In much of Africa, the bundle of land rights that most rural people legally hold is relatively small—usually limited to surface rights and certain rights to some natural resources on and below the surface, such as rights to water for domestic use. Many high-value natural resources—such as oil, natural gas, minerals, and wildlife—are governed by separate legal regimes and administered by different public institutions. Africa’s governments often allocate these rights to outside, commonly foreign companies for large-scale operations. In other words, while many communities hold rights to the land, foreign companies hold the rights to the natural resources on or under the same plot. These overlapping rights oftentimes lead to conflict, unsustainable use of resources, and injustices.
The World Bank endorsed Ghana’s Forest Investment Plan in November 2012, approving a $50 million package that can restore forests, improve the country’s water supply, and provide better quality-of-life for communities. An analysis by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS), WRI, and other partners was instrumental in making this breakthrough program come to fruition.
Most of the original forests in Ghana have been degraded or converted into agricultural lands. In order to avoid further deforestation, Ghana proposed a $50 million plan to the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds. However, the World Bank declined to endorse the plan, arguing that it wouldn’t generate sufficient impact. The plan did not have any component for the restoration of forest and landscapes.
Meanwhile, IUCN, CERSGIS, and WRI had spent two years developing and applying a method to evaluate national forest and landscape restoration opportunities, supported by the World Bank Program on Forests (Profor) and the German International Climate Initiative. They found that Ghana had large-scale opportunities to capture carbon and improve quality-of-life through agroforestry, improved treatment of fallow land, and other measures.
The Government of Ghana and the World Bank incorporated the results of this restoration analysis into a revised plan. The addition of this evidence-based, well-argued restoration component persuaded the World Bank to green-light the Forest Investment Plan.
The $50 million investment will not only make Ghana a pioneer in restoring degraded lands to mitigate climate change, it can significantly improve the lives of the country’s rural populations. Restoring landscapes for agriculture, conservation, and other purposes can yield better harvests, improved water supplies, ecosystem services, jobs, and more.
WRI is currently working with IUCN and local partners as part of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, continuing its engagement in Ghana and conducting similar national assessments in Brazil and Rwanda. The aim is to meet the Bonn Challenge, an ambitious, international goal to initiate restoration on 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020.
Laws that ensure access to information provide citizens with the right to crucial facts and data, including those about natural resources that are critical to livelihoods. These transparency laws are the cornerstone of good governance, which all governments have a duty to respect, protect, and fulfill. With the goal to improve governance, The Access Initiative (TAI) successfully influenced a model African Union access-to-information law, as well as a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) access-to-information policy.
WRI is the Secretariat of TAI, the largest network in the world dedicated to ensuring that citizens have the right and ability to influence decisions about the natural resources that sustain their communities.
International and regional institutions, such as UNEP and the African Union, have wide-reaching effects that shape national policies. However, without robust access-to-information policies, UNEP and the African Union lacked practical means of ensuring that their decisions consider sustainable development concerns and the interests of the poor.
WRI has a long history of shaping legal, institutional, and practical reforms to improve transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability around environmental decision-making. This history lay the groundwork for WRI and TAI partners to effectively campaign for UNEP and African Union reforms.
Before Rio+20, WRI and TAI partners presented strong arguments to delegates and helped draft language, which were incorporated into UNEP’s final decision to adopt an “access to information” policy. Simultaneously, WRI worked with partners to review and comment on an African Union model access-to-information law. WRI submitted official comments and provided recommendations to reduce exceptions to the law and include new provisions to better guide implementation and promotion of the policy. The majority of our specific recommendations were adopted in the final model law.
Today, UNEP is finalizing its access-to-information policy and working with WRI to enhance stakeholder participation in decision-making. When the policy is finalized and implemented, UNEP will be one of the most transparent and inclusive organizations in the United Nations system.
The African Union (AU) passed a strong model law, which provides a template for all African countries to write access-to-information acts. It provides legislators a tool to address issues specific to the African context, such as requirements to improve record-keeping and provisions for oversight and monitoring by an independent enforcement body. Currently, of the 54 African countries, only 13 have access-to-information laws. This new, model law encourages the 41 other countries to pass similar legislation.
WRI and TAI are building on our success with UNEP and the AU in new ways, such as working to influence the Open Government Partnership on high-level transparency and accountability policies.
Land and natural resources lie at the heart of social, political, and economic life in much of rural Africa. They represent fundamental assets—primary sources of livelihood, nutrition, income, wealth, and employment for African communities—and are a basis for security, status, social identity, and political relations.
Given the importance of land and natural resources to local livelihoods and well-being, rural people and communities need strong, secure rights over their property. Property rights issues, however, can be complex. They’re often misunderstood, even by many policymakers and development practitioners.
Interactive Forest Atlas of Equatorial Guinea - Atlas Forestal Interactivo de la Republica de Guinea Ecuatorial (Version 1.0)
Please see our Congo Basin Forest Atlases page for the latest versions of our Congo Basin Atlases, along with links to interactive maps, desktop mapping applications, GIS data, posters...
The amount of adaptation finance has increased in recent years, at least in part as a result of agreements reached at the U.N. climate negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009. In the past year, Oxfam, WRI, Overseas Development Institute, and civil society networks in Nepal, the Philippines, Uganda and Zambia have been working together to figure out just how much adaptation finance has been flowing to these four countries and where it’s going. It’s a bit like trying to figure out the tangle of plumbing and pipes in an old house. There is money for climate change adaptation coming from different sources, flowing through different channels, and being used for different purposes.