What Support is there for People Looking to Start a Community Empowerment NGO in Relation to Land Rights Africa?

What are the organisations that can support this? I am an individual looking to start an NGO on the afore-mentioned subject. But funding is my handicap about how to start. Any insights from any one?

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Thanks for posting Sylvanus - could you tell us a bit more about your plans? I think it would help people to think of recommendations if you could share which country/region you are planning to work and which ‘level’ of focus (national, county, village etc.). And if you have an idea of what you plan to focus on - policy advocacy, legal representation, community organizing, supporting land registration etc. - that could also be helpful.

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Thanks for your reply Marena. I am currently a doctoral candidate researching on land rights of indigenous peoples in Africa. I am hoping the PhD will be completed at some point this year. So, am already making post-PhD plans. I am also a qualified lawyer. I am looking to set up a charity which will focus on promoting and advocating for the legal protection of customary land rights and environmental rights of indigenous peoples, minorities, children and women in the African region. The aim of the charity is to use international human rights instruments to seek remedies for historical and current injustices in relation to land rights of the afore-mentioned groups before international, regional and national courts and tribunals. In this respect, legal representation will be the preferred modus operandi.

The purpose of the charity is also to create awareness among such communities in Africa about the legal and non-legal avenues available for the advancement of such rights through community engagement programmes. The other avenues that will be explored include conducting comparative research on best practices around the world and working with international, regional and national governmental and non-governmental organisations in a collaborative way to promote and advance such rights through reviews of international, regional and national laws, policies and practices. In this respect, policy advocacy and community organising will be the modus operandi.

Please kindly note that this endeavour is at its planning stages and nothing concrete other than the initial plans expressed herein have yet to be done. So, please take account of this in providing me with valuable information. Do NAMATI have any support or resources to get people like myself started and to hit the ground running?

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Much needed work indeed! Would you also consider joining any of the organizations that are doing work like this? I know many organizations in our network are regularly seeking well qualified researchers and lawyers. Or is there a particular reason that you want to start a new organization?

Namati does not provide funding to start new organizations. We support a global network of legal empowerment organizations by focusing on networking organizations together, sharing information about learning and strategies, and supporting collective advocacy efforts. The network of organizations and practitioners that you are part of on this platform is very active and doing excellent work, they are the star resource!

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Perhaps then you should sign post me to these organisations already doing similar projects in Africa. Note that I have a particular interest in advancing land rights of the groups enumerated above through customary law and never through State law as is the dominant tradition these days. There are important epistemological reasons for this approach that I do not intend to discuss at this point in any details. If there are any organisations already involved in this that you are aware of then please kindly sign post me. Alternatively, what advise do you have for people like me wanting to start a new organisation in this area in Africa? The primary objective of this enquiry is not support with resources but advice and guidance. I indicated in my reply to your first response that am currently on an on-going PhD project in this area in the United Kingdom. The resources I was referring to are materials I can read, watch or listen to as I plan. I believe once the initial planning is done with the guidance of experienced people like yourself, then one can easily cross the bridge of ‘resources’ in the sense of funding once one arrives at that crucial threshold. Indeed, as you rightly stated, you are already a resource and the network here is definitely helpful. Thanks for your time in responding so far as well as for the anticipated guidance and signposting.

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Absolutely - your description of your interest reminds me most directly of work that Minority Rights Group is doing to support indigenous peoples in Kenya and work by Natural Justice (documenting and strengthening customary law in Bio-Cultural Protocols). Are you familiar with either of those organizations? As well, Namati’s long-time partner in Uganda, the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda is a stalwart champion of customary law - there are several LEMU staff active on this platform including @Aling and @teresaeilu. We have several resources about work by Namati and partners in this area listed on our publications page and you may also be interested in this recent compilation of case studies and this report on statutory protections for customary land rights in Africa.

Also the directory of the the Global Legal Empowerment Network allows you to filter by country and issue, if you’d like to check for organizations working in particular countries.

Other land focused Network members - which others of you work in ways that Sylvanus is describing? Using international human rights instruments to seek remedies for historical and current injustices in relation to land rights before international, regional and national courts and tribunals?

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@marenabrinkhurst, many, many thanks for this. You are surely a star. Of all the organisations you listed I am only familiar with MRG and have once had a 30 minutes conversation with @LucyClaridge via Skype on their work in Africa and across the world. Looks like some of these materials you have referred me to may end up enriching my thesis as well. I am very grateful. You are very generous!

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Hi both, sounds like an interesting project - and as Marena already pointed out, this is exactly what MRG already does… in East and West Africa!

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Hi @LucyClaridge, good to hear from you here. Are you guys in Nigeria? I mean MRG. Because there are myriad of land rights issues pertaining to minorities and indigenous peoples there. If you are not, are you happy for me to get back to you through Skype or email as we did the last time to discuss these. I am hoping that at some point later this year my PhD project should be completed or very near completion, will you be disposed to further discussion on the Nigerian situation?

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Why don’t we try and Skype in a few weeks - I’m travelling right now?

That is fine. Once you have a date and time when you will be available for a chat could you kindly let me know here.

Marena, the problem outlined by Sylvanus is similar to Papua New Guinea’s customary land protection laws - which are currently inadequate too.

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Would love to hear more on this subject too Lucy as similar circumstances in Papua New Guinea.