Global UN-backed land use guidelines approved

The UN-backed guidelines have been in the works for three years, driven by concerns that countries such as China and Gulf Arab states and private investors are buying land in Africa and Asia to secure resources at the expense of local people.

Global UN-backed land use guidelines approved

 World Bulletin/News Desk

The world's governments approved new guidelines for rules on land use on Friday to protect the poor and fight hunger, but aid groups said they were too weak to stop large-scale land grabs by big business in underdeveloped countries.

The UN-backed guidelines have been in the works for three years, driven by concerns that countries such as China and Gulf Arab states and private investors are buying land in Africa and Asia to secure resources at the expense of local people.

"What is missing the most in terms of land grabbing is a clear condemnation of this practice. That was one of the baseline demands of civil society," Stephane Parmentier from aid agency Oxfam told Reuters.

"It was impossible to include it, because it was too sensitive and too controversial for quite a lot of member states."

The voluntary code of conduct promotes equal rights for women in securing title to land and says states should ensure poor people have access to transparent record-keeping and legal help during land disputes.

"It's a starting point that will help improve the often dire situation of the hungry and poor," the head of the U.N's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva, said at a news conference in Rome.

He said the guidelines should prompt revisions of national and international law.

Aid groups said the text would be a useful benchmark for campaigning on behalf of rural communities but was too weak to protect small farmers' rights during large-scale land acquisitions.

A spike in food prices in 2007-2008 sparked a wave of land deals as food-importing countries and big agricultural businesses sought to guarantee their supplies and protect themselves from price volatility.

Ninety six countries worked with non-governmental groups, the U.N. and private sector bodies to come up with the guidelines.

Talks will now begin on a separate set of principles for "responsible agricultural investment" proposed by the World Bank, FAO and other U.N. agencies but yet to be adopted.

The principles state that potential investments should respect existing land rights and not jeopardise food security and that all those materially affected should be consulted.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Mayıs 2012, 16:49

Muhammed Öylek

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