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USAID Welcomes Guidelines on Land Governance, Property Rights
May 15, 2012

14 May 2012

A man holding a land document
A man holds his land lease certificate shortly after a ceremony in Lesotho.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) May 11 welcomed a U.N. panel’s endorsement of voluntary guidelines and practices that can help countries establish laws and policies that better govern land, fisheries and forests tenure rights.The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security were endorsed by the United Nations Committee on World Food Security in Rome, and aim to support food security and sustainable development.

“The U.S. supports policies that create more transparent, accountable, accessible, predictable and stable access to land, which will enable private sector investment,” said Gregory Myers, USAID senior adviser for land tenure and property rights and chairman of the guidelines negotiation process. “The Voluntary Guidelines give countries a much-needed mechanism to protect rights and promote good land governance in a way that will encourage sustainable and responsible investment.”

Around the world, women in particular face major obstacles in accessing and obtaining rights to land. In many instances, a woman’s right to land comes through marriage and can be lost if her spouse dies. Where implemented, the voluntary guidelines will bring clarity of tenure rights for all people and will especially affect the lives of women, USAID said.

Secure tenure rights create better environments for investments in agriculture, reduce land-related conflicts, promote improved natural resource management and address challenges related to climate change, USAID said. Nations that consult the voluntary guidelines when drafting their property rights laws and regulations may achieve many of these benefits, the agency added.

The United States is actively supporting improvements in land governance that strengthen the land and resource rights of local people and communities. In the past five years, USAID has funded $200 million in land tenure programming in 30 countries around the world.

The voluntary guidelines are the result of an unprecedented negotiation process that featured broad consultation and participation by 96 national governments, more than 25 civil society organizations, the private sector, nonprofit groups, and farmers’ associations over the course of almost three years.

The text of the voluntary guidelines is available on the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization website.