Why the World Bank is Neither Monitoring Nor Complying with the FAO Guidelines on Responsible Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests

Sofía Monsalve Suárez and Zoe Brent | 10.25.2014

From: Keeping Land Local: Reclaiming governance from the market, LRAN Briefing Paper Series No. 3 (October 2014)

Around the world, peasants, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and fisher folk are facing increased threats of displacement and dispossession. The confluence of the food, financial and climate crises has further exaggerated pressures on land and forests, spurring land grabs, green grabs and countless conflicts over natural resources. The deepening “ecological hoofprint” resulting from expanding industrial meat production and the corresponding demand for animal feed, along with the boom in biofuels production, are key drivers of these dynamics around the world. Meanwhile, the World Bank’s 2008 report on agriculture for development ramps up support for “new agriculture” based on the same corporate model of industrial production—what McMichael calls “new wine in old bottles”—a development project that squeezes rural farming economies toward concentrated control by corporate actors and pushes small-scale producers off of their land.

Systems of local and national governance of land and other natural resources are currently undergoing a process of far-reaching transformation as well. A key feature of this transformation process is the increasing involvement of (trans)national and (inter) national corporate business actors, frameworks and institutions in local and national decision making processes that relate to and have an impact on natural resource governance. In many cases, this increasing involvement and influence undermines efforts to democratize control over natural resources in a way that prioritizes the interests, identities and aspirations of poor, marginalized and vulnerable peoples. However, as new patterns of interaction between local, national and international actors are emerging, so also are new opportunities and needs for multi-level forms of governance. In this changing and uncertain setting, grassroots groups and people’s organizations are struggling to define new forms of accountability and control over natural resource governance on their own terms.

The World Bank claims to be working in accordance with the Tenure Guidelines and refers to its Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) as their major contribution to the implementation and the monitoring of the Tenure Guidelines.

To this end, over the last two decades, rural working peoples’ social movements have been increasingly active at the global level and addressing international sites of power and decision-making. Transnational movements representing rural women, peasants and family farmers, fishing communities, indigenous peoples, landless people, pastoralists, forest communities, youth, and other civil society organizations have been able to articulate common demands for equitable and sustainable access to and control over natural resources for food production. The approval of the FAO Guidelines on Responsible Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in 2012 is a major milestone, which is the result of years of social mobilization around this broad range of issues.

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At the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996, movements presented the vision of food sovereignty and recalled the essential role of agrarian reform and comprehensive rural development policies in combating hunger. During the International Conference for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) organized by the FAO in March of 2006 in Brazil, in which agrarian movements actively participated influencing the outcomes, governments committed to applying a participatory approach based on economic, social and cultural rights for the equitable management of land, water, forests and other natural resources within the context of national legal frameworks, focusing on sustainable development and overcoming inequalities in order to eradicate hunger and poverty. At the International Forum on Food Sovereignty (Nyéléni) in Mali in 2007, social movements and other civil society organizations (CSOs) continued building a common vision regarding the use and management of natural resources in which the rights to territory and selfdetermination are guaranteed for all peoples. In April of 2010, during the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia, participants delineated the foundations of alternative models of interaction between human beings and nature—seen as a single, interconnected system —in order to forge a new system that reestablishes the harmony between people and the environment.