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New Online Forum Provides Thought-Provoking Dialogue on Customary Tenure
In February, the MRLG project and Land Portal co-facilitated an online dialogue on the Recognition of Customary Tenure in the Mekong Region – a stimulating and thought-provoking conversation that highlighted several consistent themes in what is a very complex subject.
The dialogue, which ran from February 13-27, focused on exploring the challenges and opportunities related to the recognition of indigenous, ethnic minority and community tenure rights in the Mekong region. The discussion has highlighted the different models of customary tenure recognition in the Mekong region and the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches (particularly with regard to communal titling).
Throughout the discussion, there were many references to the development of legislation recognising communal land as a category of tenure that positions communal titling as an important element of customary tenure recognition. Several of the invited contributors raised concerns that these legal developments were not translating into adequate protection and security of customary land for indigenous and local communities.
In many cases, contributors described how laws themselves present problems by restricting who can lay claim to customary land, and the size and type of land that can be claimed and managed by indigenous and local communities.
There was also discussion of how extending state land classifications into communal titles has contributed to a fracturing of customary systems falling under multiple ministries, and to a disconnect between the formalisation of customary tenure compared to the land people actually use.
Despite these concerns, it was acknowledged that recent policy and legal developments in the Mekong countries do suggest that governments are prepared to embrace some form of community-based recognition.
This was the first such online dialogue on land issues in the Mekong region. Almost 900 people checked into the dialogue and there were more than 50 contributions. It proved a useful forum for clarifying concepts and identifying problems with simplistic notions of customary tenure and its recognition. A final report on the dialogue will be published on line in March and will contribute to an upcoming regional workshop on Customary Tenure.