Highlights from the Global Land Forum 2018
During the last day of the Global Land Forum (GLF), on September 27 2018, a question about a line in the declaration sparked a long debate that lasted almost one hour, in a session that was meant to conclude in just a few minutes.
The candid and strong answers that emerged from the debate convinced parties to consider a gender inclusive wording of a text centred on youth and land governance.
The week of deliberations, networking and learning ended with the Bandung Declaration. It calls on governments, corporate actors and global citizens to take urgent actions in facilitating agrarian reforms and protecting land and environmental defenders. In the build-up to the declaration, delegates discussed land matters in plenaries, breakout sessions and ideas fair.
Agrarian reforms and land rights defenders
Michel Forst, UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders took to the stage on day two of the GLF to tell delegates that “those who are fighting for the land and the environment are currently the most at risk,” he said. Earlier on this day, Gillian Caldwell, chief executive officer of Global Witness talked about how deadly our world has been for land and environmental defenders in 2017/2018. Earlier this year, Global Witness issued a report on land environmental defenders, which shows 207 men and women were killed in 2017.
Among the delegates were land defenders and government representatives. Forst’s reports provided information to guide states and companies on how to protect defenders. “There should be more solidarity on land and environment and those who are working on human rights,” said Forst.
From Madagascar, where standing for land rights has been a dangerous business for land defenders, Randrianomenjanahary Haingoarison, chair of Solidarité des Intervenants sur le Foncier (SIF) thought they were walking alone. But after listening to Forst’s reports and talking to other land defenders from Asia and Latin America, Haingoarison said: “it is here that I understand we are not alone. Land governance issues are global and here I have found like-minded organisations committed to protecting peoples land rights.”
ILC Africa regional assembly 2018
Before Forst and Caldwell made the case for increased protection on land defenders to a larger audience, similar discussions happened at the 2018 ILC Africa regional assembly on September 23, before the opening of the GLF the next day. On this subject, ILC Africa members underlined the need for increased protection of land rights activists in Africa. In one of the group discussions held on the national engagement strategies (NES), featured the national land observatory, a tool land activists use to report land corruption in Africa. In 2017-2018, country strategies in Senegal, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Madagascar adopted this tool as a viable means of documenting and broadcasting land rights abuses.
Another important discussion from the 2018 Africa regional assembly focused on building strong networks for land reforms. “We raised the issue of leadership at the regional assembly and we think that for civil society networks to develop better strategies to fight for agrarian reforms, we need astute leadership,” said Shadrack Omondi, executive director of Resource Conflict Institute (Reconcile) and former chair of ILC Africa. Leadership was discussed in one of the breakout sessions of the GLF, where Africa’s pioneer leadership programme was showcased alongside other ILC led programmes across Asia and Latin America.
Still on leadership, ILC welcomed a new steering committee, which will take over the governance of the platform on this day. Before welcoming the new leadership team, Michael Taylor, ILC Secretariat Director offered the outgoing team that has been steering the platform since 2015 a recognition prize for their selfless efforts. They, in addition to leading the platform, also organised the recruitment of 18 new members. The new leadership team led by Kafui Kuwonu, Programmes Manager of Women in Law & Development in Africa (WILDAF), West Africa welcomed the new members to the ILC Africa platform.
OPDP wins the ILC award
Another key moment of the GLF was the ILC award, which took place on September 26 in the afternoon. The award recognises members doing extraordinary work in fighting for a just and equitable society. Eleven organisations made it to the finals this year, among which four from Africa.
Jean-Philippe Audinet and Mino Ramaroson chairs of ILC declared the Ogiek Peoples Development Programme (OPDP’s) entry, ‘litigation for the restoration of the indigenous Ogiek people in Kenya’ winner of the award. Accepting the recognition, Daniel Kobei, Executive director of OPDP said the award means a lot to indigenous people, not only in Kenya but also around the world.
While the GLF inevitably made delegates dig deep and question certain assumptions, it was truly a week of inspiration, learning and discovery. As members take the Bandung declaration to their various countries and continents, there is a new air of hope to unite for land rights, peace and justice.
It would be unfair if I do conclude this piece without a vote of thanks to National Organising Committee of the GLF, members and the entire ILC support team for a well-organised forum. Members have in several occasions expressed their satisfaction on the high-level organisation.