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Asian governments’ land reform sidetracked by market bias says Land Watch Asia Campaign

Government policies favoring resource-extractive and export-oriented activities have sidetracked agrarian reform programs in some Asian countries at the expense of the poorest and most marginalized of their citizens, said a loose coalition of civil society groups pushing for land reform.

States favor these  “neoliberal economic policies” because they attract foreign investment, Land Watch Asia said in a paper titled  “The Prolonged Struggle for Land Rights in Asia.”

“Governments have lost interest in enforcing redistributive land and resource policies. The politically sensitive task of land redistribution has been shelved in favor of resource-extractive and export-oriented activities, which are easier, instantly gratifying, and lucrative,” the group said. Read the rest of this entry

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Indonesian NGO coalition to stage protest during ASEAN summit

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/11/17/ngo-coalition-stage-protest-asean-summit.html

A number of NGOs and university students will stage a demonstration and read a declaration to express their stance on the ASEAN summit. They will hold the protest in front of the consulate general buildings of the US and Japan in Denpasar, since it is impossible to hold it in Nusa Dua where the summit is taking place, due to tight security.

To prepare the declaration, around 20 local institutions participated in a seminar about “building a sovereign regionalism and opposing the domination of global capitalism” in Denpasar on Wednesday.

At the seminar, which was organized by Udayana University’s Law School, they discussed their stance relating to the ASEAN summit, particularly about what is at stake, and a range of issues about East Asia.

They also discussed the impact of ASEAN upon regional security and the Indonesian people in general, as well as the problems facing agricultural, plantation and fishery sectors in connection to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The issue of global capitalism in ASEAN, labor, migrant workers and education were also discussed during the seminar.

M. Teguh Surya from the Indonesian Environment Forum (WALHI) criticized the Master Plan on the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development 2011-2025, which he considered neglected the impact of environmental damage.

“Indonesia, just like other ASEAN countries, has been a supplier of natural resources to global industries, and this is stated in the master plan, but there is no concern regarding the environmental damage resulting from this.”

He said that the document on the acceleration of the economy only favors the interests of advanced countries, such as Japan, Korea and China.

“Indonesia is very prone to natural resource exploitation, which could marginalize 90 percent of its people if there is no protection [from the government].”

He cited the economic acceleration in Bali, which focused on tourism. “Tourism development has caused changes in spatial planning policy, and this is something that could bring the island to collapse. One of the clear examples is the water crisis experienced on the island.”

Bonnie Setiawan, executive director of Alternative to Globalization (RAG) and a researcher with the Institute for Global Justice, said the new regime in ASEAN has allowed neocolonialism to flourish.

“Indonesia, which supplies low-paid laborers and raw materials, is very open to imports and foreign investment from international corporations,” he said.

ASEAN has been part of the global supply chain by “revising their structures, norms and regulations”, he added.#

Indian tribals enter their land

by Ekta Parishad, Land Watch Asia member, India

Madhya Pradesh, India — After eight years of struggle, 41 out of 94 small land owners from Lahroni village of Karahal Block, Sheopur District managed to get their land demarcated this February 2011. Demarcation is going on for the other lands.

The case goes back to 2003, when 94 families (74 tribals and 20 dalits beneficiaries) of Lahroni village were given pattas( land entitlements) by the Madhya Pradesh government. These families were given only the entitlement papers but not the physical possession of the land. It was also not yet demarcated.

The total area of land is 130 hectares. There were also six beneficiaries of Bhoodan Land (donated land collected by Eminent leader Vinoba Bhave), who have entitlement papers since 1990, but not land possession. The people had land documents in their hands but did not know where their lands were. After lobbying the local Patwari (revenue employee) showed them the land but it was still not demarcated. They found that their land was already occupied by non-tribal peoples from outside Madhya Pradesh. Read the rest of this entry

ANGOC convenes workshop on Land monitoring

On 16-17 September, twelve participants from various Asian CSOs as well as the Rome-based International Land Coalition (ILC) gathered in a regional workshop in Bangkok to exchange ideas on the draft Land Reform Monitoring Framework for CSOs being developed by ANGOC.

The said framework seeks to be CSO-led, relevant, doable, strategic and sustainable. During the workshop, participants shared their experiences in pilot testing the proposed indicators, and discussed indicators for monitoring based on relevance, feasibility and data availability and quality.

The group agreed on focusing efforts towards developing indicators at the national level, since these will more adequately reflect a country’s particular situation but at the same time should include common regional indicators for monitoring.

The framework is part of a broader monitoring initiative to enhance CSOs’ existing platforms and campaigns at various levels and strengthen CSOs capacity to monitor land reform implementation, especially at analyzing budgets, policies, land tenure and access to land.

The workshop is the last of a series of activities towards developing and finalizing the framework for CSOs. An electronic consultation, roundtable discussion, pilot studies, and an experts’ meeting have been conducted as inputs to the framework.

ANGOC’s CSO land reform monitoring project is also linked to the International Land Coalition (ILC)’s land reform initiative (LRI), which aims to ensure evidence is gathered on land access and tenure of the poor and vulnerable groups, and to make sure that this yields impact on policy and supports reforms.

The report of the proceedings is presently being prepared.

For more information on ANGOC’s CSO Land Reform Monitoring Initiative, please read the briefer at http://www.angoc.org/Pages/cso-land-monitoring.html . (Photo courtesy of PAFID)

SARVODAYA releases study on access to land in Sri Lanka

The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka, under the Land Watch Asia campaign, recently released a Country Report that presents many highly complex issues of policy and legislation as they relate to land tenure and access to land.

Moreover, it serves as a strategy paper for civil society organizations involved in land rights advocacy to identify opportunities, viable activities and challenges to advance access to land and tenurial security of disadvantaged land-dependent users.

The study was conducted from March to May 2010 by a research team headed by Professor C.M. Madduma Bandara, Ph.D.  (Cambridge).

The main findings of the Study include the following:

  • During the early part of the last Century, the colonial policy of land sales was reversed through large-scale land alienations to the landless peasantry, for village expansion and initiation of large-scale settlement schemes. After National Independence in 1948, the same policy was continued with greater interest under the Mahaweli Project, and under the Presidential Task Force on Land Alienation in the 1990s.
  • The Paddy Lands Act of 1957 changed the landlord – share tenant relations drastically. It brought more social justice, but more social stress and less impact on productivity. Similarly, land reform exercises in the 1970s led to the nationalization of estates owned by foreign companies as well as local entrepreneurs. This hardly had any visible effect on the landless peasantry particularly in the Kandyan areas.
  • Continuing conditions of the LDO permit were imposed with good intentions under the concept of ‘preservation of the peasantry’. However, it was increasingly realized that, such  conditions of the LDO permit have created a problem for the second generations of settlers, who found themselves as a ‘landless, jobless and embittered’  segment of the rural society.
  • The welfare policies adopted by successive governments such as jana saviya and samurdhi contributed much to alleviate abject poverty. At the same time, they created a ‘dependency syndrome’ where it had become difficult to wean poor people away from such support. These welfare measures were also closely related to land development. The notion that improved access to land and tenurial security necessarily leads to a reduction of poverty was deeply entrenched among planners. This presumption however, needs a deeper and objective re-assessment.
  • Conditions in the country have changed significantly during the last few decades with more people looking for employment abroad. Foreign remittances exceed 3 billion US Dollars annually. The economy has grown to the level that Sri Lanka is no longer considered as a poor third-world country. Per Capita GDP now exceeds 2000 US Dollars and the dependency of people on land for agriculture has diminished significantly with increasing importance of service and industrial sectors. In urban areas however, with the increasing demand for land and increasing land prices, it had become more profitable to convert land to non-agricultural uses rather than to use it for agriculture. In the wet zone in particular, most such converted lands are of low agricultural productivity. However, prevailing agricultural land laws tend to discourage such conversions.
  • There is a fresh and rare opportunity, emerging with the end of the long drawn civil war to devise ways and means of re-establishing a durable peace, and prosperity. With a stable and strong government in power, there is a new hope for long-term planning in the land sector. Establishment of the National Land Commission under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution may herald in a new era of effective and efficient land management that would be pro-poor and at the same time result in higher productivity from land.

Some rallying points for public campaign may include, the delay in the establishment of the National Land Commission and a National Land Policy, failure to confer full freehold status to land developed under the Land Development Ordinance, widespread mal practices and corruption in land administration, lack of a common law governing land, issue of devolution of powers to the Provinces, delays in utilizing the opportunities created by return to peace, the plight of second and third generation settlers  under major irrigation settlement schemes,  and the excessive  politicization of land issues.

Activists sceptical about land reform under new Philippines president – TrustLaw

By Thin Lei Win

for TrustLaw, a Thomson Reuters Foundation Service

June 19, 2010, Monday

BANGKOK (TrustLaw) – When Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, son of two democracy heroes, was sworn in as the Philippines’ fifteenth president on June 30, he pledged to tackle two pressing issues – corruption and poverty.

For sceptical land rights groups and activists, his approach to agrarian land reform, which he failed to mention in his inaugural speech, will be a test of how serious he is.

They say the slow progress of land reform is one of the major reasons for rural poverty and social injustice in the largely agrarian country. It is also one of the causes of a 40-year-old Maoist insurgency that has killed more than 40,000 people. (for More, click on Good Governance Article – Activists sceptical about land reform under new Philippines president – TrustLaw)

Nepali gov’t prepares new land policy

Source: XINHUA, 2010-06-08 10:59

(emailed by Anil Singh of Ekta Parishad)

The Nepali government, for the first time, has prepared a land policy with a view to boosting agricultural production and stopping arbitrary fragmentation of fertile land across the country.

According to Tuesday’s The Kathmandu Post, “Land Use Policy 2010” comes after widespread concern that encroachment of agricultural land by haphazard residential projects has increased the risk of food crisis in Nepal.

Till now, Nepal does not have any clear-cut and specific policy on the preservation of fertile land for agriculture production.

The Ministry of Land Reforms and Management, in coordination with National Planning Commission and other ministries, has prepared the policy.

Land Reforms Minister Dambar Shrestha was quoted by the daily as saying, “We will publicize it soon for public discussion before finalizing it.” The policy comes into effect after the cabinet approves it.

The new policy has been prepared keeping in mind how land will be used and managed in the federal structure – mainly setting criteria on how the central government and federal states divide power on the issues related to land use.

The new policy envisages solving all land-related problems within 15 years through scientific land reform.
Land will be allocated or categorized for agriculture, forest, residential area, urban development, industrial area and other sectors and no one will be allowed to deal in land allocated for agriculture, reads the policy.

2 New publications from Land Watch partners in India and Cambodia

“Landlessness and Social Justice: An assessment of Disparities in Land Distribution and Prospects of Land Reforms”

http://www.praxisindia.org/files/Landlessness_English%20.pdf

This is the result of a joint initiative of Ekta Parishad and the Institute for Participatory Practices (PRAXIS), which facilitated a land mapping process in five districts of Bihar, India.

Securing the Right to Land in Cambodia (in Khmer)

Star Kampuchea publishes its country paper on access to land in Cambodia in Khmer to share the information more widely especially in the rural areas. The paper was originally part of the Land Watch Asia regional book entitled “Securing the Right to Land” that features an overview of the state of access to land in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines.

Khmer Securing Land Rights paper