FAO Progress Supporting Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines

A guest post by Dr. Paul Munro-Faure, Deputy Director, Climate, Energy and Tenure Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Following the endorsement 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 Voluntary Guidelines) in 2012, FAO initiated a four-year programme for making improved governance of tenure a reality. One of the main aspects of the program is awareness raising. To that end, we have made the Voluntary Guidelines available in six official languages on FAO’s website and distributed over 15,000 printed copies to people in about 140 countries. FAO has also helped to convene ten regional awareness raising workshops over the past twelve months. We have recently begun convening sub-regional meetings, starting with a meeting in Abu Dhabi for the Gulf States and Yemen. Country level workshops will begin in the next couple of months and resources are already available to start these in more than twelve countries.

Another aspect of this programme is capacity development – preparing additional tools and aids to support implementation of the Guidelines. We are close to finalizing the initial five Governance of Tenure Technical Guides prepared by FAO and partners, which address core areas in the Voluntary Guidelines. An additional eight guides and their dissemination are under discussion with donors and stakeholders.

We have also made progress in developing e-learning programmes to disseminate and build capacity for supporting implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines. Open-source land administration software is also being made available and supported with increased functionality to requesting countries.

At the country level, we are responding systematically to requests for support in implementing the Guidelines, with discussions already underway for six countries. We are also in discussion with key stakeholders regarding partnerships targeting support for implementation of the Guidelines. We are engaged in detailed discussions on a partnership with the African Union’s Land Policy Initiative, the World Bank on mainstreaming of the Voluntary Guidelines in the Bank’s land-related portfolio, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on strengthening partnerships at the country level.

The regional workshops this past year have both re-validated and reinforced the recognition of the vital importance of the Voluntary Guidelines, showing that political momentum is developing and that governments are becoming more ready to engage. They have emphasized the importance of capacity development at the country level and the critical role for FAO in country level awareness raising and dialogue. A great deal has been achieved at the global and regional levels through enormous media coverage. We are, however, in the first stages of a long process. Awareness, capacities, momentum and support are all critically needed at levels where work is to be done – on the ground – principally at the national levels and with all stakeholder groups.

The regional workshops have prompted increasing numbers of requests for national and sub-regional workshops and that is where FAO and its partners will really make the difference. At the national levels, we can provide information on the messages of the Voluntary Guidelines and help provide space for discussion about how they can change peoples’ lives for the better.

Three quotations from those participating in the regional awareness raising workshops reflect the tenor of this groundswell of support and interest:

  • “The Guidelines showcase a people-centred approach to tenure, putting a human face on the issue”
  • “The Guidelines are ideas we can work towards”
  • “The value of the guidelines is not only in their content but also in what they can induce”

Read more information on the Voluntary Guidelines from FAO and from USAID.