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 25 – 36 of 1063

Lebanon: education and care in a neighbourhood shared by Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

Inside a classroom where a woman teacher is sitting in front of a group of children showing them a book.

01.08.2016 - 31.12.2020

The inhabitants of Hay el Gharbé in southern Beirut live in a very precarious situation. Since 2012, a number of Syrian refugees have joined their neighbourhood. The SDC supports the Lebanese NGO Tahaddi, which has made a real difference in people’s lives here – such as with its education centre, helping a large number of children to (re)discover schooling and escape their daily hardships. 

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Lebanon
Education
Health
Primary education
Primary health care
Medical services

01.08.2016 - 31.12.2020


CHF 1'270'000



Supporting livestock traceability in the South Caucasus

The image shows a close-up of a calf with an identification tag in its right ear.

15.06.2016 - 31.12.2021

Identifying where animals have come from and recording information about their health is essential in modern agriculture to prevent the spread of diseases and stop products from diseased animals reaching the market. A system to ensure traceability will help to improve the incomes of farmers in the South Caucasus by increasing both herd productivity and the producers’ access to markets.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Agriculture & food security
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)

15.06.2016 - 31.12.2021


CHF 5'935'000



Prospects for young, unemployed adults in Bosnia and Herzegovina

01.04.2016 - 31.03.2022

The aim of the Youth Employment Project (YEP) is to help public employment bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina to improve their offer and to introduce youth-friendly services, such as individual and group careers advice for unemployed young adults between 18 and 30 years. Together with local partners, YEP also promotes new job opportunities linked to social entrepreneurship models.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation
Business support & economic inclusion
Vocational training

01.04.2016 - 31.03.2022


CHF 6'789'086



Migration for social well-being and economic development in Sri Lanka

Family members excitedly examine their travel documents

01.03.2016 - 31.12.2020

Every year, large numbers of Sri Lankans leave their country to work abroad for a few years, usually in the Gulf States. They thereby further Sri Lanka's economic development but at the same time risk having their basic human rights, and their labour rights in particular, violated. That is why the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is working for the establishment of a framework that ensures decent working conditions for migrant workers in the region.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Sri Lanka
Migration
Labour migration
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)

01.03.2016 - 31.12.2020


CHF 6'850'000



Nepal: An array of measures to tackle gender-based violence

Group photo of the participants from above

01.02.2016 - 31.12.2020

Gender-based violence is a widespread problem in Nepal, and an obstacle to sustainable development. The SDC and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a 3-year prevention and response project at the beginning of 2016. Women and girls are learning about their rights and being encouraged to report assaults. Men and boys are being encouraged to change their behaviour towards women. And duty bearers are learning to respond more rapidly and effectively. The project is already delivering first encouraging results.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Nepal
Gender
Human rights
Sexual & gender-based violence
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.02.2016 - 31.12.2020


CHF 3'743'000



Vocational skills development in Tunisia – destination employment

In Tunisia, an SDC programme enables young job seekers to acquire the technical and social skills required in the workplace

01.01.2016 - 31.03.2021


An SDC programme boosts the employability of young Tunisians entering the job market. It provides them with training in vocational skills to equip them with the practical experience and know-how required in the workplace.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Tunisia
Vocational training
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation

01.01.2016 - 31.03.2021


CHF 9'603'475



Reforming civil society organisations in Moldova

Women and men assembled in a room

01.12.2015 - 30.06.2021

The Engaging Citizens and Empowering Communities project aims to strengthen civil society organisations by enabling them to play a crucial role in promoting and safeguarding the rights and interests of vulnerable and marginalised people in Moldova.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Moldova
Governance
Human rights
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Democratic participation and civil society
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.12.2015 - 30.06.2021


CHF 3'150'000



Appui aux économies locales des collectivités de Youwarou et de Niafunké. Programme de Soutien aux Economies Locales du Delta intérieur du Niger

01.07.2015 - 31.12.2020

Dans les régions du delta intérieur du Niger, au centre et au Nord du Mali, les populations rurales sont confrontées à des crises structurelles multiformes dont l’insécurité alimentaire. La DDC appuie les autorités locales avec des projets économiques dans les filières agricoles porteuses pour assurer la sécurité alimentaire et réduire la pauvreté d’au moins 150'000 personnes. En plus, elle accompagne les municipalités de cette zone dans la maitrise d’ouvrage du développement territorial et la gestion pacifique des ressources naturelles.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mali
Agriculture & food security
Governance
Climate change and environment
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)
Decentralisation
Environmental policy

01.07.2015 - 31.12.2020


CHF 9'445'000



Sustainable water and pasture management to alleviate the plight of Ethiopian pastoralists

A group of Ethiopian men and women beside a half dried-up pool of water, using picks and shovels to dig new basins.

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2021

Drought, fodder scarcity and conflicts over natural resources make life difficult for pastoralists in southern Ethiopia. The SDC has taken various measures to improve their food security and their resilience to crisis situations, ranging from the rehabilitation of pastureland and water points to the introduction of land use plans and the diversification of income sources for women.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Ethiopia
Agriculture & food security
Conflict & fragility
Climate change and environment
Agricultural land resources
Household food security
Conflict prevention
Disaster risk reduction DRR

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2021


CHF 8'653'920



Forging a common «Nile culture» through music and academic training

Nile Project musicians on a boat.

01.05.2015 - 30.11.2020

To make the Nile Basin a common ground and shared ecosystem for the inhabitants of the eleven countries through which the Nile River flows, the SDC supports the innovative musical and educational Nile Project. The project brings together artists, students and concerned citizens. A series of acclaimed concerts has taken place since 2013; at the same time, students are developing initiatives to foster a better use of water resources.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Egypt
Culture / development awareness
Employment & economic development
Education
Climate change and environment
Gender
Governance
Migration
Other
Vocational training
Human rights
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Culture & recreation
SME development
Education policy
Disaster risk reduction DRR
Women’s equality organisations and institutions
Democratic participation and civil society
Information and communication technology (ICT)
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)
Sector not specified
Development awareness
Business support & economic inclusion
Environmental policy
Public sector policy
Vocational training
Biosphere protection
Legal and judicial development
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.05.2015 - 30.11.2020


CHF 750'000



Bangladesh: courses to raise job prospects for the poor in the textiles and building sectors

Three sewing machine operators in a textile factory receiving on-the-job training from three other people.

01.04.2015 - 31.03.2021

The textiles and construction sectors in Bangladesh are recording high rates of growth, but many poor women and men lack the necessary qualifications for skilled jobs. By 2019, a project jointly financed by Switzerland and the United Kingdom aims to give 110,000 of them better prospects through on-the-job training. The results so far are promising.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Bangladesh
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation
Vocational training
Tradepolicy & market system

01.04.2015 - 31.03.2021


CHF 5'825'000



Life without violence, from dream to reality

The face of a woman who has been abused.

01.02.2015 - 30.09.2020

The SDC hopes that by backing a newly-adopted law in Bolivia on ending violence against women, it can contribute to more systematic and targeted care for female victims. Local and national authorities and the people are working together on a comprehensive approach to prevent assaults on women. Too often, attitudes are tinged with a male chauvinism that sanctions violence.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Bolivia
Human rights
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.02.2015 - 30.09.2020


CHF 4'171'000


Object 25 – 36 of 1063