LIOH Statement regarding the World Bank’s 2019 conference on Land and Poverty

LIOH Statement regarding the World Bank’s 2019 conference on Land and Poverty

25 March 2019

From the 25-29 the World Bank is hosting its annual conference on “Land and Poverty Conference 2019”.  This conference is pitched as a platform for experts to gather and present on solutions to the world’s land issues, including those afflicting Myanmar’s people today.

We, the Land in Our Hands, [a multi-ethnic national network in partnership with civil society and community based organizations across Myanmar], firmly believes that the World bank is the wrong institution to be leading communities out of land related poverty at a global scale, and has a major conflict of interests as the Bank has arguably exacerbated land related inequality through its investments and structural adjustment programs.

Myanmar is facing a serious land crisis that has been built on decades of successive military government’s systematic and widespread land expropriations from the country’s people. The current semi-civilian government, led by the NLD, has followed in the footsteps of previous authoritarian dictatorships in attempting to corner land as an investment opportunity while ignoring the history of land expropriations and how they continue to fan the flames of inequality, conflict and poverty. 

Sadly, the NLD-led government’s land reforms are deepening the existing land tenure insecurities of millions of farmers across the country, and foreclosing opportunities for genuine federal democratic reforms and lasting peace.

The recently amended Vacant Fallow Virgin Land Management Law effectively designates 45 million acres of land in Myanmar as “untitled” or vacant land, leaving it open for investment – 82 per cent of this land lies in non-Bamar ethnic States. There is no such thing as vacant land in Myanmar, and by ignoring the diversity of existing land tenure systems practiced by local farming communities, this law will transform these farmers into landless criminals, deprive them of their livelihoods and strip them of their cultural heritage and identity. In response to this situation, 346 CSOs across Myanmar (https://lioh.org/?p=46); the ethnic political parties (https://lioh.org/?p=53) and war affected displaced community from Kachin (https://lioh.org/?p=61) issued statements calling on the Myanmar government to repeal the VFVL law.

Land conflicts that are now emerging throughout the country will worsen as foreign companies, supported by foreign governments and International financial institutions, rush in to profit before any meaningful or far-reaching political and economic reforms have taken root in Myanmar. The World Bank’s engagement in the Myanmar land issue will lead to an acceleration of land grabbing and compound the dispossession of local communities from their lands and resources; and further fuel conflict and rights violations including displacement in Myanmar.

Contact

https://lioh.org, landsinourhands@gmail.com, +95-9785175874

Download (English) (Myanmar)

PSLF’s Statement on VFVL

Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) / Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) released a statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) on 11th March 2019. The statement is claiming that the peoples living & making lives on the land are the original owner of the land thus no need to use the VFVL; reminding the peoples from Ta’ang area to claim back the lands grabbed previously; promising PSLF/TNLA would uphold land policy that protect the community from losing land and would take actions against those any individual or organization attempting to grab the land from its people.

PPST’s Statement from its Special Meeting 03-2019

The Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Signatory – Ethnic Armed Organizations (NCA-S EAO) released a statement from its special meeting (03/2019) happened during 5-7 March, 2019. The statement urged to review & amend the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) accordingly as it is opposing democracy norms and federal principles; and to stop enacting similar laws in the future.

Ethnic Literature & Cultural Development Organizations released statement on VFVL

Ethnic literature & cultural development organizations held a workshop reviewing the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) in Lashio of Shan State (Northern Shan). Together with Kachin, Ta-ang & Shan Literature & Culture Development Organizations, 62 participants representing 25 organizations participated in this workshop happened during March 5, 2019. A statement come out from that workshop demanding to cancel the VFVL, to recognize customary tenure practices and to ensure the land restitution for displaced persons by armed conflicts.

SSEYF’s Statement on VFVL

Shan State Ethnic Youth Federation Leading Committee (SSEYF) released statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) on March 5, 2019. The statement has raised 6 demands;

  • To abolish the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law
  • To recognize & respect ethnic customary land management systems & rights
  • To draft the law that guarantee management, decision making, ownership & interest of farmers and local peoples
  • To ensure the land laws making process is democratic & human rights based
  • To remove the charges completely from farmers those are currently facing on trial under VFVL
  • To give the lands back to original owners

CLAN Statement on VFVL

Chin Land Affairs Network (CLAN) released a statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) after its executive members’ meeting and land law review workshop happened during 12-13 of February, 2019.

The statement is available in Burmese and has raised 4 points:

  • Chin people are original owners of all land & related resources thus this status must not be altered without the consent of Chin peoples
  • VFVL makes more conflicts to Chin peoples’ livelihoods, live makings, histories & cultures and is also undermining federal system, thus to be abolished.
  • VFVL facilitates land grabbing from ethnic peoples and specifies the original owner of the land as criminals, thus to stop the land grabbing & large-scale projects under VFV label.
  • Denounce the quote of U Shwe Htee Yo, Minister for Road & Transport, saying there’s no ancestral land in Chin State; because there are only ancestral land handed over generations in Chin State.

Letter from UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar Government on VFV

On 21 January 2019, UN Special Rapporteur communicated to Myanmar Government regarding the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law. The letter was composed from the mandates of:

  • the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar;
  • the Special Rapporteur on the right to food;
  • the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; 
  • the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; 
  • the Special Rapporteur on minority issues and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

Read the full letter HERE.

Mon Communities’ Statement on VFVL

New Mon State Party and Mon peoples released a statement after land law review workshop happened during 25-26 December, 2018. The statement highlights the VFVL undermines Mon customary land tenure practices; is not aligned with human rights norms, democracy norms & federal norms; is not supporting current peace process; and thus to be abolished.

Mon Statement on VFV (1)
Mon Statement on VFV (2)

Civil Society Organizations’ Open Letter to LIFT for its call for proposal “REAL DEV”

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; today in 24 December 2018.

24 December 2018

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; today in 24 December 2018.

On 14 December 2018, LIFT (Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund) has launched a REAL DEV programme that invites partner agencies to work with the Government on land reclamation and reallocation in Magway, to develop a replicable approach and framework for reallocating State land reclaimed from concessionary holders to the rural poor, landless, and others; according to its website and facebook page.

Since the government adopted the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFV law) in 2012, peoples from ethnic areas declared that they don’t have vacant, fallow & virgin land but the ancestral lands they have been living, using & managing for centuries. And many civil society organizations asked the government to abolish the VFV law. Although NLD government initiated to amend this law in 2017, it becomes worse – criminalizing the peoples defending their lands and setting the time for registering the lands. Land in Our Hands is continuously supporting for federal land government and customary practices; thus calling to abolish the VFV law. During May, LIOH released a statement at national level reckoning the voices from different states & regions. That workshop and statement is representing over 1,600 peoples and over 400 civil society organizations across the country.

Despite these continuous public oppositions, the Government adopted the amendments to VFV in September 2018. Thus, LIOH launched the campaign against VFV law and also released a joint statement. The statement is endorsed by 346 local organizations. The international community is also supporting the movement of LIOH and issued the concern letter recently.

At this fragile moment, LIFT called proposals for its programme above-mentioned. Although LIFT says “LIFT’s programme is relevant and responsible – perhaps even more so at this time than before”, it is lacking the political sensitivity around land rights and peace building process as wider impacts. In this regards, LIOH & MATA prepared and sent an open letter to LIFT calling to suspend the call for proposals and reassess its operations in Myanmar in accordance with its 12 conflict sensitivity principles.

Open letter to LIFT: (English) (Burmese)

International Community Issued Statement of Concern on VFV

In December 2018, international community issued the statement of concern to express solidarity with grassroots campaign against VFV in Myanmar and called for petition.

Please visit the official petition site or see the letter here.