Six people, six countries, one message: Land Rights Now!

Gwendolyn Parami and Luca Miggiano
Monday, October 10, 2016

As part of Land Rights Now: The Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights, Oxfam and partners have launched a campaign to support actions in Sri Lanka, Peru, Australia, Honduras, India and Mozambique. 

To join the campaign, you can add you name to petitions from Sri Lanka and Peru. Once you have signed, don’t forget to share through your networks! Our target is 30,000 signatures by 14 October. 

Call out: Join FEDIQUEP, PARL and Oxfam in the call for Indigenous and community land rights in Peru and Sri Lanka.

Recognition of indigenous and community land rights is gaining momentum worldwide. World leaders made a significant commitment on this matter with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda; a few months later in Paris they recognized the importance of the rights and knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities in fighting climate change. At national level, policy changes are underway in Kenya, Liberia, and Malawi, amongst others, whilst some in the private sector are raising their standards and improving their practices. New research from the World Resources Institute sheds further light on the economic benefit of securing these rights.

In addition, as evidenced by the ongoing stand-off over an oil pipeline in North Dakota in the United States, the growing alliance between those fighting for land rights and the climate change movement is becoming stronger, and looks set to shake world politics in the future years.

But this is not enough, the tenure crisis on the ground is still enormous. 2.5 billion women and men worldwide depend on indigenous and community lands, protect more than 50% of our land's planet, but have secure ownership over just 1/5 (10%). We need to close this gap now. Any other route would make it impossible to address the main challenges of our time: poverty, climate change, and inequality.  

We need a stronger global movement, with more people and institutions committed. We need to translate words into action. This is what more than 500 organizations and communities worldwide are aiming to do through the Land Rights Now initiative. We also need to address concrete cases of land rights violations, for the people affected, and to support systemic change.  

Most of the readers of this blog are already working hard to secure these rights worldwide, as practitioners, officers, researchers, and activists. Often you are at the frontline of land struggles, and even put your life at risk to defend these rights.

The Oxfam  campaign is supporting ongoing national struggles in Honduras, Peru, India, Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Australia. We have highlighted the fight of six brave land rights defenders and the people they represent. These stories tells us something about the bigger picture, and its impact on the life of billions.

Six people, six countries, one message: Land Rights Now!

Sri Lanka - In 2010, Rathnamali and 350 other families of farmers and fisher folk living in Paanama, a coastal village in the east of Sri Lanka, were forcibly evicted from lands they had cultivated and lived on for over forty years. These lands were taken over by the military to establish camps, and they are now being used for luxury tourist resorts. Stand with the community of Paanama.


Peru - Since the 1970s the government of Peru has given companies permission to exploit the region’s oil reserves. The Quechua communities of Nuevo Andoas have been particularly affected, suffering from health and environmental consequences of a poorly regulated extractives industry. Teddy and his community are calling on the government to recognize their land rights. Stand with them.


Australia - The Western Australian government is undermining the rights of Aboriginal landowners in the Kimberley region. Cissy and her community are asking the government to stop this, bring essential services and opportunities to their lands, and pass a new cultural heritage legislation that gives them authority to make decisions affecting their lives.

India- ."The forest guards beat us while we worked on land we’ve protected for generations." said Kandana from the Kutia Kandh Adivasi community in Odisha. The community has lived on the land for generations, but the government ignores their rights and started teak plantations on their lands. The community asks the government to stop dispossession and act upon the 2006 Forest Rights Act, by recognising the rights of the community over their lands. This is their story.

Honduras - Afro-Honduran Garifuna communities are losing their land and cultural identity to palm oil plantations, real estate barons and hotel developers, who are forcibly taking and exploiting their land. Miriam Miranda and the Fraternal Organization of Black People of Honduras are asking the Government to approve a law that would ensure local communities have the right to freely accept or reject new projects that impact their land (FPIC). This is their story. This campaign is part of a wider campaign in Honduras led by women activists on land rights.

Mozambique- In the Gurue district of northern Mozambique, a community of 200 people were thrown off their land by a big company. Namonaro was forced to sign a document she couldn’t read and forced to leave the land immediately. The community was given nowhere to go and no help to find a new home. They are asking local authorities and the government to give them land. This is her story.


Custodians of the Land, Defenders of our future

If you want to learn more, you can read the report: Custodians of the Land, Defenders of our Future: A new era in the global land rush, or the supporting briefing notes on Peru (with FEDIQUEP), Sri Lanka (with PARL), Australia (with the Kimberley Land Council). This report builds on "Common Ground", the flagship report of Land Rights Now, published by Oxfam, the International Land Coalition, and the Rights and Resource Initiative, earlier this year.


Gwendolyn Parami is currently an intern at Oxfam working on Land Rights Now; Luca Miggiano is Land Rights Policy Advisor at Oxfam (@LucaMig)