AGTER, une association pour contribuer à Améliorer la Gouvernance de la Terre, de l´Eau et des Ressources Naturelles


Newsletter october 2015, Editorial by Michel Merlet : preparing the World Forum on Access to Land

La lettre d'information du réseau Agter

La lettre d'information du réseau Agter

The association AGTER runs an international network of people, exchanging and thinking together how to improve the governance of land, water and natural resources.The network selects and makes information available but it also formulates suggestions and alternatives to face the current great challenges. This quaterly newsletter is presenting the latest information available on our website :

14 October 2015

Editorial october 2015


Michel Merlet

The preparation of the World Forum on Access to Land and Natural Resources (WFAL) is evolving every day. The International Organising Committee (…) has already met up three times, by June and November 2014 at the FAO’s headquarters in Roma and by June 2015 at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. The World Forum will be held on 31 March, 1 and 2 April 2016 in Valencia, Spain.

This place is highly symbolic. Indeed, in December 2004, the World Forum on Agrarian Reform (WFAR) took place; on the campus of the Polytechnic University of Valencia. The WFAR greatly contributed to an international discussion on agrarian reform, at that time totally forgotten by most countries and all international organisations. More than 200 organisations from 72 countries representing the five continents participated to this World Forum. Several national governments took part to the discussions, including the Brazilian government assisted by a delegation of the Ministry of Agrarian Development leaded by Miguel Rossetto. A year and half later, in March 2006, on the request of the Brazilian government and other several countries, the FAO convened a new International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD). This conference took place 27 years after the first of the same nature.

Nowadays, land issues are central to debates on development. But the ICARRD’s results are insufficient to tackle current issues. The most significant step forward since ICARRD has been the dialogue between States and the global civil society that led to the redaction of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land and other natural resources. This step forward takes place at the time of current unprecedented global and massive land and natural resources grabs. These grabs take two forms: the privatisation of lands, natural resources and territories, up to now managed collectively; or the concentration of these resources by few individuals or companies. Nevertheless, the translation of these Voluntary Guidelines into binding measures able to tackle these processes will take a lot of time. The risk is high to be unable to put an end to dispossession and destruction of peasant agricultures and indigenous civilisations and finally that these global impacts become irreversible.

The processes of wealth concentration and increase of inequalities have never been as fast as nowadays. This evolution begins to cause a stir among varied circles. This adds up to other global threats: increase of armed conflicts, climate change, destruction of biodiversity, and so on. All the work done during the International Year of Family Farming has, without any doubt, contributed to sensitise urban populations and individuals without any link to agriculture or livestock on choices on agrarian development models. Nevertheless, all of this is still far from sufficient.

The World Forum on Access to Land and Natural Resources 2016 is an exceptional opportunity to bring together the representatives of varied social sectors: organisations of producers, civil society organisations not directly linked to agriculture, States and local governments, indigenous organisations, scholars and key figures. Together, they will think about how going further, moving faster in implementing the required measures, changing their nature and, when possible, establishing binding procedures at the different levels. It is of course important to promote the respect of fundamental human rights. But, the good will will never be sufficient. We will have to change significantly the balance of power in order to establish mechanisms that are not only voluntary. To that end, with a world population increasingly urban, we have to mobilise urban to change countryside. This mobilisation cannot be only the fact of consumers-actors who, by their choices, might contribute to make large companies socially responsible. Choosing your soda depending on the company’s stated determination to respect the Voluntary Guidelines will not be efficient! Above all, such practices cannot replace a political and democratic choice on the model of society. The WFAL will provide the opportunity to every participant to discuss the different ways to create the conditions for a democratic mobilisation of the entire society built on the issue of access to land. We do not look for “win-win” processes between large companies and dispossessed populations, but for devices in which the whole society will be a “winner”. Only regaining control over their “common” future, Peoples will be able to overcome the enormous increasing economic difficulties. It is for the AGTER’s members one of the main motivations of this Forum: give a decisive impetus to this indispensable change of paradigm.

Our efforts are focusing on the preparation of this event. The organisations that launched this call, CERAI and AGTER, are small structures based in Europe. Today, more than 300 organisations of producers and from the World civil society have joined the call for carrying out the Forum, in addition to 8 governments and intergovernmental organisations and about 400 key figures. The number of signatories is increasing every day.

We need you to strengthen this process. You can sign the call, if you have not yet done it, get your friends to sign and invite organisations that you think they could contribute to this great collective effort. The WFAL’s website is available in French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese (

We also need you to contribute to debates, to bring testimonies, analysis, proposals, during the period of preparation that begins this month and will last up to the end of March 2016. For the 2004 Forum, we had not organised a preparatory phase like this one, so the scope of proposals was limited. It is not possible during 3 days to replace these months of preparation! You will find below the instructions to proceed with an access to the WFAL’s provisional work themes.

The FMAT’s secretariat, with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), is organising on 16 November 2015 in Brussels a preparatory meeting, especially dedicated to land access in Europe. From now, you can register to this event by contacting directly the WFLA’s secretariat at The final program will be published very soon.

We will multiply the publication of the AGTER’s bulletin notes in order to keep you fully informed about the Forum’s preparation progress. If you are registered as signatory of the call, you will receive the WFAL’s specific newsletters.

Wherever you live, you can contribute. We are also looking for volunteers speaking at least one of the two Forum’s official languages to help us to collect contributions and analysing them. For this too, please do not hesitate to contact us.

article(s) French  Spanish English 


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