Theme 4. Sharing Territories and Land, Water, Fishing Rights, Aquaculture and Forest Use, between sectors



Territories are faced with increasing pressure from competing uses, often leading to serious conflicts. These conflicts are not just related to the shared use of natural resources such as land, water and forests, but also to often divergent views regarding these territories.

However, in many cases these conflicts involve actors who all acknowledge the common need for the right to food sovereignty – these players will be present at the Nyéléni Forum. It is therefore key that during this thematic working group discussion there is a focus on the three following axes:

Develop a better understanding of the legitimate, but often divergent expectations of the various claimants of the territories – these divergent expectations are potential sources of conflicts of interest and need to be overcome.

Based on concrete experience, learn mechanisms of conflict resolution among claimants having conflicting usages and rights.

Strengthen alliances among involved claimants in order to promote the use of lands and territories that respect and reinforce the right to food sovereignty.

What are We Fighting For?

Concept of shared territory

“All of the original peoples, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, tribes, fisherfolk, rural workers, peasants, the landless, nomadic pastoralists and displaced peoples, have the right to maintain their own spiritual and material relationships; to possess, develop, control, use and reconstruct their social structures; to politically and socially administer their lands and territories, including their full environment, the air, water, seas, rivers, lakes, ice floes, flora, fauna and other resources that they have traditionally possessed, occupied and/or utilized. This implies the recognition of their laws, traditions, customs, tenure systems, and institutions, as well as the recognition of territorial borders and the cultures of peoples. This all constitutes the recognition of the self-determination and autonomy of peoples .”

(Declaration of the “Land, Territory and Dignity” Forum, Porto Alegre, 6-9 March 2006).


– How can we develop principles for fair and equitable sharing of lands, territories, flora and fauna, and all natural resources among different user communities?

– How can we prevent the encroachment of market forces and mechanisms in the governance of lands, territories, flora and fauna, and all natural resources?

What are we fighting against?

Conflicts of interest regarding territories

The privatisation of resources strongly contributes to the unequal distribution of the right to access and use of land and other natural resources. In certain areas, factors such as demographic growth, desertification, climate change, neoliberal policies, investment in mining and forestry, and liberalisation of land markets all contribute to aggravating existing tensions.

Even if we share a common vision on the right to food sovereignty and on sustainable management of natural resources and territories, we are nonetheless faced with divergent interests or usages that are legitimate, but that can lead to conflicts between:

– pastoralists and peasants regarding access to land use and the right of passage for cattle;

– fishers and peasants on water access and use, and on modes of production;

– indigenous peoples and peasants looking for new agricultural land;

– peasants and the expansion of suburban areas;

– farmers and environmentalists regarding land use and modes of production;

– men and women having often unequal rights in terms of access to natural resources;

– and generally, between social groups that can potentially benefit from the establishment of private rights on land and other resources.


– How can we come up with principles and practices for resolving conflicts that arise between different user communities?

– How can we resist the manipulation of different user communities by governments corporations and other private actors who seek to gain control over communal territories and natural resources?

What can we do about it?

Conflicts related to access to and control of territories and natural resources are increasing. Arbitrage of conflicts therefore becomes inevitable, and new types of conflicts emerge. It is necessary to build alliances and new forms of solidarity. Access to territories, land, water and forests is one of the building foundations of social justice and solidarity, also with respect to future generations.

“… the State should guarantee community control over natural resources by peasants, fisherfolk, pastoralist, and forest communities, and by indigenous peoples, so that they can continue to live and work in the countryside and on the coasts by means of collective and community rights.”

(Declaration of the “Land, Territory and Dignity” Forum, Porto Alegre, 6-9 March 2006).

It is therefore imperative to develop a system of regulation (at the local, regional and global level) for territories, land, water and forests: rules that regulate access, use, bestowed rights and the responsibilities implied. This is necessary in order to establish a system of conflict management that is not only efficient, but also legitimate and commonly accepted.


– How can the legitimate interests of different claimants be best considered and honoured?

– What are successful experiences of conflict management related to territories, land, water and forests?

– How can social movements improve the dialogue among claimants and prevent conflicts? What are indispensable mechanisms of common conflict management?

– What strategies need to be developed in order to involve players of social movements in defining and implementing structural mechanisms of conflict management on territories, all the while respecting diverging legitimate claims as well as the right to food sovereignty?

– How can the various claimants of natural resources move from a common political vision to the construction of common concrete battles (within the context of food sovereignty – at the local, regional and global level)?