Monday, June 24, 2024

CTPD Calls for Government Action in Strengthening the Legal Framework for Protecting Local Communities’ Rights to Land


The Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) has issued a press statement expressing deep concerns about the abuse of human rights and environmental violations resulting from irresponsible Large-Scale Land-Based Investments (LSLBIs). The organization calls for immediate government action in strengthening the existing legal framework to protect local communities and their customary rights from the adverse effects of these investments.

As climate change continues to have increasingly adverse impacts on vulnerable and marginalized communities, the CTPD emphasizes the need to address the ongoing environmental degradation and human rights abuses. While the government’s focus on accelerating economic growth and enhancing livelihoods is crucial, it should not come at the expense of environmental sustainability and human rights.

Recent observations have shown that extensive land and forest clearances for investments in agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing sectors have led to environmental degradation, land grabbing, displacement, and loss of access to natural resources. Minister of Green Economy and Environment, Collins Nzovu, conducted a fact-finding mission in Mumbwa district, revealing that local pastoral communities have been restricted from accessing communal grazing areas. These findings highlight the abuse of customary rights and the degradation of the environment due to land clearing, contributing to global warming and climate change.

The press statement also highlights the lack of coordination and synergies between the government and traditional leadership in implementing policies and legislation. The case in Mumbwa district is just one example of numerous instances of human rights abuses and environmental degradation resulting from Large-Scale Land-Based Investments (LSLBIs), which disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable.

Recognizing the government’s efforts to review and develop new policies and legal frameworks, the CTPD commends these steps and sees an opportunity to address the inadequacies in existing legislation. The organization emphasizes the importance of responsible investment anchored on international and national agreed principles, such as Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). This principle requires investments to respect legitimate land tenure rights and holders and involve participation in decision-making, transparency, accountability, and equal sharing of benefits and risks.

The CTPD points out that countries like Sierra Leone have enacted legislation, such as the Customary Land Rights Act, to protect customary land rights and apply FPIC principles. Therefore, the organization urges the Zambian government to enhance and develop the legal framework to adequately address customary land tenure rights, ensuring the protection of local communities and the environment from investment abuses. Additionally, the government should integrate customary land tenure rights into the investment assessment and approval process and promote Inclusive Business Models (IBM) that foster equitable sharing of benefits and risks between investors and local communities.

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