A community in rural Honduras.

From: Land rights – Footsteps 105

Why land rights are important and what we can do to protect them

by Rachael Knight  

Deciding whether or not to share community land with an investor is one of the most important decisions a community can make. Good investments can lead to real community development and prosperity. But bad investments may force a community into poverty, increase human rights abuses, pollute local waters and soils, block access routes, and even result in communities losing their lands completely.

Below are some tips for community facilitators, who have some knowledge of land rights, to help communities negotiate with investors. 

1. Teach communities their legal rights. Many countries have national laws that require investors to consult communities before starting an investment project on community land. There are also international instruments protecting communities’ rights. (See page 13 for more information.) 

2. Request Environmental, Social and Human Rights Impact Assessments. Encourage communities to request that potential investors or the government fund an independent consulting firm or group of experts to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and a Human Rights or Social Impact Assessment (HRIA or SIA). These will allow communities to assess the potential impacts of the proposed investment so that they can advocate for any changes needed to the investor’s plan to reduce negative impacts. 

3. Prepare communities to know what to request in exchange for the use of their lands. Facilitators should support communities to demand rental payments that reflect the value of their lands. 

In addition to rental payments, possible benefits to ask for include: 

Communities should make sure that if they ask for one-off benefits, such as a school or clinic, they also ask for the teachers, doctors, books, electricity and medicines necessary to make these function effectively. 

4. Prepare communities to negotiate with investors. Community members should not sign any papers until they have sought the help of a lawyer to understand what the investor is asking them to sign. 

Facilitators should ensure communities: 

5. Get a good, written contract that can be enforced in a court of law. Advise the community to: 

Rachael Knight is the Senior Adviser to Namati’s Community Land Protection Programme. 

Adapted from Namati’s Community Land Protection Facilitators Guide.

Web: www.namati.org
Email: namati@namati.org

 

The whole community should be involved in making decisions about potential investors. Illustration from Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Where there is no artist (second edition)

The whole community should be involved in making decisions about potential investors. Illustration from Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Where there is no artist (second edition)

Community Land Protection Facilitators Guide

By Rachael Knight, Marena Brinkhurst and Jaron Vogelsang 

Namati has produced this step-by-step manual for grassroots advocates seeking to help communities protect their land rights. The guide helps communities to map their lands, develop community by-laws and seek formal government recognition of their rights. Available in English only. Please email communitylandprotection@namati.org to request a printed copy. Alternatively, visit www.namati.org/ourwork/communityland to download a free copy in English and to watch short animated videos of the process in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

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