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The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples’ Land Tenure and Use

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The Case for a Regional Policy in Africa

image of International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

In Africa, owing to a lifestyle that is culturally and collectively dependent on land and its natural resources, indigenous peoples are adversely affected by climate change. This is despite the fact that they contribute least to its cause. While this situation requires the protection of indigenous peoples’ land tenure and use, this is generally not yet the reality in the domestic laws of states in Africa. Premised on four propositions, this article makes a case for a regional policy to safeguard indigenous peoples’ land tenure and use in the light of climate change challenge in Africa. In the main, the propositions are: the indigenous peoples have a distinctive perception of land tenure and use relevant for adaptation and mitigation purposes; the land tenure and use is adversely affected by climate change; there is weak protection of indigenous peoples’ land tenure and use under the national and international climate change response frameworks, particularly the National Adaptation Programmes Plan of Action (napa) documentation as well as land-related Clean Development Mechanism (cdm) and redd+ mitigation initiatives; and there are emerging regional activities with the potential to crystallise into a statement of policy. The proposed policy which should embody detailed normative and institutional safeguards on land tenure and use, the article recommends, can be initiated by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (amcen) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) for the protection of indigenous peoples facing the adverse impact of climate change in Africa.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of law and human rights, Centre for Human Rights University of Pretoria, South Africa,;; 2: PhD candidate; Tutor, Centre for Human Rights University of Pretoria, South Africa,;


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