ESSENTIAL READING FOR BUSINESSES AND INVESTORS
from the VGGT
The following articles specify responsibilities held by companies or represent articles of particular relevance to the private sector. It must be remembered that the VGGT are indivisible; it is a company’s responsibility to understand and consider how all the articles apply to a company’s policies and operations.
2. Nature and scope
These Guidelines should be interpreted and applied consistent with existing obligations under national and international law, and with due regard to voluntary commitments under applicable regional and international instruments. They are complementary to, and support, national, regional and international initiatives that address human rights and provide secure tenure rights to land, fisheries, and forests, and also initiatives to improve governance. Nothing in these Guidelines should be read as limiting or undermining any legal obligations to which a State may be subject under international law.
3. Guiding principles of responsible tenure governance
3A General principles
1. Recognize and respect all legitimate tenure right holders and their rights. They should take reasonable measures to identify, record and respect legitimate tenure right holders and their rights, whether formally recorded or not; to refrain from infringement of tenure rights of others; and to meet the duties associated with tenure rights.
2. Safeguard legitimate tenure rights against threats and infringements. They should protect tenure right holders against the arbitrary loss of their tenure rights, including forced evictions that are inconsistent with their existing obligations under national and international law.
3. Promote and facilitate the enjoyment of legitimate tenure rights. They should take active measures to promote and facilitate the full realization of tenure rights or the making of transactions with the rights, such as ensuring that services are accessible to all.
4. Provide access to justice to deal with infringements of legitimate tenure rights. They should provide effective and accessible means to everyone, through judicial authorities or other approaches, to resolve disputes over tenure rights; and to provide affordable and prompt enforcement of outcomes. States should provide prompt, just compensation where tenure rights are taken for public purposes.
5. Prevent tenure disputes, violent conflicts and corruption. They should take active measures to prevent tenure disputes from arising and from escalating into violent conflicts. They should endeavour to to prevent corruption in all forms, at all levels, and in all settings.
Non-state actors including business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights and legitimate tenure rights. Business enterprises should act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the human rights and legitimate tenure rights of others. They should include appropriate risk management systems to prevent and address adverse impacts on human rights and legitimate tenure rights. Business enterprises should provide for and cooperate in non-judicial mechanisms to provide remedy, including effective operational-level grievance mechanisms, where appropriate, where they have caused or contributed to adverse impacts on human rights and legitimate tenure rights. Business enterprises should identify and assess any actual or potential impacts on human rights and legitimate tenure rights in which they may be involved. States, in accordance with their international obligations, should provide access to effective judicial remedies for negative impacts on human rights and legitimate tenure rights by business enterprises. Where transnational corporations are involved, their home States have roles to play in assisting both those corporations and host States to ensure that businesses are not involved in abuse of human rights and legitimate tenure rights. States should take additional steps to protect against abuses of human rights and legitimate tenure rights by business enterprises that are owned or controlled by the State, or that receive substantial support and service from State agencies.
3B Principles of implementation
These principles of implementation are essential to contribute to responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests
4. Gender equality: Ensure the equal right of women and men to the enjoyment of all human rights, while acknowledging differences between women and men and taking specific measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality when necessary. States should ensure that women and girls have equal tenure rights and access to land, fisheries and forests independent of their civil and marital status.
6. ...Consultation and participation: engaging with and seeking the support of those who, having legitimate tenure rights, could be affected by decisions, prior to decisions being taken, and responding to their contributions; taking into consideration existing power imbalances between different parties and ensuring active, free, effective, meaningful and informed participation of individuals and groups in associated decision-making processes.
4. Rights and responsibilities related to tenure
Based on an examination of tenure rights in line with national law, States should provide legal recognition for legitimate tenure rights not currently protected by law. Policies and laws that ensure tenure rights should be non-discriminatory and gender sensitive. Consistent with the principles of consultation and participation of these Guidelines, States should define through widely publicized rules the categories of rights that are considered legitimate. All forms of tenure should provide all persons with a degree of tenure security which guarantees legal protection against forced evictions that are inconsistent with States’ existing obligations under national and international law, and against harassment and other threats.
States should protect legitimate tenure rights, and ensure that people are not arbitrarily evicted and that their legitimate tenure risks are not otherwise extinguished or infringed.
Given that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests should not only take into account rights that are directly linked to access and use of land, fisheries and forests, but also all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. In doing so, States should respect and protect the civil and political rights of defenders of human rights, including the human rights of peasants, indigenous peoples, fishers, pastoralists and rural workers, and should observe their human rights obligations when dealing with individuals and associations acting in defence of land, fisheries and forests.
5. Policy, legal and organizational frameworks related to tenure
States should consider the particular obstacles faced by women and girls with regard to tenure and associated tenure rights, and take measures to ensure that legal and policy frameworks provide adequate protection for women and that laws that recognize women’s tenure rights are implemented and enforced. States should ensure that women can legally enter into contracts concerning tenure rights on the basis of equality with men and should strive to provide legal services and other assistance to enable women to defend their tenure interests.
6. Delivery of services
States and other parties should consider additional measures to support vulnerable or marginalized groups who could not otherwise access administrative and judicial services. These measures should include legal support, such as affordable legal aid, and may also include the provision of services of paralegals or parasurveyors, and mobile services for remote communities and mobile indigenous peoples.
States and non-state actors should endeavour to prevent corruption with regard to tenure rights. States should do so particularly through consultation and participation, rule of law, transparency and accountability. States should adopt and enforce anti-corruption measures including applying checks and balances, limiting the arbitrary use of power, addressing conflicts of interest and adopting clear rules and regulations. States should provide for the administrative and/or judicial review of decisions of implementing agencies. Staff working on the administration of tenure should be held accountable for their actions. They should be provided with the means of conducting their duties effectively. They should be protected against interference in their duties and from retaliation for reporting acts of corruption.
When States recognize or allocate tenure rights to land, fisheries and forests, they should establish, in accordance with national laws, safeguards to avoid infringing on or extinguishing tenure rights of others, including legitimate tenure rights that are not currently protected by law. In particular, safeguards should protect women and the vulnerable who hold subsidiary tenure rights, such as gathering rights.
8. Public land, fisheries and forests
States should allocate tenure rights and delegate tenure governance in transparent, participatory ways, using simple procedures that are clear, accessible and understandable to all, especially to indigenous peoples and other communities with customary tenure systems. Information in applicable languages should be provided to all potential participants, including through gender-sensitive messages. Where possible, States should ensure that newly allocated tenure rights are recorded with other tenure rights in a single recording system, or are linked by a common framework. States and non-state actors should further endeavour to prevent corruption in the allocation of tenure rights.
9. Indigenous Peoples and other communities with customary tenure systems
States and other parties should hold good faith consultation with indigenous peoples before initiating any project or before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures affecting the resources for which the communities hold rights. Such projects should be based on an effective and meaningful consultation with indigenous peoples, through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their Free, Prior and Informed Consent under the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples and with due regard for particular positions and understandings of individual States. Consultation and decision-making processes should be organized without intimidation and be conducted in a climate of trust. The principles of consultation and participation, as set out in paragraph 3B.6, should be applied in the case of other communities described in this section.
State and non-state actors should strive, where necessary, together with representative institutions of affected communities and in cooperation with affected communities, to provide technical and legal assistance to affected communities to participate in the development of tenure policies, laws and projects in non-discriminatory and gender-sensitive ways.
States should facilitate the operations of efficient and transparent markets to promote participation under equal conditions and opportunities for mutually beneficial transfers of tenure rights which lessen conflict and instability; promote the sustainable use of land, fisheries and forests and conservation of the environment; promote the fair and equitable use of genetic resources associated with land, fisheries and forests in accordance with applicable treaties; expand economic opportunities; and increase participation by the poor. States should take measures to prevent undesirable impacts on local communities, indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups that may arise from, inter alia, land speculation, land concentration and abuse of customary forms of tenure. States and other parties should recognize that values, such as social, cultural and environmental values, are not always well served by unregulated markets. States should protect the wider interests of societies through appropriate policies and laws on tenure.
States and other parties should ensure that information on market transactions and information on market values are transparent and widely publicized, subject to privacy restrictions. States should monitor this information and take action where markets have adverse impacts or discourage wide and equitable market participation.
State and non-state actors should acknowledge that responsible public and private investments are essential to improve food security. Responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests encourages tenure right holders to make responsible investments in these resources, increasing sustainable agricultural production and generating higher incomes. States should promote and support responsible investments in land, fisheries and forests that support broader social, economic and environmental objectives under a variety of farming systems. States should ensure that all actions are consistent with their existing obligations under national and international law, and with due regard to voluntary commitments under applicable regional and international instruments.
Considering that smallholder producers and their organizations in developing countries provide a major share of agricultural investments that contribute significantly to food security, nutrition, poverty eradication and environmental resilience, States should support investments by smallholders as well as public and private smallholder-sensitive investments.
All forms of transactions in tenure rights as a result of investments in land, fisheries and forests should be done transparently in line with relevant national sectoral policies and be consistent with the objectives of social and economic growth and sustainable human development focusing on smallholders.
Responsible investments should do no harm, safeguard against dispossession of legitimate tenure right holders and environmental damage, and should respect human rights. Such investments should be made working in partnership with relevant levels of government and local holders of tenure rights to land, fisheries and forests, respecting their legitimate tenure rights. They should strive to further contribute to policy objectives, such as poverty eradication; food security and sustainable use of land, fisheries and forests; support local communities; contribute to rural development; promote and secure local food production systems; enhance social and economic sustainable development; create employment; diversify livelihoods; provide benefits to the country and its people, including the poor and most vulnerable; and comply with national laws and international core labour standards as well as, when applicable, obligations related to standards of the International Labour Organization.
States should, with appropriate consultation and participation, provide transparent rules on the scale, scope and nature of allowable transactions in tenure rights and should define what constitutes large-scale transactions in tenure rights in their national context.
States should provide safeguards to protect legitimate tenure rights, human rights, livelihoods, food security and the environment from risks that could arise from large-scale transactions in tenure rights. Such safeguards could include introducing ceilings on permissible land transactions and regulating how transfers exceeding a certain scale should be approved, such as by parliamentary approval. States should consider promoting a range of production and investment models that do not result in the large-scale transfer of tenure rights to investors, and should encourage partnerships with local tenure right holders.
In the case of indigenous peoples and their communities, States should ensure that all actions are consistent with their existing obligations under national and international law, and with due regard to voluntary commitments under applicable regional and international instruments, including as appropriate from the International Labour Organization Convention (No 169) concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. States and other parties should hold good faith consultation with indigenous peoples before initiating any investment project affecting the resources for which the communities hold rights. Such projects should be based on an effective and meaningful consultation with members of indigenous peoples as described in paragraph 9.9. The principles of consultation and participation of these Guidelines should be applied for investments that use the resources of other communities.
States should make provision for investments involving all forms of transactions of tenure rights, including acquisitions and partnership agreements, to be consistent with the principles of consultation and participation of these Guidelines, with those whose tenure rights, including subsidiary rights, might be affected. States and other relevant parties should inform individuals, families and communities of their tenure rights, and assist to develop their capacity in consultations and participation, including providing professional assistance as required.
When investments involving large-scale transactions of tenure rights, including acquisitions and partnership agreements, are being considered, States should strive to make provisions for different parties to conduct prior independent assessments on the potential positive and negative impacts that those investments could have on tenure rights, food security and the progressive realization of the right to adequate food, livelihoods and the environment. States should ensure that existing legitimate tenure rights and claims, including those of customary and informal tenure, are systematically and impartially identified, as well as the rights and livelihoods of other people also affected by the investment, such as small-scale producers. This process should be conducted through consultation with all affected parties consistent with the principles of consultation and participation of these Guidelines. States should ensure that existing legitimate tenure rights are not compromised by such investments.
Contracting parties should provide comprehensive information to ensure that all relevant persons are engaged and informed in the negotiations, and should seek that the agreements are documented and understood by all who are affected. The negotiation process should be non-discriminatory and gender sensitive.
Investors have the responsibility to respect national law and legislation and recognize and respect tenure rights of others and the rule of law in line with the general principle for non-state actors as contained in these Guidelines. Investments should not contribute to food insecurity and environmental degradation.
States and affected parties should contribute to the effective monitoring of the implementation and impacts of agreements involving large-scale transactions in tenure rights, including acquisitions and partnership agreements. States should take corrective action where necessary to enforce agreements and protect tenure and other rights and provide mechanisms whereby aggrieved parties can request such action.
16. Expropriation and compensation
Subject to their national law and legislation and in accordance with national context, States should expropriate only where rights to land, fisheries or forests are required for a public purpose. States should clearly define the concept of public purpose in law, in order to allow for judicial review. States should ensure that all actions are consistent with their national law as well as their existing obligations under national and international law, and with due regard to voluntary commitments under applicable regional and international instruments. They should respect all legitimate tenure right holders, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups, by acquiring the minimum resources necessary and promptly providing just compensation in accordance with national law.
States should ensure a fair valuation and prompt compensation in accordance with national law. Among other forms, the compensation may be, for example, in cash, rights to alternative areas, or a combination.
Where the land, fisheries and forests are not needed due to changes of plans, States should give the original right holders the first opportunity to re-acquire these resources. In such a case the re-acquisition should take into consideration the amount of compensation received in return for the expropriation.
All parties should endeavour to prevent corruption, particularly through use of objectively assessed values, transparent and decentralized processes and services, and a right to appeal.
Where evictions are considered to be justified for a public purpose as a result of expropriation of land, fisheries and forests, States should conduct such evictions and treat all affected parties in a manner consistent with their relevant obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights.
States should, prior to eviction or shift in land use which could result in depriving individuals and communities from access to their productive resources, explore feasible alternatives in consultation with the affected parties, consistent with the principles of these Guidelines, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimizing, the need to resort to evictions.
Evictions and relocations should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, States should, to the extent that resources permit, take appropriate measures to provide adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, fisheries and forests, as the case may be.
26. Promotion, implementation, monitoring and evaluation
All parties, including civil society organizations and the private sector, are encouraged to use collaborative efforts to promote and implement these Guidelines in accordance with national priorities and contexts. All parties are encouraged to disseminate information on responsible tenure governance in order to improve practices.