Governance of Lands and Natural Resources

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Dispossession of lands and natural resources is a major human rights problem for communities, especially indigenous communities. Many of them are pushed out of their traditional areas to give way for development initiatives that favour the economic interests of others.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples rights confirmed that lands and natural resources are critical for the survival of subsistence communities. The importance of the recognition and protection of their ancestral lands, territories and resources is therefore a major priority. Several court judgments protecting indigenous peoples’ land rights have emerged over time, such as the hallmark African Commission decision on the Endorois community in Kenya.

Those judgments have formally recognised the gains made by the indigenous peoples’ movement, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Mabo decision, the Awas Tingi decision as well as the Richtersveld decision, within the African legal system.

We Aim To

  • Support communities to secure land and natural resource tenure, with a focus on gaining recognition for their contributions to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
  • Provide informed assistance on how the implementation of communities’ land and resource rights can best take place.

We Do This By

  • Developing the land rights elements of Natural Justice’ work to help strengthen the communal land rights of indigenous and local communities.
  • Providing technical advising, supporting existing litigious processes with our partners and engage in advocacy.
  • Providing local legal empowerment in relation to both land and resource rights.
  • Monitoring national level legal processes in relation to land, resources and related traditional governance structures.
  • Engaging in selected regional and international negotiations, including the African Commission for Human and Peoples Rights or the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.



The programme operates in the following countries:

Programme Funders

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa
Heinrich Böll Foundation for Southern Africa
ABS Capacity Development Initiative

Projects in this Programme


The Heroes Project – A KhoiSan Cultural Revitalization Initiative


Supporting the National Khoi & San Council around the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill 2015


Participation in the African Human Rights Commission’s Special Mechanism: The Working Group on Indigenous Populations

Programme News

Programme Publications

Submission: Basic Environmental Assessments for various West…

Submission: Land Tenure Act Upgrading Amendment Bill (South …

Submission: Land Tenure Act Upgrading Amendment Bill (South …

Submission on Expropriation Bill (South Africa)

Submission: Cultural Rights and Climate Change

The Khoikhoi Peoples’ Rooibos Biocultural Community Protoc…

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