By showcasing the rampant injustices communities faced, this report aims to shed light on how to more effectively address such imbalances of power and strengthen global efforts to protect community land rights.
In many countries, communities are increasingly approached by international investors or government agencies seeking land for logging, mining, agribusiness, infrastructures or other projects. Unfortunately, consultations are often characterized by significant power imbalances even when the free, prior informed consent (FPIC) promoted under UNDRIP (Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) is applied. Indeed, when government officials are present, communities may feel that they have no choice but to accept. Additionally, corruption can be a factor, as external actors may seek only the consent of local leaders rather than the full community. Finally, consent for a proposed project may be requested without declaring potential negative impacts on the environment, economy, health, and wellness.
To address such power and information imbalances, NAMATI - which co-leads the Community Land Protection Learning Initiative with ILC and IIED - has identified a number of actions for CSOs working directly with communities.
download the report "The Challenge of Protecting Community Land Rights: An Investigation into Community Responses to Requests for Land and Resources"
Community-investor advice hotline
Establish a community-investor advice hotline and emergency response protocol that enables communities to seek and receive immediate legal advice and support when they are first approached by an outside actor seeing community lands and natural resources.
Pro bono lawyers and paralegals
Work with other civil society groups and the national lawyer association to create a cadre of pro bono lawyers, paralegals and advocates trained to be available to support communities in interactions with companies and powerful government officials. These lawyers may provide legal support by phone, but ultimately, communities negotiating land transactions need an advocate physically present in meetings where they are agreeing to share their land.
Advocate that national laws mandate that no community-investor deal is valid unless it has been recorded in writing and documented in a signed contract that has been reviewed and witnessed by an attorney representing the community.
Provide specialised training and resources for community leaders and local land governance bodies who hold the primary responsibility for navigating and responding to external requests for community lands. Support communities – in advance of any investor requests – to more comprehensively address how they will respond to requests for use of their lands and resources in their bylaws.
Prepare short, low-literacy guides detailing how communities can best protect their rights and interests when responding to investors’ requests, and circulate them widely. Go on the radio and talk about what to do if an investor approaches, commission musicians to write songs, hire billboards, etc.
Work to empower community youth, who may have less fear of speaking out. Convene special meetings for youth to train them on their community’s land rights in the context of external investment; help them create “watchdog groups” to act as sentinels for bad faith actions by government officials, investors - or community leaders who may fail to adequately protect the community’s land rights.
To ensure that community members don't see external investment as their only avenue to prosperity, support communities to create an action plan to themselves leverage their land to achieve long-term community growth and prosperity on their own terms.
NAMATI CO-LEADS WITH IIED AND THE INTERNATIONAL LAND COALITION THE "COMMUNITY LAND PROTECTION LEARNING INITIATIVE"