In his introductory remarks, Mr. Olivier De Schutter (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food) pointed out the need to improve tenure security and a more equitable access to land since 1 billion people suffers hunger worldwide and around 80% of them depend on land; research has shown that a more equitable land access leads to economic growth and increases economic efficiency by improving competitiveness of land users and promoting rural employment. Moreover tenure security encourages more sustainable farming, therefore improving adaptation to climate change and enhancing rural population resilience.
Currently four main trends that threaten tenure security for smallholders are under way. First, rural population is expanding and the surface of land cultivated per farmer is consequently shrinking; then, millions of hectares of land available for cultivation are lost per year due to climate change effects; moreover biofuels and agrofuels production is increasing competition for land and, finally, agricultural liberalization is leading to mono-cropping and export crops production which are usually cultivated on a large scale basis
Having recalled the 2004 FAO Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security, and notably Guideline 8 concerning Access to resources and assets, Mr. De Schutter warned that in the domain of tenure security and land access the human rights international framework is currently called to face three main simultaneous challenges:
– to improve tenure security protection while for example avoiding conflict between formal protection/ customary protection, recognizing the different types of rights/land tenure systems and promoting participatory and transparent process of land titling;
– to promote land reforms with a two-fold approach: grant financial compensations and assure a monitoring process through appropriate benchmarks and/or indicators for governments in order to enhance accountability;
– to provide a framework for transnational large-scale land acquisition in which landowners rights are protected from foreign investors and people entitlement to benefit from natural resources is granted.