International Conference on Land in Dakar, Senegal

In March 2013, a week-long International Conference on Land was held in Dakar, Senegal, under the supervision of International Initiatives – from which is originating the Jai Jagat movement.

The agenda of the Conference evolved around sharing experiences on struggles around land rights and on nonviolent mobilisation. In Senegal, the civil society is facing daily threats on its access to land and livelihood resources. As the notion of « land-grabbing » does not have the same relevancy and definition in the different represented countries, the discussion was framed around the concepts of land restoration, land (re)distribution, land protection and land management/development.
Here is the resulting Dakar Declaration endorsed by the participants :

We, representatives of the civil society and grass-roots community organizations involved in land issues in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Colombia, Senegal, Nepal, France and in India, representatives of the International Initiative, reunited in Dakar from the 21st to the 23rd of March 2013 around land governance issues, share the collective engagement in promoting a secure and fair access to land and natural resources as well as the control and ownership of land by small agricultural producers living in rural and urban areas (fishermen, farmers, livestock farmers).

Point out that that access, fair use and responsible natural resources management, especially land, water and forest, is essential to allow impoverished women and men to exercise their fundamental economic, social, political and cultural rights; in particular, the right for every person to be freed from hunger and poverty, with respect to their dignity.

Recognise that in spite of the engagement and efforts from several Governments at the implementation of governance issues favourable to the most impoverished (in collaboration with civil society), a majority of Governments do not succeed in protecting the rights of impoverished citizens. Inadequate agricultural policies jeopardize land rights and worsen hunger and world poverty. Recognise the efforts of civil society organizations around the world at the implementation of responsible land programs for the impoverished.

Consider that the recent grabbing of land in favour of private interests or third States targeting tens of thousands of hectares all around the world – whether it be for food security, energy, mining, environment, tourism, speculation or geopolitical reasons – undermine human and national rights by depriving local, peasant and pastoral communities of their means of production. It either restricts access to natural resources or to freely produce. This hoarding of land worsens access and land control at the cost of the poor and especially the young and women.

Be aware of the obsolete character of internal laws (like the law on « national domain » from 1964 in Senegal) in our respective countries, of the recurrence in land transactions in rural areas without prior consultation of the local population. Furthermore, in urban and suburban areas, the politics of expropriation (often because of economic pressure) for various reasons such as public causes (social housing, tourism, highways, airports, plants, and so forth) and urbanisation, without respecting the procedures. For this reason, the population questions the investment projects in terms of surface area and usage, the increase of social tensions related to land issues, and rural exodus, but especially the precarious solutions found to these problems.

Be concerned with contributing to the research of efficient solutions on questions linked to land, and of the necessity of resorting to a peaceful resolution of land conflicts. State the crucial contribution of small farmers and livestock farmers in reaching food security on the continent. We call the Governments to invest in the promotion of family farms with the goal of finding solutions to starvation and poverty but also limit the environmental degradation and promote sustainable development. Farmers ask themselves why land governance is not « standard » in countries where food production is important.
Confirm the necessity to concentrate on the implementation of safe land rights for marginalized groups, including livestock farmers, fishermen, agriculturists, forest users and such segments of the population.
Recognize the role of development partners and multilateral organisations in the land rights and reforms that are favourable to the poor. We invite partners to sustain civil society organizations efforts in this regard.

We, attending representatives of the civil society, grass-roots community organizations and representatives of the International Initiative on land, are committed to:

  • Taking initiatives in collaboration with the Government, civil society, private sector and development partners in our respective countries in order to a better take into consideration small producer needs in implementing politics and agricultural programmes from our countries.
  • Conceiving and implementing a « multi-actor » strategy on land reform which respects poor people’s rights contained in our land policies.
  • Investing in the strengthening of the capacity of civil society organizations in promoting the rights of agricultural actors, in particular women and young people.
  • Supporting the federations of local groups in different zones where land conflicts have occurred.
    Promoting the implementation of a national network affiliated to an international network centred on land issues.

Done in Dakar, the 25th of March 2013