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 73 – 84 of 1096

Soutien au Dispositif National de Sécurité Alimentaire -PRESA-

01.07.2022 - 31.12.2025

Malgré l’excédent céréalier enregistré durant ces deux dernières décennies, l’insécurité alimentaire touche près du ¼ de la population du Mali. La DDC veut renforcer les capacités institutionnelles et organisationnelles du dispositif national de sécurité alimentaire en vue d’améliorer la prévention et la gestion des crises conjoncturelles et accroître la résilience des populations vulnérables à l’insécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle.


Participation des femmes dans le processus de paix, de sécurité et de relèvement au Mali

01.04.2022 - 31.03.2031

La Suisse s’engage au Mali pour une participation plus significative des femmes dans le processus de paix. Par l’intermédiaire de ONU-Femmes, les soutiens directs à des initiatives de la société civile malienne seront complétés par la réalisation du Plan d’Action National pour la mise en œuvre de la Résolution 1325 de l’ONU, concernant la participation de femmes dans les processus de paix et les garanties de sécurité. Le programme contribue ainsi à la stabilisation de la sous-région


Promoting physical activity and healthy diet through regulatory measures (ProPDR)

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2023

Non-communicable diseases constitute one of the major global health challenges today. Unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are the main causes of obesity and related morbidities. The adaptation of national regulatory and legislative frameworks is critical for the prevention and control of Non-communicable diseases. This initiative strives to strengthen capacity and expertise of low- and middle income countries to implement legal and regulatory measures.


Programme d’appui à la commercialisation du bétail en Afrique de l’Ouest

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

Dans la région ouest africaine, le secteur de l’élevage est une grande opportunité d’intégration économique et de création de richesses pour les populations et les pays. En complément au soutien au secteur dans les pays prioritaires, ce programme vise le renforcement de la chaine de valeur régionale des produits animaux au profit des éleveurs. L’accent est mis sur le renforcement du secteur privé et l’amélioration des politiques et pratiques régionales d’échanges en  produits animaux.


Building Regional and National capacities for improved Migration Governance in the IGAD Region

01.01.2022 - 31.08.2027

The Horn of Africa is of high interest for Switzerland in terms of migration policy. Swiss support to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and its Member States will contribute to improve their migration governance capacities so as to enable the organisation to effectively implement regional, continental and global regulatory standards for the protection of refugees and vulnerable migrants in the region.



Fair and ethical recruitment of migrant workers

01.11.2021 - 31.12.2023

Approximately 105 million people are currently working outside their country of origin. Many of these migrant workers have profited from international labour recruitment intermediaries. Millions, however, have become victims of abusive and exploitative practices by unethical recruiters. Working together with different actors, SDC will support initiatives to ensure fair and ethical recruitment. Migrants and their families will be better protected and thereby better enabled to contribute to the development of their countries of origin and destination.


Bangladesh Agricultural and Disaster Insurance Programme

01.11.2021 - 31.12.2028

Farmers will improve their productivity and resilience by gaining access to client-oriented and affordable agricultural insurance products. Insurance-cover will allow farmers to invest in higher-return activities, access credit and to recover faster when affected by weather, diseases and disasters. By building capacity of and facilitating coordination and linkages among key stakeholders, inclusive insurance markets will be developed to eventually cater for several million farmers.


Promoting Social Entrepreneurship in selected countries

01.08.2021 - 28.02.2026

This regional program with national implementation components supports Social Entrepreneurs (SEs) contributing to solving societal and environmental problems with a market-based approach. The contribution identifies and supports selected SEs and helps them to reach out to the poor. It serves the creation of employment and income for low-income households improving their livelihoods. SEs use innovative ideas and business models that are well-aligned with SDC’s objectives of poverty reduction.


Inclusive territorial economic development in the Muskitia region

01.06.2021 - 31.12.2028

The Muskitia indigenous region requires strategic changes that favour inclusive economic development and reduce violent conflict over land use and maritime resources. For this reason the program strengthens territorial governance, improves the business climate and increases access to services. This includes supporting 8 of the 12 territorial councils in stimulating productive sector value chains such as cocoa, fish, and basic grains that generate employment and income for 10,000 families and consolidate indigenous businesses.


Territorial water governance in the Gulf of Fonseca region

01.04.2021 - 31.12.2027

The water governance system in the Gulf of Fonseca region needs significant change in order to overcome its dysfunctionality and ensure a sustainable supply of water. To this end, the program promotes coordinated management of five watersheds by the various public and private water users, addressing conflicts peacefully in a fragile context. In addition, support is provided for technical, legal and institutional solutions that also have an effect at the national level.


CLIMATE AND CLEAN AIR IN LATIN AMERICAN CITIES PLUS (CALAC+) PROGRAMME

01.03.2021 - 28.02.2023

Air pollution is an important impediment to sustainable development in cities, and short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon represent a major trigger for climate change. Supporting increasing voluntary efforts, CALAC+ will assist clean air strategies in five Latin American cities by fostering normative and technological changes and share lessons at the global level. Capacity building will use the comparative advantage of Swiss experience and the private sector’s interest to increase its stance in urban clean air issues.

Object 73 – 84 of 1096