Customary tenure highlighted in ASEAN social forestry conference

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Customary tenure highlighted in ASEAN social forestry conference


03 July 2017

Customary tenure rights and access rights to forest and farmland should be secured, and processes for securing communal land titles should be faster and more streamlined, according to recommendations from a recent ASEAN working group.

The ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry (AWG-SF) held its biennial conference this year with a focus on forest landscape restoration.

More than 300 participants from the region gathered in Chiang Mai from June 12 to 17, to discuss and formulate recommendations to be considered by an inter-ministerial group which in turn develops its own ASEAN-level resolution.

Civil society organisations and partners have long been pushing for the recognition of the indigenous peoples and the rights of local communities in forest lands, and this working group has now endorsed the recognition of customary rights as one of its guiding principles.

This event was preceded by a CSO Forum co-organised by NTFP-EP network and AIPP, which brought together more than 80 CSOs from the region, and prepared a declaration which was then presented to the AWG-SF conference.

As a result of this advocacy effort, including some MRLG presentations highlighting the importance of customary tenure recognition for sustainable forest management and restoration, the following recommendations were adopted by the conference:

  • Customary tenure rights and access rights to forest and farmland, including shifting cultivation areas, should be are secured, including those within protected and conservation areas;
  • Processes for securing communal land titles are faster, streamlined and more efficient;
  • National guidelines should be developed on FPIC with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities;
  • The development and implementation of national policies that take into account the UN Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure (VGGT) and REDD+ Cancun safeguards;
  • An emphasis on the positive dimensions of tenure, governance and participation for all stakeholders, including the tangible benefits and incentives for communities, private sector and government, such as security, investments and finance.


These recommendations were shared and developed further in the AWG-SF meeting (involving the national focal points), and will later be presented to the ASEAN Meeting of Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF) in July, in the hope they will be taken further by ASEAN Member States.

During the conference, key publications from MRLG including the VGGT were presented and made available to the participants.