COVID-19 and climate change are impacting all of us, but the dual disasters have a disproportionate impact on communities in emerging economies. These impacts are felt most acutely in rural areas, especially among indigenous communities and minority groups, and by women and others who are marginalized within those groups. Land rights were already crucial for food security, identity, and survival; but COVID-19 and climate change make land rights an increasingly vital solution in rural areas.
Legal recognition of land rights is a necessary basis for successful biodiversity conservation and restoration. To be effective, the process must include rural land users, with attention to intersecting vulnerabilities faced by women, youth, and other marginalized groups.
What if we could alleviate rural poverty, strengthen women’s rights, and help turn the tide against climate change, all at once? In Myanmar, a program to secure land rights for the country’s forest-dwelling communities is helping villages make progress toward all three.
Both the climate crisis and inequality require a democratic overhaul. Governments globally should start by turning over legal control of land and natural resources to local communities and indigenous land users. Their rights are key to survival for all of us.
With the world's food supply under threat and millions already facing climate-driven migration, a land-use revolution is needed. Legal reforms that strengthen rural communities' land rights are essential to providing the leverage and incentive to invest in climate resilience.