The land and forest rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities are recognised, enabling these groups to thrive and expand the sustainable management and protection of their forests and lands across the developing world for the betterment of themselves, their environments, countries, and the global community. At the same time, the Tenure Facility becomes an effective instrument for demonstrating best practice in development assistance and inspiring more commitment and action to secure community land rights.
The International Land and Forest Tenure Facility is a non-profit organisation that provides grants to secure the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to their lands and forests, thereby strengthening their communities and reducing global climate change and poverty in forest areas in the world.
The Tenure Facility is a result of deep consultations with Indigenous Peoples, local communities, other financial mechanisms and civil society since 2012. The organisation was launched in 2014 by the Rights and Resources Group (RRG), the coordinating mechanism of the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). A multi- stakeholder Advisory Group guided the initial pilot phase from 2014-2017. During this phase, six pilot projects demonstrated the effectiveness of strategically deployed funds to foster coordination between civil society and government in order to implement reforms and remove bottlenecks to secure the rights and livelihoods of communities. In addition, the pilots provided lessons to fine-tune working modalities of the new mechanism.
In late 2016 the Tenure Facility began its transition from an initiative under RRG to an independent legal entity. An international Board of Directors was established prior to the formal registration of the Tenure Facility as a Swedish Collecting Foundation (Insamlingstiftelse) in January 2017. Importantly, several major financial commitments were made to the Tenure Facility from key donors in 2017, thus giving the transition impetus to fully establish operations swiftly and according to legal and donor standards. During the remainder of 2017, significant progress was made in transitioning the Tenure Facility from RRG to the secretariat of the new institution in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2017 an independent external evaluation conducted by Universalia found the Tenure Facility to be a relevant and valuable emerging institution that was flexible and responsive to constituent needs. Moreover, the evaluation found that the pilot projects were producing promising early results to increase land tenure security. In order to ensure the transition from RRG to the new Swedish institution complied with law and best practice, Ernst & Young (EY) completed a system audit of the readiness of the Tenure Facility in 2018. EY’s final report confirmed that the Tenure Facility had achieved readiness and has in place compliant processes and internal controls.
As of January 2020, there are 15 full time staff in the Tenure Facility secretariat ́s office, backed up by external consultants and a wider network of collaborating partners.
Why a ’Financial Mechanism’?
In the current climate, and with mounting pressure on indigenous lands, there is an urgent need for larger dedicated funds for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, to support documentation and registration of their land rights.
In recent years there has been a growing demand from governments, the development cooperation community, private investors and companies for enhanced solutions to tackle insecure tenure in rural and forested areas.
More than 2.5 billion people from Indigenous Peoples and local communities live on and manage more than 50% of the world’s land area through customary or traditional systems, including some of the most important and biodiverse forest areas in the world. Despite existing laws that secure their rights, they have formal legal ownership of only 10% of this land, with some degree of government-recognised management rights over an additional 8%.
When indigenous and local community rights are not recognised by governments or are insecure, poverty, environmental degradation, and conflict result. Moreover, these rights are often contested, leading to human rights abuses and conflict between communities, and with governments, companies, and immigrant settlers. A chronically unmet need for financial and technical assistance has hindered progress on human rights, sustainable development, agriculture, forest conservation, and responding to climate change. Moreover, it constrains the ability of the international community to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Global leaders from all sectors are increasingly aware that tenure security is a prerequisite for achieving national and international goals for forest governance, food security, climate mitigation, economic development, and human rights. This can only happen if sufficient funding is available to indigenous communities and organisations, to support initiatives that will concretely advance their land rights.
Where Indigenous Peoples and local communities have secure rights to manage their forests, there is less deforestation than under other management regimes, reducing the vulnerability of both forests and communities. Research also shows that secure land and forest tenure for communities is both effective in mitigating climate change, as well as cost-effective – providing economic and social benefits at a reasonable financial cost. Secure local land rights are increasingly recognised as a low-cost strategy to reduce forest carbon emissions; a means to reduce financial risk to investments and secure a sustainable supply of commodities; and a basic human right for the people whose lives and livelihoods rely on local resources.
New opportunities to increase the land and resources owned and managed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities are being made possible by improved technology for mapping and land demarcation, implementation of international and national human rights frameworks, and growing consensus behind evidence of the tangible social, environmental, climate, and economic benefits associated with collective ownership of resources. Never before have so many stakeholders been aligned to this common agenda. This alignment creates a unique opportunity to secure the fundamental rights and livelihoods of millions of the world’s poorest and most marginalised women and men, whist simultaneously achieving global climate, environmental, and sustainable investment goals.
The Tenure Facility meets this requirement, offering trusted, flexible mechanisms, with a singular focus on direct financing of land and forest tenure work by Indigenous Peoples’ and local community organisations. Our initial pilot projects have demonstrated the effectiveness of our approach. Our roots within the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), through the Washington-based Rights and Resources Group (RRG), give us a high level of expertise to work together with communities to craft impactful and cost-effective ways to expand and strengthen their land rights, whilst also supporting them to continue as guardians of some of the world’s most precious forestlands.