral and multilateral donors, CSOs, foundations, universities and others have worked hard to socialize the VGs, and FAO specifically has taken on the difficult task of awareness raising among stakeholders, and especially host-governments. There has been a dramatic increase in public discussion through social media about the VGs—in many ways these have become “The People’s Voluntary Guidelines.”

This morning, the panelists discussed the increase in demand for technical assistance to implement the VGs. They also noted, with increasing demand for implementation of the VGs, there is a concomitant need to build local capacity to administer land governance systems. Moreover, the panelists also discussed specific capacity-building tools, modalities, and software solutions intended to provide guidance, operational suggestions, and technical support toward implementation.

A few of the key points from the session included:

  • The VGs provide an effective and realistic framework for improving land governance, strengthening access and rights, enhancing food security.
  • FAO is receiving an increasing number of requests for technical assistance to implement the VGs, to date 22 countries have expressed a need.
  • Successful implementation efforts will require engagement, collaboration, dialogue, and capacity building.
  • There are important capacity building tools and technologies (including SOLA) being piloted to support the implementation process.
  • Further review and refinements of these capacity building efforts will improve implementation.
  • The RAI Zero Draft will be published in the coming days (by 15 April at the latest), the inclusive consultation process starts in May and we encourage all workshop participants to engage directly or through their constituencies in the consultation process.

I want to thank the panelists for an interesting and informative opening session and I am looking forward to the rest of the conference.