On Friday May 11 more than one hundred member states of the UN Committee on Food Security (CFS) endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines on the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests. This is the first ever global agreement aimed at securing peoples’ land tenure after three years of hard negotiation between governments, civil society organizations, farmers' organisations and the private sector. The Voluntary Guidelines set out principles and practices that governments and other actors can refer to when administering land, fisheries and forests rights to ensure the best interests of their populations are served and to promote food rights and rural development.
With this, the UN has set a global standard that cannot be ignored. The recognition of the role of women in agriculture and their rights to land is a massive step towards guaranteeing equal access to land for women and, by extension, their ability to tackle hunger head on. ActionAid has seen firsthand the difference that land rights make to the lives of women in Africa and Asia. From 2,000 women who won the legal right to land in Malawi, to a 300-strong women’s cooperative in Uganda, empowering women to tackle hunger in their own communities is hugely impactful.
The Voluntary Guidelines still contain some serious flaws as they fail, for example, to condemn land grabs. However the endorsement last week means a huge step towards assuring human rights for poor people in rural communities globally and ultimately to tackling hunger and poverty.
So what is next? It is now up to the countries who endorsed the guidelines to put them into practice on the ground. The EU will have an important role to play in this. Likewise UN bodies involved (FAO UNDP and WFP) will need to assist governments providing technical assistance and toolkits. For their part, CSOs will keep pushing for implementation at the national and international level.