125 representatives of civil society, popular movements, women organizations, governments and international agencies from 20 countries concerned with issues of rural poverty, land and resource rights, have come together in Bonn, Germany, from March 19 to 23 of 2001 to collectively discuss and express our concerns on issues regarding Access to Land.

Who we are

We, 125 representatives of civil society, popular movements, women organizations, governments and international agencies from 20 countries concerned with issues of rural poverty, land and resource rights, have come together in Bonn, Germany, from March 19 to 23 of 2001 to collectively discuss and express our concerns on issues regarding Access to Land.

Expressing Our Basic Concerns

We have examined the different experiences and perspectives on agrarian reform and land struggles in nine countries from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe in order to promote public awareness on the need for Land and Agrarian Reforms as a vital step in seeking peaceful solutions to persistent global hunger, rural poverty and resource conflicts.

We are particularly concerned that rhetoric has not been matched by action. This is despite international commitments made at the World Food Summit, the UN Millenium Summit and other inter-governmental conferences to halve the number of poor and hungry people in the world by 2015. Trends show that the ranks of the poor and dispossessed remain persistently high, and that in a globalizing world the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. Today, over 800 million women, children and men still suffer from chronic hunger, extreme poverty, increasing risk and vulnerability. The majority of these poor are in rural areas where they are denied access to land and resources. This denial aggravates social exclusion, increases imbalances of power and leads to a destruction of self-esteem and identity. This situation is compounded by the continuing dispossession of communities of their natural environments, homes and livelihoods.

The situation can however be changed because we have the means. We need to recognize that the well-being of people and the realization of their rights are central to our concerns.

In light of the above:

1. There is a need to recognize that states have a central role in promoting Agrarian Reform programmes, and that such public policies must be formulated and implemented in a clear and transparent manner, actively promoting the rights of popular organizations, indigenous communities, peasants and women to fully participate in the agrarian reform process;

2. Agrarian reforms must be made an integral part of broader rural development strategies, recognizing that these are part of wider processes of national development and not solely safety-net or social welfare or compensatory policies that isolate and marginalise. Such integrated strategies must be supported by maximum available resources;

3. Once there is a national decision to implement land and agrarian reform, the process of decentralising should guarantee the involvement and participation of popular organisations, social movements and local governments in a way that does not reinforce the power of local landed elites;

4. Agrarian reforms must ensure that sustainable land use and the viability of production systems is taken into account;

5. It is critical to conceive Agrarian Reform not only as a means of redistributing land, but as an integral process for providing access, tenurial rights and sustainable use of natural resources such as forests, water, seeds, genetic resources, land, and biodiversity;

6. Where agrarian reforms involve the relocation of people, resettlement must be voluntary and undertaken in a socially nondisruptive manner and with compensation where necessary;

7. Governments must respect, protect and fulfil their human rights obligations in relation to civil, cultural, political and socio-economic rights. Access to productive resources including land through Agrarian Reform is an important part of such obligations;

8. Governments and intergovernmental organisations must guarantee access to legal - instruments for recourse in land disputes and strengthen extra-juridical mediation for the resolution of land conflicts;

9. There is a need to support the formation and strengthening of institutions that undertake land reform and land management;

10. There is a need to recognize that programs like cadastrals, land registration and land administration are not designed to replace Agrarian Reform. These, however, may be important tools in strengthening legal security for all; and if used, must be able to reflect both primary land rights as well as the overlapping and secondary rights of others, such as pastoralists;

11. Governments must directly involve local populations and institutions, social organisations, and popular movements in the debate and application of policies, and that such groupings must be central to the active management of natural resources;

12. Ensure and promote the equal rights of women in terms of access, control and legal entitlement to land;

13. To recognise and respect the customary rights of indigenous people and peasant communities, as well as national and cultural minorities;

14. Involve all stakeholders, including women, peasants and indigenous people, in the process of formulating sustainable rural development policy and Agrarian Reform legislation and programmes;

15. Taking into account the political changes globally over the past two decades, governments must review, renew and undertake the commitments made 22 years ago at the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) and other more recent international events such as the World Food Summit, the ILO 169 agreement, and conventions relating to biodiversity and desertification;

16. Rural Development, and especially Agrarian Reform, must be a priority of bilateral and multilateral development cooperation, and such development cooperation must be negotiated within a democratic and participatory framework;

17. Agricultural policies that promote dumping, penalise production and trade of developing countries, strangulate rural development and impoverish rural people, must be discouraged. Industrialised countries need to take greater responsibility for the sustainability of agricultural development in developing countries;

18. The international community and national governments must recognize that Market Assisted Land Reform policies (including mechanisms such as land banks and land funds) are insufficient instruments in the context of highly unequal societies and thus cannot replace redistributive Agrarian Reforms which expropriate, within the framework of the law, land from large landowners and redistributes such land to the poor and landless;

19. There is a need to promote special programmes of Agrarian Reform in countries which have suffered or are suffereing from violent conflicts or war resulting in displacement of communities. In many of these cases, agrarian reforms are the path to peace;

20. There is a need to increase the transparency of project implementation through involving local populations and ensuring that such local populations have control over these processes;

21. There is a need to promote the organisation of marginalised groups to ensure their participation in rural development and agrarian reform;

22. Civil Society organisations must facilitate and provide avenues for expressions of popular will through advocacy, mediation, building the capacity of peoples organisations, developing effective and efficient models of agrarian reform and rural development, and fulfilling their watchdog role;

23. There is a need to support greater exchanges of information and knowledge on land access issues. Such exchanges should go beyond the current sharing of technical information so as to build public awareness and solidarity, share experiences and lessons, and allow choices.

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