Agrarian Reform as a Human Rights Issue in the activities of United Nations Human Rights Bodies and Specialised Agencies

A.P.M. Coomans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/Letter to the editorAcademicpeer-review


Agrarian reform is back on the political agenda. However, from a human rights perspective this notion is little developed. In international human rights law an individual right to land does not exist. The present article aims at establishing the link between human rights norms and agrarian reform issues, such as access to land as a productive resource. It argues that agrarian reform be characterised as a human rights obligation. The article also discusses whether, and if so in what way, UN human fights bodies and specialised agencies have dealt with agrarian reform as a human rights issue. It concludes that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has contributed substantially to putting agrarian reform on the human fights agenda. However, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has failed to develop the notion agrarian reform in a progressive way. Modest and prudent efforts have been made by the FAO and IFAD to mainstream human rights in their policies and programmes on agrarian reform. Although the World Bank lacks an agrarian reform policy that is inspired by human rights, the Bank seems to be willing to give more attention to the social effects of land reform programmes on the living conditions of the rural poor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-31
JournalNetherlands Quarterly of Human Rights
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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