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Sustainable Communities

VGGT: The global guidelines to secure land rights for all

Jorge Muñoz's picture
A man holds his family's "red book," the land use rights certificate in Vietnam, which includes both his and his wife's names. (Photo by Chau Doan / World Bank)
A man holds his family's "red book," the land use rights certificate in Vietnam, which includes both his and his wife's names. (Photo by Chau Doan / World Bank)

Ground-breaking, far-reaching global guidelines for governments to help them safeguard the rights of people to own or access land, forests, and fisheries were endorsed five years ago by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), based at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.

Today, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) are a true global norm of reference in the governance of (land) tenure. The guidelines are pioneering – outlining principles and practices that governments can refer to when making laws and administering land, fisheries, and forests rights. Ultimately, they aim to promote food security and sustainable development by improving secure access to land, fisheries, and forests, as well as protecting the rights of millions of often very poor people.

Sounds simple, maybe even jargony, but no – they are concrete, with real impacts. All of a sudden, we had an internationally negotiated soft law or a set of guidelines on (land) tenure navigating successfully through the global web of interests on land, reaching a common ground. The consensus at the CFS was further strengthened by the endorsement of the VGGT by the G20, Rio+ 20, the United Nations General Assembly, and the Francophone Assembly of Parliamentarians.

[Read: Land Tenure: What have we learned four years after approving a set of international land tenure guidelines?]

This journey started with an inclusive consultation process started by the FAO in 2009, and finalized through intergovernmental negotiations. Importantly, no interest group – governments, CSOs, academia, private sector – felt left behind, and the States were engaged in word-by-word review of the guidelines.

This can be seen in the result. The VGGT’s power stems from the consensus on its principles that States were to:
  • Recognize and respect all legitimate tenure right holders and their rights;
  • Protect tenure right holders against the arbitrary loss of their tenure rights; and that
  • Women and girls [were to] have equal tenure rights and access to land.

And the list goes on.

How remittances help the poor but not the most vulnerable Somalis

Utz Pape's picture
Somalis make a living in the harshest of natural environments. Photo: Hassan Hirsi/World Bank


One year ago, we did not know how many Somalis were poor and how programs and policies could help to reduce poverty or at least build resilience against falling deeper into poverty. We knew that Somalis receive an estimated $1.4 billion (24 percent of GDP) in remittances every year. But we did not know whether the poor received the remittances and whether they helped mitigate the impact of poverty. To overcome this dearth of information, we implemented the Somali High Frequency Survey and established a near real-time market price monitoring system.

8 things we learned from running a challenge fund

Amal Ali's picture
Challenge funds can help harness technology for development – here, a team from the international Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows off an open source mobile weather station developed for the GFDRR/DFID Challenge Fund. © IWMI
Challenge funds can help harness technology for development – here, a team from the international Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows off an open source mobile weather station developed for the GFDRR/DFID Challenge Fund. © IWMI 

While historically confined to medical and academic research, challenge funds – competitive financing for innovative solutions to entrenched problems – have gained traction in the international development field over the last decade.
 
Pioneered by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), challenge funds have championed transformational disruptive technologies, such as M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. The electronic payment system, which allows users to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash through their mobile phones, started as a pilot project funded by DFID’s Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. Today, more than two thirds of Kenyans use the channel, and the innovation has changed the scope of financial inclusion programs globally.

Beyond bright lights and skyscrapers, how can East Asia and Pacific cities expand opportunities for all?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
East Asia and Pacific Cities: Expanding Opportunities for the Poor

Cities in East Asia and the Pacific can be vibrant, exciting, and filled with opportunities. Yet we are always struck by their dichotomies: there are the bright lights, modern skyscrapers, air-conditioned malls, and the hustle and bustle of people coming and going to offices and shops.

And there are also neighborhoods with no safe drinking water, sanitation, or waste collection; where houses flood every time it rains; and where families spend long hours trying to earn enough to feed themselves and keep their children in school.  

With an estimated 250 million people living in slums across the East Asia and Pacific region, and much more urbanization to come, prioritizing the delivery of basic services and ensuring opportunities for the urban poor presents an urgent call for action.

Voices of non-violence

Chloe Fevre's picture

Today, October 2nd, is the International Day of Non-Violence, a day that reminds us of the serious development challenge of interpersonal violence.
 
Violence is a multi-causal phenomenon. Therefore, preventing violence requires a multi-sectoral approach. What does this concretely mean? It means that to prevent violence in a sustainable way, we need to address its multiple causes at the same time. It also means to move away from a punitive perspective solely focused on the criminal justice system and acknowledge the shared responsibility for violence prevention and the need for different sectors and government agencies to contribute to solving the issue.

Philippines: A crucial first step to address Metro Manila’s floods

Mara Warwick's picture
A resident of the city of Manila helps clean up a creek to remove garbage that clogs drainage and waterways. (Photo: Justine E. Letargo/World Bank)
Metro Manila -- my current home -- is a metropolis of extraordinary contrast.  Referred to as the National Capital Region, it is the workhorse of the country, housing about 12.8% of the total population and producing about 38% of national GDP.  Metro Manila is a key contributor to the country’s dynamic and vibrant economy, which has been among the fastest growing in East Asia in recent years.  With glittering high rise buildings, a Starbucks on seemingly every corner, and bustling commerce wherever you look, one could be lulled into thinking that the citizens of Metro Manila all have a comfortable life.

Water and sanitation deprivation: What is next for Tajikistan?

Emcet O. Tas's picture
Also available in: Русский

Two years ago, I visited a village in Rudaki, a hilly district located to the south of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It lies about forty kilometres from the capital, but it feels like a thousand kilometres away. On our drive up a hill, we saw women carrying buckets of water from a nearby spring. Moving further up, we saw children bathing and animals drinking from the same river. Once in the village, it was clear that life is largely shaped by water scarcity—the backyards were filled with pots and buckets, fuel and stoves for boiling water, and pit latrines that were no longer used because of lack of water. Although we could spot remnants of a once-functional water supply network, people living there had not had access to piped water for at least two decades. Without it, they were only able to practice the most basic forms of sanitation and hygiene. 
A community in Rudaki district, Tajikistan.
Photo credit: World Bank team.



The conditions we witnessed in Rudaki were harsh, but not rare. Located on the western tip of the Himalayas, Tajikistan is a country blessed with large fresh water resources in its lakes, rivers, and glaciers. Yet, access to safe drinking water and sanitation connected to a functioning sewer system is lacking, particularly for rural residents and the poor. Much of the existing infrastructure was built during the Soviet era and has not been upgraded for decades. Tajikistan is one of the few countries outside Africa that did not meet the Millennium Development Goal on drinking water and basic sanitation. Because poor water and sanitation conditions, together with poor nutrition and care, are key determinants of childhood stunting, Tajikistan’s childhood stunting rates remain high. Recent estimates indicate that in Tajikistan more than one in five children under the age of five are stunted and will not reach their full potential as adults.
 
In a new report, Glass Half Full: Poverty Diagnostic of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Conditions in Tajikistan, we document the realities of Tajikistan’s WASH-deprived population. Our analysis builds on one of the largest data collection efforts of its kind – including national surveys of households and schools, water quality tests, ethnographic work, and case studies of existing WASH projects. It also includes poverty mapping and analysis of other secondary data, including a UNICEF nutrition survey that shared a subsample with our WASH survey.

Land tenure for forest peoples, part of the solution for sustainable development

Gerardo Segura Warnholtz's picture
© Gerardo Segura Warnholtz 
© Gerardo Segura Warnholtz 

In Science magazine, earlier this year, researchers revealed that ancient forest peoples of the Amazon helped create much of the imposing forest landscape that the world inherits today.

A growing body of evidence shows that the indigenous peoples and other rural communities who now inhabit these ancestral Amazonian "gardens" continue to be vital to their survival. 

Sri Lanka, you have a right to know!

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
Sri Lanka's Right to Information act (RTI) can help citizens hold governments accountable and encourage citizens to participate actively in their democracy.
Sri Lanka's Right to Information act (RTI) can help citizens hold governments accountable and encourage citizens to participate actively in their democracy.


Today, the world marks the International Day for the Universal Access to Information. Fittingly, we in Sri Lanka, celebrate 7 months since the Right to Information (RTI) Bill was enacted.  

The product of a slow and steady reform process, RTI is a milestone in Sri Lanka’s history.

Yet how many citizens know about its benefits?

As open access to information takes international center stage today, I’m hoping Sri Lanka’s Right to Information Bill, one of the world’s most comprehensive, will get the attention it deserves.

There is indeed much to celebrate.

Civil society organizations and private citizens are putting Sri Lanka’s RTI to the test. Diverse requests have been filed, from questions relating to how investments are made for the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) to how soil and sand mining permits have been allotted in districts like Gampaha.

Interestingly, people living in rural areas are more aware -- and vocal -- of their rights to know than people in urban areas.

The government is making steady progress. In the last six months, more than 3,000 information officers have been recruited. An independent RTI Commission enforces compliance and acts on those who do not follow the law. If, for example, an information officer refuses to release information pertaining to a citizen’s life, they must provide a valid reason or face legal penalties.

In the next few years, the Sri Lankan bureaucracy faces the huge task of revamping its record management, including its land registration system. This reform is an opportunity to live up to RTI’s ambitions of open governance and help citizens access land title information and records that give them a legal title to their property.

Africa can Benefit from Nature-based Tourism in a Sustainable Manner

Magda Lovei's picture
Up close and personal: an elephant encounters tourists in Tanzania. Photo: Magda Lovei/World Bank


Africa’s unique natural assets—its iconic wildlife, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, rapids, majestic forests, unique bird populations, pristine beaches and coral reefs—represent tremendous value. Wonders of nature such as Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Kenya, and the Victoria Falls, as well as Zanzibar’s Stone Town and its beautiful beaches, and the wildebeest migration between the Masai Mara and Serengeti, are some of the world’s best-known tourist attractions.


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