18 May 2021
Governance, Policy & Institutional Strengthening
Research & Analysis
Gender, Community & Inclusion
Posted18 May 2021
Recent global disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the dependence of Mekong region communities on land and forest resources. More widely recognised than ever, secure tenure and access to land and forests are preconditions for sustainable management and the production of positive social and environmental outcomes. Despite important advances in securing tenure and access rights in the Mekong, much remains to be done, particularly with respect to the recognition of customary tenure rights in forest areas and the opportunities and challenges arising from agribusiness investments.
The Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) project, together with our partners at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Land Portal, will organise the 3rd Mekong Regional Land Forum (MRLF2021) in the coming weeks, entitled “Land tenure in Mekong forest landscapes: advancing the recognition of customary rights and responsible investment practices”. This forum will bring together reform-minded actors within and beyond the region to engage in in-depth, interactive debate on issues that cut to the core of the most pressing challenges facing tenure security in forest areas and the impacts of agribusiness investment.
In the past, MRLG successfully organized two Regional Land Forums, first in Hanoi in 2016 and the second, co-organized with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Bangkok in 2018. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel and gathering, MRLF2021 will be organised online during 26 – 27 May 2021, linking global participants with those from the Mekong region. All main sessions will be in English, simultaneously translated in four languages: Khmer, Lao, Myanmar and Vietnamese. Breakout Groups will be conducted in both English and local languages.
This two-day forum will focus on the customary tenure rights, demystifying of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) in Mekong forest landscapes.
What is customary tenure and why the tenure rights are important for smallholder farmers?
Customary tenure is the set of rules and norms that govern how communities allocate, manage, utilize, and benefit from their natural resources. While customary tenure has been practiced in communities for generations, it is often not formally documented or recognized by national laws. Thus, collectively-managed and other customary areas are often subject to many different claims and interests, not only from communities but also from state agencies and the private sector, which creates a vexing problem with numerous risks. It is clear that robust approaches for addressing this gap are both necessary and urgent.
FPIC: Tools to support development, avoid conflict and respect community rights
The Principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) have been in existence for many years. FPIC is sometimes considered challenging for governments and for companies as it is perceived as time consuming and costly. However, many FPIC principles are already found within existing policies, regulatory mechanisms and company procedures, even if not referred to by name. Community resource rights can be protected in the context of investments or conservation initiatives when communities are properly included and consulted as part of planning processes. The principles of FPIC are intended to offer a practical approach for investors and governments, to avoid disputes over land and resource claims, ensure that the voices of communities are heard, and the rights of communities are protected.
Responsible Agricultural Investment in Mekong forest landscapes
Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) requires the cooperation of key stakeholders: communities and farmers’ organisations, companies, and government, particularly local authorities. There has been a rapid expansion in agribusiness investments and commodity crops across the Mekong region over the past decades. While this has opened new opportunities for farmers, it has also exposed them to new risks relating to market conditions and uncertainties, impacts from the increased use of chemical inputs and, in many cases, exploitation by investors due to power disparities and weak regulation. The forum will discuss the ASEAN Guidelines on Responsible Investment in Food, Agriculture and Forestry (ASEAN-RAI), challenges investors face in applying RAI, and how can they be supported through policy and practice.
This two-day forum will include expert review of these topics, including case study presentations and panel discussion by experts and government representatives. Breakout groups will allow further discussion and debate as well as the sharing of participants’ experiences and ideas. We anticipate that the forum will produce novel insights into these issues, enable and promote collective action, and instigate further efforts to improve land and forest tenure security for smallholders in the Mekong Region.
Who should participate in this forum?
Representatives from government agencies, the private sector, civil society, development agencies, academia, researchers, students and individuals who are concerned about the future of the Mekong, its people, and the environment.
For more information, please visit https://landportal.org/event/2021/04/3rd-mekong-regional-land-forum
Or contact: Neil Sorensen, Land Portal Communications Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Sangwan Sapma, Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) Communications Officer at email@example.com