ILC members use different strategies to create personal and community empowerment. They have used the following guiding steps across regions to protect community land rights.
This "how-to note" is the result of a collective brainstorming exchange that took place during the second workshop of the Community Land Protection Learning Initiative, in July 2019. Members from all over the world contributed to it: RMI, JKPP, RRF, Observatorio Ciudadano, ICCA, IIED and NAMATI. This note is part of a series of five. In this session, participants shared their strategies and practical skills to empower and promote thriving cultural communities.
THE COMMUNITY LAND PROTECTION LEARNING INITIATIVE IS EQUIPPING ILC MEMBERS WITH THE PRACTICAL SKILLS TO EMPOWER COMMUNITIES TO DOCUMENT AND PROTECT THEIR COMMUNITY LAND RIGHTS.
What works to create personal and community empowerment?
Confidence is key
Effective community governance depends on the communities’ confidence in who and what they are, as well as their skills to effect the desired changes. The community has to believe in itself and its cultural identity. Participating in global meetings and interact with leaders further boosts the confidence of community leaders, challenging them to do more for their communities.
Empowerment is critical to our work
Knowledge and the ability to articulate the law alone do not mean empowerment. Empowered communities are able to initiate action. As such, Namati is working with community leaders to demand that the government issues them with land titles. Such actions trigger empowerment for the communities, and inspires other communities as well. Namati also uses the media as a tool to share knowledge and good practices on community actions to defend community land rights, thereby empowering them.
Invest in psychological and emotional empowerment
Psychological and emotional empowerment is the capacity to grow and change through complex challenges. To do this, community members who have attended emotional and psychological training must be confident of their power to effect change. IIED has played an important role in enabling communities to express their power to the fullest. Some of the tools used by IIED include legal literacy, which helps the community to mobilise themselves and take action. To do this, IIED has worked with community leaders – not chiefs, or an elected officials, but people who were willing and able to lead the community is protecting their land rights.
Strengthen the capacities of traditional institutions
Strengthening the capacities of traditional institutions to negotiate with large-scale land investors has assisted rural communities in Liberia to defend their community land rights. RRF works with traditional communities to devise peaceful, traditional strategies for protecting their land rights. Amongst the innovative tools they have used, RRF teaches the communities about their rights, and supports them to assert their rights in dialogue with investors and government officials involved in land concession negotiations.
Invest in multi-stakeholder engagement and peer learning
Multi-stakeholder engagements strengthen state and non-state actors’ roles in generating social change, particularly in the protection of community land rights. RMI works with traditional communities who are strongly rooted in their traditions and culture. The community, living in a conservation area had grievances with the conservation park, as it infringed on their land rights. With the support of RMI, men, women, and youth representatives from the community met with the Deputy Director of Conservation to articulate their grievances. Women have taken the lead in advocating for the protection of their community land rights, despite the patriarchal norms of traditional communities. RMI is also fostering peer-to-peer learning by encouraging the sharing of strategies among communities.
Align CSO and government agendas
The alignment of CSO and government agendas is beneficial to the communities. Mutual CSO-government support has assisted CSOs, who are often without an extensive budget, to do their work effectively. In this light, JKPP’s work in participatory mapping has complemented government efforts in spatial planning. They assist communities to use law, which is the government’s tool, protect their community land rights. JKPP has leveraged this mutually supportive rapport to further the community’s agenda.
Leading from behind
“Leading from behind” is a collaborative and cooperative leadership technique that gives community members the opportunity to contribute to a cause that is larger than their individual needs. OC has worked with communities in Chile to harness this power, by placing resources at the community’s disposal. They have created discussion platforms where the community is joint planning together. For example, in the south of Chile, small communities that were unsatisfied with the salmon farming industry worked together to confront the industry. OC supported the unification of small villages that had the same grievances with the salmon farming industry. They presented the communities with data, showing them the broader context of their plight. The communities collectively took it upon themselves to approach the salmon farming industry and secure their community land rights.
Storytelling assists activists to narrate how they defended their community land rights, motivating other communities to do the same. CSRC, with the support of journalists, held interviews with community members, supported them to write their good practices, and published a book in their names. The books has instilled a sense of ownership and power in the community, as they can relate to the success stories of fellow community members.
Intercultural dialogue platforms
Intercultural dialogue platforms facilitate linkages and common ground between different cultures and communities. In Peru, organisations facilitated a FPIC consultation in response to a proposed project which would divert a river in the Amazon to a new course. Based on their spiritual, ancestral and traditional knowledge on the Amazonian cosmology, the community contributed to the Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessments of the proposed river diversion. Thanks to the intercultural dialogue platforms, their oral traditions are recorded in legal documents, and are legally binding.
CSRC also leads reflection circles where a facilitator selected from the community, receives a week’s training on leading the “reflection circle”. The community meets for two hours weekly to discuss their community concerns, create action plans, and hold larger group discussions, sometimes with the aid of visual diagrams. The essence of the reflection circles is to empower the communities from within, such that they can defend their community land rights without external support.
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