This paper documents the opportunities and constraints for the Forest Peoples Land Rights Network (LandNet) in advocating forestland rights, in order to discuss the lessons learned over the previous two decades. Working on the sensitive issue of the struggle over forestland use rights LandNet was able to establish a bottom-up network that includes various stakeholders in this struggle. LandNet is based upon an informal network of motivated forest people established during the work of the three local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who together form the Livelihood Sovereignty Alliance (LISO). LandNet works on issues about forestland use rights at the grassroots of Vietnamese society.
Based in six provinces, LandNet is focused on the strengthening of the community by organizing capacity-building activities to make forest people aware of their rights and the duties of government. During these activities as workshops, meetings, and exchange visits LandNet helps to make the community aware of their political, legal, and social capabilities. Creating awareness makes the community confident to ask for, and to protect their rights. Also, by including local authorities as members in its network LandNet has the ability to get directly involved in the decision-making process, and is able to influence this process ensuring that the outcomes will benefit the livelihoods of forest people. Furthermore, LandNet can rely on a large external network of friends and advisors that is used to get advice or information. Lastly, LandNet works as an advisory partner for several national government institutions, and maintains good relationships with journalists.
This paper shows two examples of sub-LandNets at the grassroots in Son Kim commune and Hanh Dich commune. Looking at the lessons learned these cases show the importance of a strong community that is aware of the problems in their area, and understands their legal rights and the duties of local authorities. Furthermore, the examples show the importance of a confident community that is willing to speak out during open meetings, and support local authorities representing them in closed meetings. The examples also display the need for LandNet to establish good relationships with local authorities to give them an understanding of the importance of their duties and to ask them to base their decisions upon the law.
In conclusion, to strengthen the network, investments by LandNet in human resources will be of great importance. Firstly, as the sheer volume of work increases, they need more people. Secondly, in advocating against the money-driven opponents in the struggle for forestland use rights LandNet needs support in investing in the legal capacity of the network.