New Research Brief on Peasants’ Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

Authored by Dr Christophe Golay, Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the Geneva Academy, our new Research Brief The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources details the content of this right, states’ obligations, as well as accountability mechanisms for its enforcement at national, regional and international levels. The Research Briefs also presents the Colombian case where peasant organizations are using the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) to protect peasants’ right to land.

‘The UNDROP has been adopted to rebalance power relations in rural areas and addresses a number of fundamental questions, including the right to land and other natural resources, a right that is central for billions of people. This right must now be implemented at national, regional and international levels’ underlines Dr Golay.

First Recognition of the Right to Land and Other Natural Resources for Non-Indigenous People and Communities

The UNDROP recognizes the right to land and other natural resources for non-indigenous people and communities for the first time in international human rights law. It also provides that this right can be exercised individually and/or collectively.

On 17 December 2019, a number of UN special procedures and members of UN treaty bodies called for more accountability mechanisms to ensure UNDROP’ implementation. They committed to protecting the rights enshrined in the UNDROP, and they underlined that special measures shall be taken by states and other stakeholders to protect human rights defenders of land, environment and natural resources – who are the first victims of criminalization, intimidation and attacks against their physical integrity and life – and that their safety must be prioritized and protected via all available mechanisms.

In 2019 and 2020, the UN Human Rights Committee and the Interamerican Court on Human Rights referred to the UNDROP to protect the right to land in two important cases.

‘All human rights mechanisms should follow these examples, and make duty bearers accountable in cases of violations of the right to land and other natural resources. Civil society organizations and lawyers can also be instrumental in supporting peasants and other people working in rural areas in their claims, and in convincing human rights mechanisms to take steps to protect the rights enshrined in the UNDROP’ stresses Dr Golay.

A Larger Guide to Support the Land Community in UNDROP’s Implementation Will Be Launched on 17 December

This Research Brief is a summary of an upcoming Guide aimed at supporting the land community in UNDROP’s implementation, published with the International Land Coalition (ILC).

This guide focuses on the steps that states and international and regional organizations shall, and that social movements and civil society organizations should take to better promote and protect the right to land. It will be launch on 17 December 2020 to mark the second anniversary of UNDROP’s adoption by the UN General Assembly.