Our new Research Brief The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources, co-authored by Dr Chistophe Golay and Dr Adrianna Bessa, summarizes key findings linked to the recognition of the right to land and other natural resources in the context of the current negotiation of a UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UN Declaration) at the UN Human Rights Council. It also presents the protection of this right that exists under international law, addresses its individual and collective dimensions, and describes its core elements.
‘The recognition of this right is of fundamental importance to billions of rural people worldwide’ stress Chistophe Golay and Adrianna Bessa.
This Research Brief will be presented at the 4th session of the intergovernmental working group on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas , which will take place in Geneva from 15 to 19 May 2017. This 4th session will negotiate a new version of the UN Declaration, based on the discussions held in the previous three sessions as well as informal consultations.
Christophe Golay, Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the Geneva Academy, will participate as an expert in this session. He’s been notably asked to provide expert advice in relation to the preamble, article 1 of the UN Declaration (definition of peasants and other people working in rural areas), article 9 (freedom of association), article 10 (right to participation), article 13 (right to work), article 14 (right to safety and health at work), article 17 (right to land and other natural resources), article 22 (right to social security) and article 23 (right to health).
‘My participation is a great opportunity to present our research, outline the scope and content of the right to land and other natural resources to negotiators, and respond to their questions or concerns’ underlines Christophe Golay.
Peasants and other people working in rural areas, such as small-scale farmers, fisherfolks, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, have always used and managed land and other natural resources (water bodies, marine eco-systems, fisheries, pastures and forests) to ensure the sustainability of their livelihood systems and food supplies, to have a place to live in security, peace and dignity, and to develop their customs, traditions and cultural identities.
‘These customary practices have been acknowledged as individual and collective rights by states’ underline the authors, Christophe Golay and Adriana Bessa.
The right to land and other natural resources has been recognized for rural women and indigenous peoples in international human rights law. The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, and the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, adopted in 2012 and 2014 recognize similar freedoms and entitlements for all peasants, small-scale fishers and their communities, and other people working in rural areas.
‘In drafting the UN Declaration, negotiators should draw upon these guidelines and other international instruments to define the right of peasants and other people working in rural areas to land and natural resources’ stresses Bessa.
The right to land and other natural resources should be defined as the right to physical and economic access to land and natural resources, which are sufficient in quantity and adequate, so that peasants and other people working in rural areas can enjoy an adequate standard of living, have a place to live in security, peace and dignity, and develop their customs, traditions and cultural identities. This right may be exercised alone, in association with others, or as a community.
‘Negotiators should also define states’ obligations in relation to the right to land and other natural resources, including the obligations to respect, protect and fulfil this right’ recalls Golay. ‘States must also ensure that the right to land and natural resources is enjoyed without any discrimination, and on the basis of equality between women and men, and that it is implemented in a sustainable way for both present and future generations’ he concludes.
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