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The VGGT and business responsibilities

The VGGT and business responsibilities

Thanks to the extensive consultation and negotiation process leading up to their endorsement in 2012, the VGGT represent generally agreed principles and standards for how states and non-state actors, such as companies and NGOs, should act to improve land and forest tenure governance. Their content is guided by an acknowledgement that tenure governance in much of the world fails to respect and protect the rights of some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized citizens. In the broadest terms, the VGGT emphasize the following priorities for states and companies:

Principle Content
Respect for legitimate land tenure rights:

Article

3.2

4.5

7.1

12.4

12.6

States and companies have a responsibility to respect and protect the legitimate land and forest tenure rights held by communities and households (Articles 3.2, 4.5, 7.1, 12.4, and 12.6);
Do no harm:

Article

12.12

All actions by governments and companies should refrain from doing harm to local and national food security and environmental health (Article 12.12);
Support for smallholders:

Article

12.2

12.6

States should support smallholders, specifically the promotion of investment models that do not result in the transfer of tenure rights to investors (Articles 12.2 and 12.6)
Broad based consultation:

Article

12.9

12.7

9.9

Guaranteeing broad-based community consultation and partici- pation, including provision for informing all impacted community members of their tenure rights, assisting in the development of community capacity, and provision of professional assistance in the consultation process, as might be required (Article 12.9). In the case of Indigenous Peoples, consultation and participation should include obtaining Free, Prior and Informed Consent from host communities (Articles 12.7 and 9.9).
Land and forest tenure due diligence and impact assessments:

Article

12.10

Companies should include thorough due diligence on the tenure rights existing in areas where they plan to operate or in areas where they already operate. Included in this due diligence, companies should hire independent experts to conduct social and environmental impact assessments that include an assessment of the positive and negative impacts that the investment will have on tenure rights, food security, livelihoods, and the environment (Article 12.10).
Accountability, monitoring and enforcement

Article

8.9

3.2

12.14

States and companies should be held account- able for their actions that affect tenure rights and food security. Companies should take ac- tions to prevent corruption in their business practices, especially related to the allocation of land tenure rights (Article 8.9). Providing effective monitoring and enforcement provisions, including appropriate dispute resolution and grievance mechanisms, is essential to upholding the intent of the VGGT (Articles 3.2 and 12.14).

Each application of the standards included in the VGGT will be shaped by the local realities present in a country or investment area. However, we can characterize the expected outcomes generated when companies act consistently with the VGGT as such:

Expected outcomes

  • Companies have integrated the required skills and knowledge to assess land and forest tenure rights in areas where they or their suppliers operate.
  • Host communities have played an active role in negotiating land and forest use or sales with companies and governments.
  • Women’s legitimate tenure rights are respected and strengthened. Women participate in decision-making and benefit-sharing related to land and forest use.
  • Local and national food security objectives are met with smallholders playing a key role.
  • Companies have played a constructive role in preventing environmental degradation.
  • Companies have engaged national and local governments to protect the legitimate tenure rights of host communities.
  • Grievances by host communities against companies or governments related to land and forest tenure rights or food security have been addressed speedily and equitably.