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Press Release: Church alliances recognize significant step on natural resource governance

9. May 2012

    The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) and Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) express their appreciation to the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) as it gathers on 11 May to give final approval to a set of Voluntary Guidelines (VG) on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests.

    The final text of the Voluntary Guidelines, completed on 9 March, was the result of a three-year comprehensive, wide-ranging and inclusive multi-stakeholder process. It will serve as the benchmark for law- and policy-makers on tenure of land and related resources, and a useful tool for the promotion of food security and just and sustainable investment.

    “We commend the collective efforts of everyone involved in this process for confronting one of the most important and challenging issues of our time – safeguarding access of vulnerable peoples to natural resources,” states Peter Prove, EAA Executive Director. “This is a significant step forward, providing one more piece in the puzzle of eliminating poverty, hunger and marginalization.”

    “EAA and EWN believe that priority should be given to the protection of livelihoods of smallholder food producers, pastoralists, artisanal fisherman, forest dwellers and indigenous communities,” says Christine Campeau, coordinator of the EAA's Food for Life Campaign. “This means that all decisions affecting these communities should be undertaken in collaboration with, understood by, and in full agreement with all relevant persons involved.”

    “One of strong elements in the Voluntary Guidelines is the emphasis given to the need for effective monitoring of land tenure arrangements before, during and after the implementation of investment projects to assess their impact, and on the responsibility of governments to take corrective actions when necessary,” notes Campeau. "However, monitoring alone is not enough: it is also critical that governments prevent land transfers that are harmful to the local population."

    “We are satisfied to see that the final version of the Voluntary Guidelines recognises the importance of small scale food producers, although this is only the first step,” says Malcolm Damon, Director of the Economic Justice Network of Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA) and chair of the EAA’s Food Strategy Group. “It also calls on governments to ensure that all public and private investments are environmentally sustainable and strengthen food security, while emphasising the special needs of vulnerable and marginalized people.”

    “Yet”, Damon concludes, “these guidelines can only help eliminate hunger if they are actually and fully implemented.”

    There is also considerable disappointment that water is only mentioned in the preface of the final text. EWN and EAA had joined in calling for the governance of water resources also to be addressed in the Voluntary Guidelines.

    “We encourage the CFS to call for a study by a High Level Panel of Experts to further explore the links between water rights regimes and land tenure rights, to ensure an integrated approach to the management of these two vital resources. The use of water for food production by small-scale farmers needs to be prioritized, while ensuring protection of drinking water from over-exploitation and pollution,” says Mr Dinesh Suna, Church's Auxiliary For Social Action (CASA) in India and co-chair of the International Reference Group of EWN.

    EAA and EWN members and partners were actively engaged in the drafting process of the Voluntary Guidelines and will continue to advocate with national governments to align their policies with these recommendations to ensure that land justice, global food security, the protection of basic human rights and the biodiversity of the planet are protected and promoted.

    EAA’s Food for Life campaign brings together millions of Christians around the world in support of smallholder farmers, whose production capacity is the foundation of food security in much of the developing world, but whose interests are routinely ignored in relevant policy and practice. The EWN is a network of churches and church-related organizations – based at the World Council of Churches – that promotes the preservation, responsible management and equitable distribution of water.

    Joint Civil Society Statement on Voluntary Guidelines (EN)


    For more information contact: Sara Speicher, sspeicher@e-alliance.ch, +44 7821 860 723


The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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