Celebrating 20 Years: An Interview with the International Land Coalition

From foodtank.com, by Harriet Kim
Celebrating 20 Years: An Interview with the International Land Coalition

"International Land Coalition (ILC) does a great job organizing a global network around land that was non-existent. The sector was only represented in isolated ways at a national and local level. ILC has made it possible to organize at different levels and to be represented. That is the most visible, most concrete achievement." – Dr. Ward Anseeuw, Centre for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development (CIRAD)

The International Land Coalition (ILC) is a network of civil society and intergovernmental organizations. It provides space for a dialogue on land rights and governance, based on the principle that every member has an equal voice. Food Tank had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Taylor, Director, and Sabine Pallas, Programme Officer for Women's Land rights.

Food Tank (FT): This year, the ILC celebrates 20 years. How would you describe the way the ILC has evolved to become what it is today?

Michael Taylor (MT): The rationale for setting up the ILC began with the European Commission and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Over a thousand representatives from governments, civil society, and multilateral institutions gathered [at the 1995 Conference on Hunger and Poverty] to discuss how to tackle hunger and poverty. A resolution to set up a coalition to bring together multilateral partners and civil society came out of the conference. Thus, the ILC was created with the wide mandate of tackling poverty. The coalition itself has not changed, but the environment has changed with social movements representing land users with their increasingly powerful voice. At the same time, the world is waking up to the importance of land and how fundamental land rights are to bigger development challenges, including water governance, climate change, and food systems. In the early years, the focus was on getting the issue of land back on the agenda. Now, we no longer need to do that because we all know land is important. Especially within the last five years, there is greater recognition, interest, and willingness to engage in land governance. Although, this does not mean the issue is any less challenging; equitable access to land involves everyone.

Sabine Pallas (SP): Over the last decade, the land rights debate within the ILC network has changed. The gender dimension used to be an afterthought. Little attention was given to the different challenges men and women face in securing land rights. Recognition of the importance of addressing women's land rights has grown across all three ILC regional platforms, as well as in agriculture more broadly. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2011 report on the State of Food and Agriculture, for example, focused on the need for closing the gender gap in agriculture. It sent a strong message about the unequal access to productive resources, including land, as a major obstacle for women. Within the ILC network, there is now a consensus on the importance of equal land rights for women, and crucially, on applying a principle of gender justice to all actions supported by ILC. All members of the network explicitly recognised this in the 2013 Antigua Declaration, which defined the 10 commitments to people-centred land governance. This includes a commitment to “Ensure gender justice in relation to landtaking all necessary measures to pursue both de jure and de facto equality, enhancing the ability of women to defend their land rights and take equal part in decision-making, and ensuring that control over land and the benefits that are derived thereof are equal between women and men, including the right to inherit and bequeath tenure rights.”

The ILC, through its Women's Land Rights Initiative, supports its members in advocating for equal land rights. This is done through research, shadow reporting based on treaties such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and strengthening capacity for gender analysis. 

FT: ILC hosted the Global Land Forum (GLF) this year in Dakar. Can you tell us about the event? How did this Forum mark the last twenty years of achievements for the ILC?

MTThe Forum takes place every two years as space for debate, dialogue, and collaboration. This year's theme was "Time for Action" (chosen by ILC members). Our members believe we have spent enough talking about negotiation and setting benchmarks with FAO's “Voluntarily Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure.” The African Union has a similar document, “Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy.” The consensus now is telling us that we do not need to make more policies, frameworks, and guidelines. Thus, the conference was very action orientated, discussing: how do we put into action what we agreed? What are the best practices? To produce more fertile grounds in sharing these best practices, we created the ILC Awards, with the first award given to the Uganda Land Alliance (again, voted by our members). The ILC, which is not so different from Food Tank, is in a good position as a network to identify where interesting and innovative things are taking place. In the land sector, there tends to be a blueprint approach, taking what has happened in one country and replicating it in another but that has detrimental consequences. The GLF is not about replication but rather a space to learn from each other and to help to nurture good practice and innovation.

SP:  The ILC is a diverse and growing network that has come a long way in the last 10 years. The GLF demonstrated this as the biggest ILC event to date, with over 700 participants from civil society organisations, the private sector, and governments, from 85 countries.  We are also happy to report that 41 percent of the participants were women, which is in line with ILC's 2011 target responding to a low level of female participation. According to a study done by Civicus, a glass ceiling exists in civil society as it does elsewhere. We noted this in past ILC events, where less than 20 percent of participants were women. We tried to encourage the participation of women by offering organised childcare. Although this offer was not taken up by any ILC members travelling to Dakar, it sent a signal to our members and should be continued. Achieving gender balance in the governance of a network like the ILC is crucial and goes beyond carrying out activities that are promoting women's land rights to promoting cultural transformation. The most encouraging sign of this in the ILC network was in 2014. The ILC Africa platform members signed a charter for gender justice, committing their organisations to such change. 

FT: The ILC Secretariat is hosted at IFAD. Can you tell us more about its relationship with IFAD?

MT: Since the start of the Coalition, IFAD had been very supportive by volunteering to co-host the GLF, as well as to host the ILC Secretariat. Last year, IFAD also offered the ILC Council to host the Secretariat for another five years. There is also a strong complementarity to IFAD's mandate of investing in smallholder farmers with ILC's mandate to support land access, especially for these smallholder farmers.  

FT: During the forum, ILC adopted its 2016-2021 Strategy. Could you tell us about this strategy and how it might be different from previous strategies? How does it fit into the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

MT: The world is becoming more complex, and power lies at the heart of land governance. With more and different actors working in this space, what value does ILC add in this space with the good work already is happening? ILC members have said [and adopted in its 2016-2021 Strategy] they found value in the ILC being a network that facilitates connection with each other and with powerful players outside of the network. Mobilization is important for our members to learn and share experiences and knowledge, and to influence jointly at the national, regional, or global levels.

SP: The post-2015 SDGs Agenda needs to capture land governance as essential to achieving many of the goals (particularly one, two, five, eleven, and fifteen). The post-2015 process is incredibly complex with many actors vying for attention. We have been working with some members and partners to advocate jointly for natural resource governance to be highly placed on the agenda. Amongst other things, we proposed the development goals to include a strong focus on women's land rights. We also proposed for explicit support to customary and collective rights to land and natural resources for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

The post-2015 agenda also represents an opportunity to have more and better data on land tenure. The success of the SDGs will depend on the adoption of indicators measuring progress towards targets and provide helpful information to policymakers. As ILC members affirmed in the recent Dakar Declaration from the GLF, data not only monitors change but can be a driver of change. We are contributing to this discussion by showing how monitoring of land rights is feasible and how data generated by communities and individuals can complement official data.