First Anniversary of the Adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines

This week marks the first anniversary of the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (commonly referred to as the VGs) by the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The VGs are an international soft law instrument that outline principles and practices to which governments can refer when making laws and administering land, fisheries and forest rights.

The VGs are intended to: create a better environment for investments in agriculture, reduce land-related conflicts, recognize the rights of women, promote improved natural resource management, and address challenges related to global climate change. As Dr. Patrice Talla, Legal Officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), noted in a paper presented at the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty 2013, “By providing an effective basis for the governance tenure of land, fisheries and forests, the Guidelines provide a realistic method for achieving food security and protecting human rights by allowing vulnerable communities to ensure their own livelihoods through protecting their rights to their natural resources.”

Over the past year, the VGs have received increasing media attention and global recognition, including at the 2012 G8, G20 and Rio+20 meetings. The UN General Assembly has also encouraged countries to consider adopting the VGs. As awareness of the VGs continues to increase, demand for implementation is rising. As of April 2013, FAO had received requests for technical assistance to implement the VGs from 22 countries. “The real value of the Guidelines will, however, be determined by their contribution to changes in the lives and livelihoods of men and women around the globe, and particularly of the vulnerable and marginalized,” according to Andrew Hilton, Senior Land Tenure Officer at FAO.

In order to make improved land governance a reality, many organizations, including USAID, are working to support implementation of the VGs. FAO has become a focal point for implementation and has initiated a four-year program, which focuses on raising awareness of the VGs, developing capacity building tools, supporting countries with implementation, strengthening partnerships, and monitoring and evaluation. These capacity building tools will include technical guides and e-learning courses. The first of these technical guides, Governing Land for Women and Men, which focuses on the achievement of responsible gender-equitable governance of land tenure, was published earlier this year.

More recently, “under UK leadership, the G8 in 2013 is again focusing on implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines, and importantly, on creating more transparency around large-scale land transactions. G8 members are very serious about addressing land issues as they relate to food security and nutrition” says Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights.

Read more information on the Voluntary Guidelines from USAID.