Defending the right of communities to decide their own development paths

Development should not be at the expense of communities and the benefits of development should accrue to local people and those most directly affected. Key to putting communities at the centre of development is to assert and strengthen their rights in land.

Thus, the restitution and redistribution of land should remain a priority of government policy. In line with the Constitution, living customary law, and the rights to land and resources arising from it, should be recognised and promoted. That means promoting customary law as the law of the community.

The LRC works to use the law, in particular constitutional and customary law, to support democratic practices and institutions in rural areas in pursuit of community development and household livelihood security.

We believe these activities will ensure that dignity is restored to communities who lost their land through unjust and discriminatory colonial- and apartheid-induced practices. In addition, communities must be provided with access to natural resources which are vital to sustain their livelihoods.

The primary aim of the LRC’s land rights work is to assist in the realisation of the constitutional imperative that the state must take legislative steps and other measures to foster access to land and natural resources on an equitable basis.

We seek to promote communities affected by development as central to decision-making about such development, to further transparency and accountability in government and business, restitution and reparation for past injustices and to secure rural livelihoods and promote of sustainable development.

LRC land reform work draws from many years of experience resisting forced removals and, since 1994, assisting client communities to secure land-based livelihoods in terms of post-apartheid land reform policies.

The LRC also focuses on communities affected by the extractives industries. We defend their right to say “no”or to give their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to development affecting them, as well as enhancing their ability to monitor compliance with relevant legislation and regulations relating to environmental and occupational health. We are also concerned with the protection of labour rights.

A particular focus of the LRC’s work in the regional and international context is on activities in the extractives sector and the effect mining has on local communities, the obligations of business to protect and fulfil human rights, and the recognition of customary tenure.

The LRC also engages with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) through the Working Group on Extractive Industries (WGEI), which focuses on the rights of communities affected by mining.