Beyond 07/2011/TTLT from Land Rights to Customary Law Based Watershed Forest Co-governance
In 2011, the Vietnam Government issued Joint Circular 07/TTLT (29 January 2011) promoting the process of transforming land-use contract titles into ownership titles , and Directive 1019/TTg (June 24, 2011) calling for this process to be completed by the end of 2012. SPERI immediately recognized the threat that these two legal papers presented for the continued ownership of forest and land by the indigenous ethnic minority peoples of Vietnam.
The problem was first, that the boundaries of land allocated for use under previous government programs (e.g. Program 327/QĐ/1992 and Decision 661/QĐ/1998 and Decision 163/QĐ/1999 which occupied nearly 9 million ha of forest in the hand of state owned forest enterprises) were never accurately surveyed, and therefore very often overlapped with each other and with land customarily owned by local communities; and second, that the accelerated process of land title certification (as per Directive 1019/TTg/2011) allowed insufficient time for the inevitable conflicts resulting from the above mentioned overlaps to be resolved. It also seriously threatened local indigenous communities with dispossession of their land (especially those communities in remote mountainous areas who would not be informed of the process) by better informed and already prepared State Owned Enterprises and Private Companies. In a word, the effect of these two legal procedures would be to „lock the gate‟ for 16 million indigenous ethnic minority people in Vietnam from gaining ownership of their customary land. That land would pass into the hands of the growing ranks of capitalist enterprises and industrial corporations to be exploited for short-term profitable gain, with the effect that the biodiversity of Vietnam‟s forests and the livelihoods, both spiritual and material, of 16 million indigenous ethnic minority people would be lost forever.