Linking Rights with Community Livelihoods

RRI’s Rights and Livelihoods Program empowers Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant Peoples, and local communities with evidence, capacity, networks, and advocacy to advance their self-determined strategies to manage and govern lands and forests and improve their livelihoods. The program develops strategic analyses to build the economic, environmental, and development case for community governance, and catalyzes dialogue and collaboration between communities and “unlikely allies”—like the private sector and governments—to promote and mainstream rights-based investments.

The Rights and Livelihoods Program helped to create several “firsts” for RRI in 2023. By launching flagship tools to advance rights-based practices in supply chains, pioneering innovative approaches to influence companies and governments in sourcing landscapes, and creating the tools needed to support collective action and advocacy “beyond land rights”, RRI is unlocking new pathways for communities to fully realize the social and economic benefits of secure rights.

A Talang Mamak man prepares river fishing rods in Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia. The Talang Mamak rely on the forest for their livelihoods, food, and for cultural practices and rituals. | Photo Credit: Jacob Maentz.

Here are a few highlights of what the program achieved in 2023.

  1. The Interlaken Group—an RRI-convened network of leaders from progressive companies and investors, international organizations, civil society groups, and rightsholder networks—marked its 10-year anniversary in 2023 and positioned itself to lead the next decade of private sector action for collective land rights and livelihoods. Participants met on September 15 in New York City, just ahead of Climate Week, to reflect on the network’s accomplishments over the preceding decade and assess emerging challenges and opportunities to continue driving private-sector support for community tenure rights and livelihoods. Indigenous, local community, and Afro-descendant leaders highlighted the urgency of transparency and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) within community-private partnerships and discussed solutions. Participants agreed to hold a retreat in 2024 to refresh the Interlaken Group’s strategy in the context of the new environment for mobilizing private sector support for community tenure rights and to align the ambitions of the network with the 2030 climate and biodiversity targets.

"If companies and investors are to meaningfully and sustainably contribute to global development goals and comply with their own sustainability and human rights commitments and obligations, they must prioritize building respectful direct and balanced partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and local communities impacted by their projects."

— Stanley Kimaren Ole Riamit Maasai leader and President, Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners (ILEPA)

  1. The Interlaken Group launched Principles of Community Monitoring—an innovative resource that will help to support companies and investors to build productive partnerships with communities to secure collective land tenure, contribute to rural livelihoods, and improve private sector compliance with environmental and social standards and commitments. The resource was prepared by a multistakeholder group of leaders from organizations like Unilever, Proforest, Oxfam, AsM Law Offices, and Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners (ILEPA). The document was accompanied by a resource page on community monitoring for practitioners. Companies like Nestlé have committed to incorporating community monitoring in their Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Land Rights Action Plan and Net Zero Emissions strategies.
  2. We helped coalition members leverage community monitoring to engage and influence companies in Indonesia and Liberia. In Sumatra, Indonesia, we supported the expansion of community monitoring and capacity building in major palm oil sourcing landscapes, where it is now well-positioned to be integrated into several companies’ Forest and Nature Positive commitments. In Liberia, we mobilized civil society organizations to utilize community monitoring to document the compliance of palm oil companies with the government’s requirements on local livelihoods and food security in concession agreements. The project has prompted the government to consider integrating community monitoring into its national investment policy.
Ari Ariyanto, a coffee farmer from Tebat Pulau, Sumatra, Indonesia. Tebat Pulau is located in the middle of two protected areas where the local community has lived for generations. | Photo Credit: Jacob Maentz.
  1. The coalition endorsed a new collective vision for the network to support the self-determined economic and development aspirations of Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant Peoples, and local communities, including women and youth, to fully realize their customary land and resource rights. The vision asserts that empowering these groups to achieve their livelihood needs and priorities is foundational to the realization of collective tenure rights, the establishment of community-based governance institutions, food security, and the pursuit of global climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development targets.