Media backgrounder

The Tenure Facility is the first and only international, multi-stakeholder financial mechanism exclusively focused on securing land and forest rights for Indigenous Peoples and local communities. It provides grants to implement tenure rights under existing law and policy and shares the knowledge, innovations and tools that emerge. Launched in 2014 by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the Tenure Facility is dedicated to scaling up recognition of collective land and forest rights globally. This helps reduce conflict and further the achievement of global human rights, environment, and development goals. The Tenure Facility is an international foundation registered in Sweden.

Scaling up recognition of indigenous and community land and forest rights

Indigenous Peoples and local communities supported by the Tenure Facility in its first two years of operations have advanced collective tenure security over almost 1,800,000 hectares of land and forest. Their achievements prove that with funding and technical support, indigenous and community organizations can achieve significant results in a short period of time.
Secure tenure rights are crucial to global security

Secure tenure rights are crucial to global security

  • At least 1.5 billion people from Indigenous Peoples and local communities live on and manage more than 50% of the world’s land area in customary or traditional systems. Despite existing laws that secure their rights, they have formal legal ownership of just 10%.
  • The results: poverty, environmental degradation, conflict, and human rights abuses.
  • Securing the land and forest tenure rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities benefits everyone by providing a foundation for achieving sustainable development, addressing climate goals and reducing conflict at a reasonable cost.
  • Tenure security is a prerequisite for achieving national and international goals for forest governance, food security, climate mitigation, economic development, and human rights.

Facts on land and forest tenure

The big picture

Tenure and conflict

  • Indigenous Peoples and local communities only have secure legal ownership over 10% of the world’s land, despite having customary claims to at least 50%. The violence against communities and Indigenous Peoples, particularly women, cannot be separated from their struggle for their lands, territories, and resources.
  • Conflict over customary land rights contributed to all but three of the 30 plus armed conflicts in Africa between 1990 and 2009.
  • In 10 of 12 of the world’s fragile states, more than 99.9 % of the land is owned either by the government or the private sector.
  • The murder of Indigenous Peoples and local communities has increased in recent years. Prosecutions are rare and impunity widespread. In 2016, Global Witness documented a record 200 killings of land and environmental defenders, 40% of whom were indigenous community activists, mainly in remote forest locations.
  • Mining, logging, agriculture, and dam projects can be significant drivers of conflicts that can result in the murder of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
  • A review of 73,000 concessions in 10 emerging frontier markets suggests that there are people present in more than 93% of concession territories across all sectors and countries. Indigenous Peoples and local communities may refuse to leave their traditional territories, many of which have been customarily owned for generations, inevitably leading to conflict with concessionaires.
  • Indigenous Peoples and local communities have been evicted in the name of conservation. A Survival International report estimates that “many millions of people either have been evicted from their homes or currently live with the threat of eviction hanging over them, in the name of conservation.” The idea that protected areas should be devoid of people has fed a century of forced evictions, imprisonments, and murders of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
  • Ignoring the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities is bad for business. Unresolved conflicts over land tenure significantly increase the financial risks for companies in infrastructure, mining, agriculture and forestry; they can increase operating costs to as much as 29 times normal and lead to the abandonment of up-and-running operations

Tenure and climate change

  • Indigenous Peoples and local communities offer some of the most promising solutions to climate change, as they have been sustainably managing their forests for generations.
  • 2016 research revealed that indigenous and community forestlands hold at least one quarter of all above-ground tropical forest carbon, 54,546 million metric tons, which is equivalent to four times the total global carbon emissions in 2014. At least one tenth of the carbon stored in the world’s tropical forests—22,322 million metric tons—is in community forests that lack formal, legal recognition. Insecure rights threaten communities, the forests they protect, and ultimately the world’s ability to deliver on the Paris Agreement. Community managed-forests outperform state-run protected areas by most measures of ecological value.
  • Indigenous Peoples and local communities are among the most at-risk from climate change. Because many Indigenous Peoples and local communities live in fragile ecosystems and are often dependent on their lands for their livelihoods, they are affected by climate change more severely than many others and are at greater risk of displacement by natural catastrophes.
  • Indigenous Peoples are already among the world’s most vulnerable due to their overrepresentation among the world’s most poor and marginalized: they make up just 5% of the global population but account for 15% of the world’s poorest people. Climate change poses serious additional threats to the rights to self-determination and development, as well as to the rights to food, water, land, territories, resources, and traditional livelihoods and cultures.
  • Deforestation and other land uses now account for about 11% of global carbon emissions, which are driving climate change and its dangerous effects. Research shows that forests managed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities store more carbon than non-community forests, and that when Indigenous Peoples and local communities have secure rights and government support, they can protect their forests and the carbon they contain.
  • A study of 80 forested areas in 10 countries in South Asia, East Africa, and Latin America found that community-owned and managed forests have lower deforestation rates and greater carbon storage. It also indicated that deforestation rates are dramatically lower in legally recognized community forests.

Tenure and poverty: Secure land rights can make a difference for the world’s poorest families (Landesa)

Research shows that clarifying and securing land rights can:

  • Increase agricultural production by 60%
  • Double investment in property improvements
  • Increase number of hours worked by 17%
  • Increase annual family incomes by 150%
  • Double high school graduation rates
  • Reduce teen pregnancy rates by half

Tenure and women: Strengthening women’s poverty rights is the single most effective intervention for enabling women to overcome poverty (Landesa)

  • Women with strong property and inheritance rights earn up to 3.5 times more income
  • Families where women own more land devote more of their budget to education
  • Where women’s property and inheritance rights are stronger women’s individual savings are up to 35% greater
  • Children whose mothers own land are up to 33% less likely to be severely underweight
  • Women who own land are up to 8 times less likely to experience domestic violence
  • Children in households where women own land are up to 10% less likely to be sick