Giving Compass' Take:

• The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are both crises that threaten the security of land rights for vulnerable populations, specifically Indigenous peoples. 

• How can donors help strengthen the representation of these communities in governance to attain land rights?

• Learn why land rights matter for climate change and inequality. 

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.

One fundamental factor unites them in their plight: rights to the land they depend on for food, identity, and survival, are too often insecure. Land rights in rural areas were already crucial for securing dignity and escaping poverty; but COVID-19 and climate change make land rights an increasingly vital solution in rural areas.

As communities grapple with climate change impacts amid a public health crisis, they are now increasingly facing opportunistic land grabs by governments and local actors angling to take advantage of the turmoil. Given that land offers security, shelter, income, and livelihoods for many people living in rural areas, insecure land rights exacerbate an already tenuous balance of survival for many communities.

Women and Indigenous populations face the greatest threats from land loss due to their lack of legal property rights. The co-occurring crises of climate change and COVID-19 have stacked the deck against populations with insecure land rights, and threaten the very existence of many Indigenous populations. Securing these land rights for rural communities, however, can unlock opportunities to build climate resilience while also lowering the future risk of another infectious disease outbreak.

COVID-19 and climate change are more deeply connected than simply through the strife they cause. Climate change is exacerbating the spread of new infectious diseases, like COVID-19, through increased temperatures, more frequent storms, shifting habitat availability, and degraded land. On top of that, human-driven threats to biodiversity, like intensifying agriculture, urbanization, resource extraction and deforestation have strained ecosystems, making them vulnerable to being overrun by alien species and pathogens.

Read the full article about securing land rights by Rachel McMonagle at Skoll Foundation.