What’s at Stake
This time, these few words do not pose a question, but rather introduce a statement of known values that now come under threat. The many developments of 2019 in the field of habitat (habitat science, UN programming and governance, housing rights, women’s tenure, the land and natural resources of peoples under occupation, etc.) subject many of these habitat values under review in this issue of Land Times/أحوال الأرض.
This year, UN Habitat, the UN Charter-based agency that used to be custodian of the Habitat Agenda, has come under a new governance structure called for by a General Assembly resolution. That resolution also called for a Stakeholder Engagement Policy to be presented in February, but no such scheme yet exists. While that omission could suggest a regression of the partnerships already achieved over decades, civil society has assumed the challenge to propose a self-organized stakeholder engagement mechanism in the coming eight months to present at the World Urban Forum 10 (2020).
Toward that end, HIC has reviewed the milestones of UN Habitat stakeholder engagement as part of a review of models across the UN system, proposing also to build on the spaces available for partnership in governance and policy formulation. Moreover, HIC is proposing to contribute to that process by drawing on the experience of the Civil Society Mechanism for the UN’s Committee on World Food Security. In that same sphere, HIC-HLRN is cooperating with the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) and FAO to develop a CSO database (i.e., partnership information management system) to ensure the most-effective mechanism possible to manage the complex relationships among numerous constituencies, working groups and specializations cooperating with FAO’s Near East/North Africa (NE/NA) region.
This issue of Land Times/أحوال الأرض also reminds readers of the special relationship of women and their habitat at stake in the case of violations of their housing and land rights. In that frame, HLRN reports progress in its “Women’s Land and Home” project that is quantifying the impacts of housing and land rights violations on women, genderizing its Violation Impact Assessment Tool with HIC Members in Uganda and Kenya.
This issue 18th Land Times/أحوال الأرضupdates two Urgent Action Appeals on cases in Tibet and Zimbabwe. In the Tibet case, a Chinese court has joined the trend of persecuting community land defenders, sentencing nine land defenders in Tibet’s Rebkong region to harsh prison sentences for demanding the return of land confiscated by the Chinese occupation authorities. In Zimbabwe, the case involves small-scale farmers across the country who had benefitted from the land reform at the turn of the century, but now face eviction and dispossession amid numerous forms of corruption in the country’s land administration.
Small-scale farmers have been the subject also of HLRN’s initiative to find ways to complement the FAO NE/NA strategy to support family farming. That strategy proffers technical contributions intended to enhance incomes, but leaves certain priorities of small farmers unaddressed and the potential for civil society partners to fill the gap. What is at stake for small farmers across the region is much more than revenue, but also civil and political human rights, their crushing debt and the structural changes necessary for the survival of small-scale farming and food sovereignty.
Much is at stake in this period, as always. However, this issue of Land Times/أحوال الأرض takes stock of other values at stake in a period characterized by climate change that has accelerated beyond previous predictions, simultaneous with conflict, occupation and war induced by multiple governments and other armed groups that continue to displace, dispossess, starve and deny the self-determination of millions.
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