E/C.12/GC/26 United Nations Economic and Social Council Distr.: General 24 January 2023 Original: English Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General comment No. 26 (2022) on land and economic, social and cultural rights* I. Introduction 1. Land plays an essential role in the realization of a range of rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Secure and equitable access to, use of and control over land for individuals and communities can be essential to eradicate hunger and poverty and to guarantee the right to an adequate standard of living. The sustainable use of land is essential to ensure the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment and to promote the right to development, among other rights. In many parts of the world, land is not only a resource for producing food, generating income and developing housing, it also constitutes the basis for social, cultural and religious practices and the enjoyment of the right to take part in cultural life. At the same time, secure land tenure systems are important to protect people’s access to land as a means of guaranteeing livelihoods and avoiding and regulating disputes. 2. However, the current use and management of land are not conducive to the realization of the rights enshrined in the Covenant. The most important factors in this trend are the following: (a) The increased competition for access to and control over land. Long-term trends in high demand for land and rapid urbanization in most parts of the world have had a significant impact on the rights of many, in particular peasants, rural communities, pastoralists, fisherfolk and Indigenous Peoples, as well as persons living in poverty in urban areas; (b) In cities, the financialization of housing markets has led to competition between different groups for access to and control over land and has encouraged speculation and inflation, affecting the rights of those left behind to an adequate standard of living and to adequate housing; (c) In rural areas, competition for arable land resulting from demographic growth, urbanization, large-scale development projects and tourism has significantly affected the livelihoods and rights of rural populations; (d) Land degradation owing to overuse, poor management and unsustainable agricultural practices has caused food insecurity and water degradation and is directly linked to climate change and environmental degradation, escalating the risk of widespread, abrupt and irreversible environmental changes, including massive desertification; 1 * Adopted by the Committee at its seventy-second session (26 September–14 October 2022). 1 See United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, The Global Land Outlook, 2nd ed. (Bonn, 2022), in which it is highlighted that between 20 and 40 per cent of land worldwide is already degraded. GE.23-00043 (E) 240123 240123

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