Indigenous and local communities see big gains in land rights, study shows

Land legally designated or owned by Indigenous, Afro-descendant and local communities increased by 102.9 million hectares (254 million acres), larger than the size of Egypt, between 2015 and 2020, according to a new report released by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). These groups now own more than 11% of Earth’s terrestrial land.

“We are seeing the [results of] advocacy and the work that Indigenous peoples and local communities have been doing to push forward the recognition of their rights,” said Solange Bandiaky-Badji, RRI coordinator.

In the study, land designation grants communities access rights, use of resources and management or exclusion rights to bar extractive industries and activities, while ownership grants all of the above for an unlimited amount of time with right to due process. Indigenous land rights are also covered by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), though this not ratified by law in most countries.

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Dimitri Selibas