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Land2030

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.