Details for PAFPNet Consolidated Responses for October discussion

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Name:PAFPNet Consolidated Responses for October discussion
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Query 2: Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security

The PAFPNet discussion for the month of October on the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security”, highlighted a number of concerns on this sensitive topic. Looking at both the strengths and weaknesses in land, fisheries and forests tenure, a common thread identified showed that challenges in this area outweighed its strengths.

The majority of land and sea resources in the Pacific are customary-owned because of its ties to the people’s culture, customs and traditions. As a result of this, it is almost impossible to classify any underlying strengths related to the tenure of governance in the three areas listed. 

In reference to the governance of the tenure of land, the respondents highlighted the issue of land disputes as a result of land ownership. In this case, the registration of land either ceases to exist or its importance is not strongly emphasized. Additionally, because customary laws preside over freehold laws in most Pacific island countries, the implementation of the guideline lacks motivation because most decisions made involving the land and the sea are by families or villages as a whole.

However, it has also been discussed that customary ownership is not the only problem for disputes. A pending issue in relation to the areas of land, fisheries and forests, is the act of involving customary owners in business for commercial purposes. This has proved to bring about more harm than good, as customary land and communal reef ownership have been handed over to foreigners. 

Furthermore, the lack of information dissemination was underlined as a major constraint for improving the tenure governance. According to the discussions, this entailed a lack of knowledge and understanding on the vitality of land and sea resources thus leading to a rise in disputes and lack of transparency.

On another note, many members saw the importance of instituting a department specifically responsible for the registration of land and sea resources in the Pacific as a way to establish boundaries. In doing so, they also mentioned the importance of implementing guidelines to help strengthen and enable existing policies and principles set in place.

There were also some suggestions made for a more effective and efficient application of the guidelines. A promotion of the guidelines at a national level was highlighted in the forum with the support of key stakeholders and high level consultants to help boost the guidelines implementation and use. Moreover, it was also recommended that a training of trainers be organized on the guidelines so that its existence is recognised and people are made more aware of its purpose and importance.

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