Women and Grassroots at the 2017 World Bank Land & Poverty Conference
Taking on the theme “Responsible Land Governance: Towards an Evidence-Based Approach,” the 18th Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty was held on 21-24 March 2017 in Washington, DC. Huairou Commission staff and delegates representing Uganda Community Based Association for Child Welfare (UCOBAC), GROOTS Kenya, and Espaço Feminista, joined more than 1,200 participants from over 130 countries, to help move the global land agenda forward.
To kick off the week, the Huairou team joined its land partners in two main pre-conference workshops. On March 19th, UN-Habitat Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) convened an informal workshop on the Gender Evaluation Criteria (GEC), to begin the process of updating the tool with lessons learned from 7 years of implementation. The team next participated in a workshop by the International Land Coalition (ILC) on March 19th and 20th, focused on building a dashboard for the organization to monitor its commitment to people-centered land governance.
During the conference itself, the Huairou delegation championed a grassroots perspective on land rights at various events. In the session “Traditional institutions’ role to document communal rights,” Fridah Githuku (GROOTS Kenya) reminded the audience that undocumented, customary land arrangements are still predominant in most African countries. In communities where this is the practice, tenure rights could become insecure, especially as global competition for productive land and valuable natural resources increases. Her paper “A statutory framework for the documentation and codification of customary and informal land rights regimes” highlights that urgent action is needed to document customary land, to strengthen its equitable governance, and to integrate both customary and statutory laws in order to protect community land rights. The ensuing discussion stressed the importance of mapping communal land and resources, and called for greater partnership between government and communities (especially indigenous populations) on land use and governance.
Fridah additionally chaired the session on “Marshalling grassroots support to strengthen local rights.” Panelists examined case studies from grassroots-led interventions in Africa and Asia, including: gender-sensitive implementation and monitoring of the African Union’s framework and guidelines for land policy, civil society interventions to support rural Tanzanian women to negotiate and mediate their land claims, efforts to strengthen women’s knowledge of land rights and their related advocacy in Vietnam, and the advantages of linking informal settlement communities to global networks in Indonesia.
Frances Birungi-Odong (UCOBAC) presented the poster “Gender, Land Rights and Access to Land Justice in Northern Uganda” to wide acclaim. Katia Araujo (Huairou Commission) chaired a session on “Mechanisms to formalize community rights,” in which panelists addressed the inability of national legal frameworks to address issues concerning community land rights. It was noted that lobbying for responsive policy takes time, and to strengthen their argument for change, communities should build an evidence base of local data, as well as share strategies for navigating the legal framework. For example, the panelists shared strategies for addressing issues concerning community land rights: mapping out hindrances for single women in India, policy advocacy based on local data collection and analysis in Nepal, a cross-community information exchange in Myanmar, and greater literacy on land institutions in Kenya.
Furthermore, our team met with important partners to discuss new and ongoing collaborations, including with the Malagasy Land Administration and Land Observatory, ActionAid, Oxfam, the World Bank, and others. We also paired up with Landesa, Oxfam and GROOTS Kenya, and UN-Habitat GLTN to host a daily women’s caucus on land. Sessions focused on gender strategy responding to recently adopted global frameworks (namely the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda) and their specific indicators or sections on land, as well as grassroots women’s movements like the Kilimanjaro Initiative to reclaim land rights. Look for more details in the coming months on how we will expand the women’s caucus at next year’s conference!