Access To Land

International Policy

What is tenure in the international context?

Tenure is how people gain access to land, fisheries, forests and other natural resources. Having secure and equitable access to natural resources can allow people to produce food for their consumption and to increase income. Inadequate and insecure tenure rights to natural resources often result in extreme poverty and hunger.

The governance of tenure is a crucial element in determining if and how people, communities and others are able to acquire rights, and associated duties, to use and control land, fisheries and forests. Many tenure problems arise because of weak governance, and attempts to address tenure problems are affected by the quality of governance.

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in The Context of National Food Security

The Tenure Guidelines (TG) were officially endorsed by the 125 members of the United Nations Committee for Food Security (CFS) in May 2012. The stated objective of these Guidelines is to serve as a reference and to provide practical guidance to governments to improve governance of land, fisheries and forests.

The TG are novel in two fundamental ways:

  • First, they were developed in an inclusive and participatory process that lasted more than three years, in which representatives of social movements and other civil society organisations had a role in shaping their content.
  • Second, the TG are the first international instrument to apply an approach based on human rights, and especially economic, social and cultural rights to the governance of land, fisheries and forests. They are anchored in existing obligations under international human rights law, explicitly mentioning the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and establishing principles of implementation that make clear that the tenure of land, fisheries and forests is not a business matter, but a fundamental right that must be recognized, respected and guaranteed.

Access the Tenure Guidelines on the FAO website

Read more on the role and limitations of the UN Committee on Food Security on the Via Campesina website

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