Newsletter no 21 – Editorial

Rights to natural resources

Illustration: leaf – An earth that nurishes @Anna and Elena Balbusso

As the world lurches from crisis to crisis, the value of land, water, forests, minerals and other natural resources as sources of wealth creation continues to rise. For those with long-standing ties to land, water and territories, nature’s greatest wealth and value is life itself, and these crises simply confirm the necessity for humans to live symbiotically with nature. However for many, natural resources are things that can be parceled, packaged, changed, bought, sold and traded in markets far away from the original location of the resource.

The attribution of rights to natural resources reflects these differences. Corporations, financial institutions and many governments promote marketable rights through land titles, water trading rights, emissions trading, etc.
Most governments recognize those who can pay most as rights holders to land, water, minerals and forests. For peasants, fisher-folk, workers, indigenous peoples and rural and urban poor, their rights to resources are legitimate claims to lands and eco-systems that are rooted in respect for nature, as well as their rights to self determination. The realization of these rights is a necessary precondition for building democratic and just governance systems, and ensuring peace and harmony with nature.

The articles in this edition show how peoples across the world are fighting to secure and defend their rights to natural resources and the rights of nature. Spotlights 1 and 2 provide valuable information about tools that can be used to strengthen our struggles, which must include defending and reclaiming the notions of rights themselves from market cooptation.

Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South