ECOWAS Land Policy: CSOs demand publication of documents

Conference Land HBS Abuja

The Heinrich Boell Foundation (hbs), in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission’s Directorate on Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, held a Roundtable with stakeholders from civil society across West Africa to discuss the ECOWAS land policy. CSOs demand more transparency and ask for publication of the (draft) Land Policy.
Mr. Ernest AubeePricnipal program officer at the ECOWAS Commission for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources presented the ”Harmonised Land Policy and Legal Framework on Land Tenure in the ECOWAS Region”, validated by ECOWAS officials during a workshop,  on  4 – 6 June 2013 Abuja, Nigeria but still not published and ratified. The major principles of ECOWAS to draft its land policy are:

  • Multi-stakeholders consultations at national level prior to adoption.
  • Update of land tenure status in the various ECOWAS Member States.
  • Provision of guidelines on land status.
  • Need for convergent approach to land acquisition by non-nationals.
  • Implementation of participating & inclusive approach.
  • Gender mainstreaming at all levels.
  • Harmonise regulations on natural resources mgt. at regional & national levels.
  • Training & information for stakeholders at national and regional levels.

Results of Round table on Land 19th / 20th June 2014

The Round Table on ECOWAS Land Policy with members of the LandJustice4WA network, facilitated by hbs, provided the opportunity for an in-depth discussion between the ECOWAS commission of agriculture (with Ernest Aubee, the principal officer on agriculture) and civil society. Representatives of AFAF, Friends of the Earth, COPAGEN, Reseau Climat et Developpement, Synergy Paysan, PRONAT ENDA, CICODEV, CMAT/ Village sans Terre Mali, FIF Nigeria, CORET, SDI Liberia and WEP Nigeria underlined the necessity of regional networking. Participants agreed on strengthening regional exchange and cooperation.

ECOWAS Framework on Land Policy, ECOWAS Directive on Land, Principles for LSLBI

Ernest Aubee, principal program officer of the ECOWAS commission on agriculture, who is also the ECOWAS representative at the African Land Policy Initiative LPI (UNECA/AU) presented the history of the ECOWAS Framework on a West African Land Policy and the roadmap for its implementation and a directive relating to it.

Participants raised the question, why these projects are not known to civil society in West Africa, and even stakeholders who are taking part in the consultation process of LPI/ the African Land Policy Initiative are not informed about or invited to the consultation and ratification process. All parties agreed on facilitating better flow of information and a more transparent process of formulating ECOWAS policy. Regrettably, participants had to note, that ECOWAS is not yet ready to share a draft of the future directive on land with Civil Society.

Participants agreed on the following principles to be incorporated into the ECOWAS Framework and the future ECOWAS Directive:

  •  The Duality of Legal Systems (Traditional/Statutory Tenure Laws)
  • The Right of Existence of indigenous communities with land of their ancestors being sacrosanct
  • Prior & Informed Consent as a principle should be enshrined in ECOWAS policies on land issues to ensure that communities take informed decisions in cases of sales or acquisition of land
  • The Necessity of monitoring the application of the land policy and its directive
  • The documentation of Land Use

Key Issues of Civil Society in reference to land management:

  • Community Organizing (Conflict resolution mechanisms: facilitate conflict resolution process; develop concrete demands for compensation in case of investment; communities enforce application of existing laws)
  • Capacity Building (Knowledge of community rights & international rights; Land evaluation – Knowledge of the value of the land including the economic / social / cultural value; development of Land Use Plans; alternative development plans in case of land use change)
  • Advocacy (Prior and informed consent, respect and acknowledgement of existence)

Action Points:

  • Bring more transparency into the ECOWAS drafting and ratification process of land related documents (including the plans for an ECOWAS investment policy/ agency):
  • ECOWAS informs Civil Society via their networks on events, drafts and invites for consultation
  • ECOWAS publishes drafts and agenda on their web site
  • participation of Commissioner of Agriculture and Commission of Private Investment;
  • Calendar: LPI on LSLBI principles in Malabo, July 2014; ECOWAS on LSLBI principles in Accra, November 2014;

CS-preparation of ECOWAS meeting on LSLBI principles:

  • Agree on: How to implement, how to monitor, how to evaluate – develop shared position and proposals how to finance
  • Observatory: on regional – national – community level?
  • LSLBI principles: are they comprehensive and inclusive? Develop joint position on the principles
  • Circulate the principles on LSLBI among CSOs as an advocacy tool. This is for the network to organize
  • encourage ECOWAS and other International donors to provide funding for documentation and monitoring

Compilation of Best Practices of Civil Society (relating to the consultation process and tenure systems; early warning activities; community based land/ boundaries documentation)

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