Land Rights as Human Rights: Asian CSOs Embark on Land Conflict Monitoring Initiative

A Regional Training on Land Conflict Monitoring was organized in Jakarta followed by the planning meeting of the members of the Asia Working Group on Mainstreaming Land Rights as Human Rights.

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Land conflict monitoring (ANGOC, 2019)

Six country members of International Land Coalition, Asia (ILC Asia) were gathered recently in Jakarta, Indonesia for a regional planning meeting. The members also participated in a two-day training for monitoring land conflicts in their respective countries.

Many social conflicts are rooted in issues related to land and resource rights. This is a fact recognized globally, even by the UN System in the UN Secretary General Guidance Note on Land and Conflict released in 2019. While a huge portion of land and resource conflicts occur in the context of state development or corporate interest (i.e., mining, plantations and economic zones), many conflicts also occur when policies over the same parcels of land overlap or when laws are poorly implemented.

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In 2018, the Land Watch Asia Working Group on Mainstreaming Land Rights as Human Rights attempted to study land and resource conflicts across six countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Philippines). The Working Group was able to take note of over 2,000 land conflict cases, affecting more than 11 million people. In many cases, these land conflicts lead to physical, psychological, economic and political violence, mostly directed towards communities or land rights activists.

Dewi Kartika shares KPA’s Agrarian Conflict Monitoring System

While the 2018 monitoring initiative proved to be useful in painting a picture of land conflicts and their effects on communities and defenders, the use of different methodologies limited the scope for consolidation, comparison and analysis of data at national and regional levels. Thus, the Working Group on Land Rights as Human Rights have come together once more to embark on a more systematic way to monitor conflicts this 2020. Such endeavour aims to inform advocacies and campaigns on land rights at both national and regional levels.

The land conflict monitoring initiative for this year draws from the experiences of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) in monitoring structural agrarian conflicts in Indonesia as a starting point. KPA has developed a systematic method for monitoring and reporting conflicts and rights violations since 2007. Their land conflict reports have been widely utilized for KPA’s campaign on priority agrarian reform areas, and have been recognized by government agencies and mainstream media in Indonesia.

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Setting the wheels in motion, ANGOC and KPA jointly organized a Regional Training on Land Conflict Monitoring on 5–6 March 2020, at the Amaris Hotel Pancoran, Jakarta, Indonesia. This event was conducted after the Working Group’s planning meeting which occurred from 3–4 March 2020.

Roel Raveanera of XSF facilitating a session

A total of 23 CSO individuals (6 females, 17 males) from six countries took part in the regional training. Participants agreed on the land conflict monitoring framework to be employed during the initiative, refined the regional monitoring database jointly developed by ANGOC and KPA, and were oriented on the use of Excel’s encoding and analysis features for reporting data.

Participants and project partners will be gathering data on land conflicts and rights violations starting from 01 January until December 2020. Each of the six countries will draft their land conflict monitoring report based on the information to be gathered this year. Roundtable discussions among civil society organizations and validation workshops will then be conducted within the countries to refine the reports. ANGOC will consolidate the reports at the regional level, and convene a regional workshop on land conflicts by 2021.

The land conflict monitoring initiative for 2020 is a vital component of the work programme of the Land Watch Asia Working Group on Mainstreaming Land Rights as Human Rightsfor 2020 to 2021. The Working Group will also conduct studies and implement interventions which aim to address landgrabs and to mainstream the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These activities form part of the regional project on Defending Land Rights and Human Rights Defenders, supported by the International Land Coalition (ILC) and the UN Development Programme Business and Human Rights Asia (UNDP B+HR Asia).

ANGOC serves as the regional convenor of the Working Group and the mentioned project. Other members of the Working Group are ARNow! and XSF from the Philippines; KPA from Indonesia; ARBAN and CDA from Bangladesh; STAR Kampuchea from Cambodia; CSRC from Nepal; and SDF,CLRA, and Ekta Parishad from India.