Members of Parliament of the Committees on Human Rights and the Legislative have on Wednesday 21st October, 2020 attended a day workshop at Sierra Palms at Lumley Beach Road in Freetown. The event was organized by the Ministry of Lands and County Planning in collaboration with a non-governmental organization, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The workshop aimed at deepening the understanding of MPs on the draft National Land Commission and the Customary Land Rights bills, in order to be able to lead the discuss on the process, in their various Constituencies, when the ministry embarks on a nationwide consultation and also help in the smooth passage of the bills.
Co-Chairperson of the event, Hon Neneh Lebbie said their presence in the engagement would help to ensure that the right legislations are enacted. “We would do due diligence to the documents for the development of Sierra Leone” the MP assured.
In her welcome remarks, the FAO Country representative, Dr. Nyabenyi T. Tipo stressed on the need for more collaborative engagement in light of the smooth implementation of the VGGT. She informed her audience about the progress Sierra Leone is marking, relative to international benchmark. She assured the stakeholders of FAO support in that direction.
Delivering her statement, the Director of the Department of Parliamentary Assistance and Coordination (DePAC), Mrs. Finda F. Frazer said management, acquisition and utilization were fundamental to the socio-economic and political stability of Sierra Leone. She used the opportunity to reassure the participants of her office support, in light of coordination, facilitation and in collaboration with the development partners.
The Director emphasized the importance of land to the livelihood of the rural compatriots and the critical issues surrounding the country’s land system including customs, conflict of ownership and rights of women and investments.
“The Lands Act was criticized for being gender-neutral and for not tackling women’s precarious access to and ownership of land under Customary tenure” she revealed and reference the importance of the draft documents.
She delved into the historical legal frameworks of land tenure since the colonial period and after independent.
“This session will therefore provide the opportunity for the Parliamentary oversight committees present here, to fully understand the essence and importance of the Land Commission and Customary Land Rights Bills and to give their inputs into the bills before taking them to Parliament for approval” she noted.
Mrs. Frazer commended all stakeholders including donors for their various contributions in actualizing the dream and also expressed hope that women’s rights to land in the importance documents would be approved.
The Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Ibrahim Turay, who also doubles as Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force for the implemenation of the National Land Policy and Voluntary Guideline expressed happiness for being part of such a remarkable event and highlighted the dangers that might be envisaged, if certain unwarranted issues are not addressed. “Inadequate and insecure tenure rights to these natural resources increase vulnerability, hunger and poverty and can lead to conflict and environmental degradation, when competing users fight for control of these scarce resources” he strongly remarked. He went on to say, that people can be condemned to life of hunger and poverty, if they lose their rights to their homes, lands, fisheries and forests. The minister underscored some of the remedies relative to responsible governance of tenure, promotion of development agenda and responsible investments, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He revealed the background of the Voluntary Guideline on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in line with the National Food Security (VGGT) and it promotion to land tenure, poverty eradication and sustainable development in tandem with the international benchmark. He highlighted some of the commitments made by his government to the VGGT, hence the draft of the relevant documents and implementation.
However, a unique recommendation that came up, was the formation of a technical working group that is inclusive of Members of Parliament, the Technical Working Group for the National Land Policy-VGGT implementation, development partners and other relevant stakeholders.
The workshop was climaxed by comprehensive discussions, presentations and sharing of ideas that are relative to questions, comments, answers, challenges, successes and the roles of Parliamentarians in the implementation.