Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) are an effective approach for policy dialogue and land reform processes. Whilst their use in a variety of sectors is not new, the growing political importance is unprecedented.
Global and regional policy frameworks increasingly urge national governments and development actors to adopt this approach. Research studies have demonstrated the potential of MSPs to bring about change for local communities. The increased recognition and promotion of MSPs and the therewith associated multiplication of actors and processes involved at country level can manifest in duplication, overlap and inefficient use of already strained resources. Yet, the potential for greater harmonisation and coordination remains under exploited.
At the occasion of the third Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) held in Abidjan between 25th and 29th November 2019, five major promoters of MSPs – the International Land Coalition (ILC), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Welthungerhilfe (WHH), the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)- convened the second ‘high-level forum on the contribution of MSPs to land governance in Africa’. The event – consisting of a pre-conference workshop held on 23rd November 2019 and a conference side-event on 25th November 2019 – assembled key stakeholders to explore pathways for greater harmonisation of MSPs at the national and regional level. 60 people representing governments, international organisations, regional economic communities and grassroots networks attended the events. Participants discussed how to strengthen MSPs and put forth a set of recommendations to encourage synergies and impact-oriented coordination.
MSPs for people-centred land governance
MSPs bring together representatives from different sectors and interest groups to tackle challenges and capitalise on their differences and strengths for policy action. They create a space for exchange between government officials, academia, the private sector, civil society and - most importantly - community representatives. This offers a venue for inclusive and participatory public dialogue on land reform processes and their implementation. The endorsement and ownership of all stakeholders involved translates into people-centred land governance.
The recent adoption of the progressive Land Rights Bill in Liberia in October 2018 can be considered the result of successful multi-actor engagements. The Liberia CSO Platform on land led a civil society group that engaged with a variety of stakeholders - the government, the traditional leaders and others - to ensure that the review of the Liberian 2017 Land Rights Act includes more community interests. James Yarsiah, Executive Director at the Rights and Rice Foundation (RRF), and WHH’s Land for Life Initiative supported the initiative. Moreover, the platform’s advocacy activities were strengthened via the ILC supported Land Rights Now campaign, an international alliance campaign for the securing of indigenous and community land rights. Concerted efforts by all stakeholders involved engendered the revised Land Rights Bill passed in 2018, which provides stronger protection for community land rights.
Categories of actors in land governance MSPs
One way to understand how MSPs create impact is via the various actors who facilitate policy dialogue at country-level and drive the implementation of land policies. The actors include:
Practitioners are facilitators or coordinators of MSPs at the national level. These include, among others, the ILC National Engagement Strategies (NES) facilitators from more than 30 countries across the globe, the WHH Land for Life coordinators active in 4 countries, RRI’s country-specific MSPs and the Interlaken Group (IG) Platform operating in around 22 countries globally, as well as the FAO and government coordinators involved in promoting the implementation of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) in 10 African countries. Practitioners are central to the accomplishments of continental goals on land.
Promoters represent institutions actively fostering the use of the MSP approach to people-centred land governance. They also foster the implementation of frameworks such as the VGGT and the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (F&G). ILC, FAO, WHH, RRI and IGAD are among the prominent promoters of MSPs. Promoters create linkages between MSP practitioners, donors as well as learning and research institutions. The second high-level forum in Abidjan is a perfect example of how promoters can bring together different actors involved in MSP processes.
Capacity Development and Knowledge Management Partners are research institutions with an interest in investigating MSP dynamics, and developing tools and methodologies. They also encompass capacity building partners. Examples include the Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale (IPAR), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Columbia Centre on Sustainable Investment, the University of Wageningen, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Programme on Policies, Institutions and Markets, the Global Land Programme, the Global Land Tool Network, the Civil Society Academy, and the Management for Development Foundation Training & Consultancy. Capacity Development and Knowledge Management Partners provide the information required for evidence-based design and implementation of MSP actions on the ground and help build the capacity of MSP practitioners.
Resource Partners provide financial support for the design, launch and convening of MSPs. These are agencies typically investing in land governance. Examples can be members of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development, such as the Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Depart
ment for International Development (DfID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Resource Partners are part and parcel of the development of funding strategies that promote needs-based MSPs as opposed to those following a donor-driven agenda.
Building synergies for greater impact: examples from practitioners
The high-level forum provided a platform for practitioners of countries with multiple MSP promoters involved to showcase examples with the potential for complementarity and synergies.
In South Africa, the potential of two different yet complementary platforms is harnessed for the benefit of local communities. Whilst FAO promotes the VGGT MSP and ILC the Civil Society NES Platform, both organisations collaborate with the South African Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) for the administration of their support. This set-up enables the civil society to function as a ‘motor’ for the VGGT MSP. Moreover, it allows civil society to organise itself better in relation to the MSP, providing for more balanced power relations among the different actors.
Senegal serves as an example of how two promoters work in synergy with one common objective at the heart of the multi-stakeholder platform: improving land governance for the people of Senegal. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, FAO, the promoter of the already established VGGT MSP, and ILC, subsequently coming into play through the initiation of the NES process, succeeded in unifying all key stakeholders involved to work in complementarity according to their area of expertise. The VGGTs for land governance platform’s effective collaboration between government and civil society representatives has yielded tangible results, such as the successful influencing of national land policy reform processes.
Harnessing opportunities: stronger synergies and coordination for greater impact
Case studies as those of South Africa and Senegal highlight how concerted efforts and actions by multiple actors can tap the potential of Land Governance MSPs. The high-level forum co-organised by ILC, FAO, WHH, RRI and IGAD aimed at reflecting on the way forward for the broader MSP community to improve coordination for the strengthening of country-level MSP processes.
During the pre-conference workshop in Abidjan on 23rd November 2019, promoters presented their varying approaches to MSPs at country and regional level, including new opportunities of collaboration with the recently launched network of African Land Institutions for Community Rights (ALIN), an intergovernmental platform to scale up implementation of indigenous and community land rights. Practitioners from four different contexts – South Africa, Tanzania, Liberia and Senegal – provided insightful analyses of their country experiences with multiple MSP actors and processes. The group work session allowed for lively discussions among the different categories of MSP actors for the development of a set of recommendations for greater harmonisation and coordination of MSP processes at country and regional level.
The conference side-event held in Abidjan on 25th November 2019 sought to promote stronger synergies and increased efficiencies around MSPs on land governance in Africa by bringing together international organisations and development partners, selected country-level MSP representatives, research representatives and other key actors. Presentations included different MSP approaches and the set of recommendations. The Q&A session allowed for the exchange of different experiences and views by experts within and outside of the land governance MSP landscape.
Building on inspiring examples from the various African contexts, the high-level forum concluded on a positive note. Not only did representatives from all different categories of actors acknowledge the importance for stronger synergies and better coordination to generate greater impact on the ground, but their participation in the development and their endorsement of the set of recommendations demonstrates their commitment in doing so.
This article was written by Simone Zurschmitten, a professional with experience in strengthening and protecting communities. She has worked on burning issues of our time including gender justice, child protection, rights protection and migration.