As rising consumption and the environmental crisis intensify pressure on resources, local communities are increasingly being dispossessed of the resources on which they depend for their survival. Large-scale investments --including some pitched as sustainable development, climate smart agriculture, blue and green growth -- take control of resources away from local communities. Increasingly, communities opposing these initiatives are using the language of human rights to land, sea, and food to articulate a vision of democratic access, management and control of resources where access to land, fisheries, food and other life-giving resources is protected. The experiences of communities using human rights instruments like the Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Land, Fisheries, and Forests (VGGTS) show that another approach is possible and that governance structures that put marginalized communities and their human rights at the centre of land and resource governance can have a transformative impact on people’s lives.
The environmental crisis is worsening day by day: Climate change is an urgent global threat with dramatically different effects around the world; air pollution and biodiversity loss driven by habitat destruction and the impacts of industrial agriculture are just some of its manifestations. Around the world communities and social movements have historically developed ways of relating to non-human nature in more balanced ways. Today, a growing number of “false solutions” to the environmental crisis rely on market-based projects that further erode local communities’ democratic control over resources and increase corporate take-over of those resources, now described as “sustainable development”. A clear understanding of the systemic forces driving climate change and environmental destruction on the one hand, and exploitation and dispossession of communities on the other, is critical to seeking out and realizing real solutions to urgent environmental threats.
The dynamics playing out in international, regional, and local fisheries policies show striking similarities to processes of land and resource grabbing observed in other contexts over recent decades. However, public awareness of these issues is far lower. There is an acute crisis of marine and aquatic resources and most policy solutions ignore or actively exclude small scale fishers who rely on access to these resources for their livelihoods. TNI works at a number of levels to expose fisheries and environmental policies negatively affecting small-scale fishers. We work with movements to develop analyses, defend the rights of small-scale fishers, and support them when participating in key policy-making spaces.
We are facing a climate and environmental crisis and both corporations and governments are often responding with capital-intensive, urban-focused, highly centralized and undemocratic solutions. Solutions, in other words, that reproduce the structural factors that led to the current crises. At the same time, however, communities and social movements around the world are advocating for genuinely transformative solutions that would address the roots of the current crisis and contribute to system change. Communities are fighting for food sovereignty; energy democracy and sovereignty; democratic control of resources; human-rights centred policies, based on a re-grounded and revitalized notion of human rights that recognizes the concept’s relevance to a wide range of social and resource struggles; and ultimately for a transformative vision of a just transition to a just and sustainable society. These alternatives are more than proposals: local communities around the world are already putting them into practice and developing systems, communities, networks, and movements that prefigure this kind of transition by modelling alternative understandings of our relationships to nature, and each other.