“Bringing Land Governance into ASEAN Economic Integration”
The G8 World Summit in 2003 stated that “Weak land governance and property rights systems can lead to opaque land deals.” It further states that “increasing security of land rights and transparency of land governance fosters participation of citizens, contributes to government accountability, reduces costs for businesses, and strengthens the climate for responsible investment”.
In the four countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, land has always played a significant role as place of residence and source of livelihood for the majority of rural population especially for those vulnerable groups such as women, ethnic minorities in remote areas and poor smallholding farmers seriously affected by inefficient land ownership mechanism and competing interests.
In the inaugural year of the ASEAN Economic Community, more than 280 participants from the region gather together in Hanoi to discuss about the governance of land and the respective role the ASEAN economic community. Today, the Mekong Region Land Governance project, hosted by the Economic Committee of the Communist Party and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam and funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Information Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (AGROINFO) of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural development (IPSARD) jointly organize this Regional Land Forum, the first of its kind in the Region.
The event allows for an open dialogue between participants from the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, as well as national and international organizations, civil society, private sector and academia. The objective is to share experience and lessons learned on the key land governance issues and challenges that are affecting vulnerable groups, including smallholder farmers, minority groups and women in the Mekong Region.
H.E. Le Quoc Doanh, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, is honored to host this important regional event, stating that “Land Governance is of utmost relevance for the ASEAN regional development. H.E. Ngo Dong Hai, Vice Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Communist Party also highlighted the importance of the event for Viet Nam.
A view shared by country director of GIZ Mr Jochem Lange in his opening remarks on Tuesday, emphasizing that “ensuring responsible and sustainable investments in land […] has become an ever-more vital element of our social and economic development”, as trade and investments will increase by the stronger integration of the ASEAN nations.
A wide range of innovative projects are on display in more than 20 workshops over the course of the three days. Participants engage in debates if the right measures are being taken to ensure that large scale investments in land adhere to both national and international standards and serve the benefit of the people and the economy. The security of local people’s rights to land is also on the agenda, as countries in the region advance to formalize the traditional land use of farmers by registering their land and issuing titles. There is also special attention on topics dealing with land conflicts, the recognition of customary rights to land, community forestry and women’s rights to land tenure. A special session is organized for students from the region to share their knowledge and research on related topics and discuss the opportunities and challenges for their role in shaping the future.
The documentation and presentations of the forum will be available for the general public. Mr Lange from GIZ was confident that this forum would contribute improving land governance in the region by the evident “willingness to learn from one another” notwithstanding that “challenges remain ahead”. Some international treaties such as the Voluntary Guideline on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) can help guide some of the challenges, as they “clearly articulate the key role and requirement of good land governance in our policies”, according to Jochem Lange. Both governments of Germany and Switzerland are supporting the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) “as internationally agreed guidelines for responsible land governance”, as Mr Steven Geiger, Head of SDC Program in Viet Nam, noted.
The Mekong Region Land Governance Project (MRLG), is the main driver bringing this event to life, in close collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and with the strong support of the Hanoi-based Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD). In line with the goals and the philosophy of MRLG, the contributions to the forum are from a multitude of stakeholders in the region aiming at “securing family farmers and communities’ access to land and natural resources in the Mekong Region”.