Land rights

A woman and a child walk across a field in Bangladesh with some goats in tow.
The SDC is working to ensure that the poorest population groups in rural areas have fair access to land and other natural resources. © IFAD/G.M.B.Akash

Just as in high-income countries, agricultural land in low- and middle-income countries is in increasingly short supply. Infrastructure, urban expansion and investments in large-scale farms are encroaching on land previously used by smallholders. Broad-based regulations are necessary to ensure fair access to land and other natural resources, especially for poorer population groups in rural areas. The SDC is committed to establishing such regulations at the national, regional and global levels.

The SDC's focus

The SDC works to ensure equitable access to land and other natural resources such as water, especially for poorer population groups in rural areas. As well as being vital to sustain life, they also act as important productive resources for smallholder farmers. Land law determines whether and how the right to use and control land, fisheries and forests can be exercised. Guaranteeing the right to use and own land is key to combating poverty and hunger.

With the aim of reducing poverty and hunger in poorer sections of the population, the SDC supports governments in the development, implementation and oversight of fair and transparent land use policies that recognise all existing rights of use, including individual, collective and customary rights.

At the same time, the SDC encourages the participation of all stakeholders in drawing up such principles and supports local communities and farmers' organisations so that they are able to exercise their land use rights. For the SDC, the inclusion of the private sector in such processes is of high priority.

At the global level, the SDC has participated actively in the creation and implementation of a set of targeted regulations that promote a just tenure and land management policy and establish criteria for responsible investment in agriculture.

Guidelines and principles on the responsible governance of tenure

As a member of the Bureau of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Switzerland was instrumental in developing the current UN Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security in 2012. Over the next two years, Switzerland led negotiations on a set of Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, intended to complement the Guidelines. In 2014, it brought the process to a successful conclusion with the adoption of the Principles. Together with other states, private sector organisations, civil society and UN agencies, the SDC is actively involved in implementing these Guidelines and Principles. This lays the foundation for securing land use rights for all and enabling investments into better production methods.

The SDC also supports implementation of the African Union (AU) Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, adopted in 2009, which pledges to ensure equitable access to and the efficient and sustainable use of land. To this end, the SDC works closely with the African Land Policy Centre, which is directly responsible for implementing the AU Framework and Guidelines. The SDC also broadens and strengthens the expertise of the relevant decision-makers and public officials in order to improve the assessment of land-related investment contracts.

Background

Approximately 70% of the more than 800 million chronically undernourished people in low- and middle income countries countries live in rural areas, the majority growing crops or rearing livestock. For them, security of access to land and other natural resources is especially important. Equally important is secure access to land for the rapidly increasing urban population, both for housing and for growing food in small gardens (urban agriculture).

Investments in land can have a major adverse impact on the food security of local communities. The legitimate call for increased investment in agriculture often focuses on the economic dimension, leaving aside social and environmental issues. As a result, such investments often restrict access to land and other natural resources such as water. Moreover, they contribute to reducing biodiversity in agriculture and threaten fragile ecosystems. In many cases, serious human rights violations occur.

Land-related investments are often concluded with no or minimal prior consultation of the affected rural populations. Most large-scale land transactions thus lack transparency and accountability at all levels. At country level, line ministries and parliaments are rarely invited to scrutinise investment projects involving large-scale land acquisitions and leases. When decision- and policymakers are involved, they often lack the capacity to thoroughly examine legal and transactional issues related to investment contracts at national level.

Land-law principles and guidelines such as those supported by the SDC are needed to make information on land deals available and to update it continuously. Dialogue with all stakeholders, including the private sector and government officials, helps create space for the needs and concerns of disadvantaged groups in policymaking processes. In this context, grievance mechanisms enable affected populations to hold governments and/or investors accountable and, where applicable, obtain appropriate compensation.

Switzerland is aware that existential issues such as those relating to land access, use and tenure have to be resolved in consultation with all stakeholders if conflicts are to be prevented.

Documents

Current projects

Object 13 – 24 of 1100

Improving safety for the Croatian population in mine-infested areas

A deminer removes mines in a meadow

01.06.2017 - 10.12.2024

Mines and other explosive remnants of war are a dangerous legacy from Croatia's 1991–96 war and they continue to pose a threat to the local population. Integrating mine victims economically and socially is also a challenge for Croatian society. As part of its enlargement contribution, Switzerland has provided CHF 3 million to support mine-clearance measures and improve the situation for mine victims and their families. The goal is to improve living conditions for people living in mine-infested areas.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Croatia
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Removal of land mines and explosive remnants of war
Enhanced security and safety

01.06.2017 - 10.12.2024


CHF 3'000'000



Support for international R&D cooperation in Croatia

The founder and managing director of lighting company REFLECTA presenting his lighting project with the aid of a flipchart.

01.05.2017 - 31.12.2022

Croatia ranks above average in terms of investment in new technologies compared to other EU member states but lags behind in the development of new products. Innovation is a key driver of economic development and therefore important to a country with a high unemployment rate. Switzerland is therefore contributing CHF 1 million to support Croatia's Eurostars programme. This programme promotes international R&D cooperation between Croatian SMEs and European partners.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Croatia
Promoting economic growth and improving working conditions

01.05.2017 - 31.12.2022


CHF 1'000'000



Maximum cooperation needed to manage glacier melt in Central Asia

Two men working with specialist equipment on a glacier.

01.05.2017 - 31.12.2020

How to meet the needs of Central Asia’s 68 million inhabitants for water while respecting the glaciers overlooking Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan? The SDC’s project is building on voluntary regional cooperation and rigorous scientific monitoring of the changes taking place in the glaciers.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Central Asia
Water
Water diplomacy and security
Water sector policy
Water resources conservation
WATER SUPPLY & SANITATION
WATER SUPPLY & SANITATION
WATER SUPPLY & SANITATION
Water sector policy and administrative management
Water sector policy and administrative management
Water resources conservation (including data collection)

01.05.2017 - 31.12.2020


CHF 1'200'000



Higher Income in the South Caucasus Thanks to Competitive Agricultural Products

A man in a protective suit holding a honeycomb full of bees on the roof of a high-rise building.

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2021

Livestock farming is an important source of income for a large part of the rural population in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. But many farmers live from subsistence farming and produce just enough food for their own needs. The aims of the project are to strengthen smallholder farms and to provide them with access to markets. This way, farmers can sell their honey, meat, cheese and wool products, and sustainably increase their incomes.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
Agricultural development

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2021


CHF 5'100'000



Reform and Development of Markets, Value Chains and Producers’ Organisations

Reform and development of markets, value chains and producers’ organisations, occupied Palestinian territory

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021

Private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness in the Palestinian occupied territory (oPT) can play a key role in building a resilient economy towards economic growth and in safeguarding rights and entitlements to natural resources and markets. This program aims at improving income and productivity in the agriculture sector, through improved access to markets, increased share of local market, enhanced competitiveness and profitability of Palestinian agribusinesses.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural policy
Agricultural co-operatives & farmers’ organisations
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
Agricultural development
Agricultural policy and administrative management
Agricultural co-operatives

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021


CHF 3'000'000



Access to drinking water: a challenge in Tajikistan

Three children around a fountain.

01.03.2017 - 28.02.2021

In Tajikistan, the poorest country in Central Asia, half of the 8.5 million inhabitants do not have access to drinking water. In mountainous and rural regions, the figure reaches 80%. This situation poses a serious risk to public health. The SDC's project on 'Safe drinking water and sanitation management in Tajikistan' (SWSMT) focuses on access to drinking water and sanitation in the east of the country.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Tajikistan
Governance
Water
Decentralisation
Water supply
Water sanitation
Public sector policy
WATER SUPPLY & SANITATION
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
WATER SUPPLY & SANITATION
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Basic drinking water supply
Decentralisation and support to subnational government (incl. accountability)
Basic sanitation
Decentralisation and support to subnational government (incl. accountability)
Public sector policy and administrative management
Decentralisation and support to subnational government (incl. accountability)

01.03.2017 - 28.02.2021


CHF 5'300'000



An attractive labour market for young Kosovars

A young man working on an electrical system.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

The project « Enhancing Youth Employment » is aimed at improving job opportunities for young people in Kosovo, a population segment particularly impacted by unemployment. By connecting employers and job seekers, and by training young people in the skills in demand on the labour market, the project is helping to reduce unemployment and drive economic growth.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kosovo
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation
Vocational training
EDUCATION
OTHER SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES
Vocational training
Employment policy and administrative management

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020


CHF 7'570'000



Better public services in fourteen of Benin’s communes

A woman and a man shake hands in front of a sign with Switzerland's logo and the names of the two towns involved in building the bridge.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

Efforts to decentralise public services in Benin are paying off. The SDC is focusing on two of the country’s departments. Since 2008, when the first support programme was launched, significant progress has been seen on the ground.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Benin
Governance
Decentralisation
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Decentralisation and support to subnational government (incl. accountability)

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020


CHF 8'500'000



Effective management and prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases

: A woman doctor examining a woman patient.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases are the biggest cause of death worldwide. On an international average 60% of deaths are linked to NCDs.  This rate is often much higher in low-to-middle-income countries.  This is the case in Kyrgyzstan where cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes account for 80% of deaths

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kyrgyzstan
Health
Primary health care
Health systems strengthening
HEALTH
HEALTH
Basic health care
Health policy and administrative management

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021


CHF 4'810'000



Sustainably managed pastures and healthy animals: Mongolia's 'green gold'

A woman holding a blue bucket tends to a herd of yak in a vast grassland landscape.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the number of livestock in Mongolia has nearly tripled – to the detriment of the country's grasslands. The SDC is supporting an array of measures to encourage the sustainable use of pastureland, and to improve animal health and the marketing of livestock products. These efforts are helping to safeguard the livelihoods of nomadic herder families.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mongolia
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural land resources
Agricultural co-operatives & farmers’ organisations
Agricultural policy
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
Agricultural land resources
Agricultural co-operatives
Agricultural policy and administrative management

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020


CHF 7'776'000



Better training to facilitate the integration of youngsters in rural areas into the labour market

Three young Nigerien men walking through a plantation.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021

The SDC is committed to improving the education and vocational training system in Niger. Over 1.5 million young people living in rural areas currently have no access to education or vocational training. Their future ability to enter the labour market depends on good-quality basic education and vocational training tailored to their needs.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Niger

Dosso and Maradi

Vocational training
Employment & economic development
Education
Vocational training
Employment creation
Primary education
EDUCATION
OTHER SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES
EDUCATION
Vocational training
Employment policy and administrative management
Primary education

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021


CHF 14'500'000



Safeguarding children’s rights in East Jerusalem

Safeguarding children’s rights in East Jerusalem, occupied Palestinian territory

01.12.2016 - 31.12.2020

By supporting a comprehensive child protection programme in occupied East Jerusalem, Switzerland aims to ensure that vulnerable children at risk of being in conflict with the law or directly affected by the conflict, together with their families, have access to appropriate preventive and protection programmes. The intervention, implemented by UNICEF and its partners, is in line with Switzerland's engagement for the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Governance
Conflict & fragility
Human rights
Legal and judicial development
Conflict prevention
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Legal and judicial development
Civilian peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution
Human rights

01.12.2016 - 31.12.2020


CHF 2'250'000


Object 13 – 24 of 1100