Saturday 5 October 2019

Asia Land Forum: A Platform for People Struggling for Land Rights

Asia Land Forum 2019 held in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Asia Land Forum has given inspiration and rejuvenation to continue our fights for ‘our land –our identity’ and against injustices globally" – Mike Taylor, Director International Land Coalition

This year the Asia Land Forum was organized in Udaipur, India on September 30 – October 3, 2019 by the International Land Coalition (ILC) - Asia. Hosted by different members every year, this year MARAG, India along with Land Forum India and National Organizing Committee, was the host organization along with the members of Land Forum India.

The inaugural day of Asia Land Forum, witnessed more than 1,200 people of 12 countries from diverse disciplines, regions, civil society organisations, media, research, and government department coming together in solidarity with each-other in the struggles for achieving land rights and sustainable change. On the opening day of the Asia Land Forum, participants voiced out their struggles in achieving land rights and united to create sustainable change. Majority of the participants were communities who are dependent on land and affected by it. The forum was also attended one Indian Member of Parliament, a Member of Legislative Assembly of the western Indian state of Rajasthan and various senior social activists and community leaders.

“Asia Land Forum is a platform that is bridging gap between people's struggle with their rights”, said Shree Rajagopal PV, eminent Gandhian from Ekta Parishad, a member of ILC Asia. He further invited the whole forum to participate in the JaijJagat 2020 campaign.

Sharing his experiences, land rights activist Mr Lalji Desai said, “Our fight for rights has always been on the principles of non-violence. This forum strengthens our belief in justice through peace”.
The second day of Asia Land Forum was dedicated to land governance issues, which civil society organisations in Asia, international organisations and policy makers are addressing, and provided an extensive regional learning exchange for all. The day opened with the plenary attended by the members of International Land Coalition from Asia where they discussed some of the rising challenges in striving for agrarian reforms faced by the communities who depend on land and forest-based resources for their livelihood vis-a-vis the achievements in agrarian reform in Asia.

During the day, ILC members shared their experiences of working with the communities struggling for their and rights in Asia, which has now become a global concern of people, who are dependent on land. The proceedings of the day reiterated that there cannot be a standardized approach to land reforms. Contextual understanding and region-specific policies are required with appropriate political will of the governments to bring in land reforms. The need to elaborate the efforts to engage with youth and women in pursuing people centered land governance in Asia was underlined. It was also highlighted that availability and transparency of land data and information is fundamental to support these efforts. They discussed that to bring the people centered land governance, the community and women needs to be at the center. The principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent was reiterated to be included in all land laws and policies.

Vowing to open up possibilities for gender transformative future partnership and ways of working, the members emphasized on gender just coalition. The representatives of pastoralist’s organization from Central Asia and South Asia said that the communities in their region are facing large scale investment on pastoral lands that threatens not only their livelihoods but also their cultural identity.

Day 3, the members of ILC adopted the Udaipur Declaration agreeing to stand against the injustices, and violence due to claiming the land rights. The Udaipur Declaration recognized that “As a result of large-scale investment practice land conflicts are spreading in various countries in Asia, resulting in rapid criminalisation of farmers, dalits and Indigenous peoples” also that “This neoliberal economic model is also counter-productive with the global agenda of climate mitigation and adaptation, so that the target of avoiding rising global temperatures by 1.5 degrees will be increasingly difficult.”The declaration is a commitment for the members to support people, women and youth centered land governance where farmers, local communities and Indigenous Peoples’ access, control, ownership and management of land and natural resources. 

On the fourth and concluding day, the members went to four villages in Udaipur District, Rajasthan to visit rural and tribal communities and learn from their stories of getting land rights, and also to hear their struggles.
‘The struggles that the community of Sagatadi village is doing, is not different from our struggles in Mangolia, as global coalition we stand together. The villagers today taught us the lessons of sustaining the pasture land that they are doing from last 30 years. This is rare and splendid’’, said Khijaba Ykhana from Mangolia, Central Asia.

Sharing his experiences of ALF-2019, Roul Socrets from Asian Farmers Association, Philippine, said that ‘The four days were full of energy and learning from the Indian communities, from our Asian counterparts and from the tribal women, men and youth. This is a reiteration that the journey towards gender just and people centered land governance is a long one and we can’t afford to relax in between.’ 


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