Building a Better Network Through Partnerships: Irish Aid and ILC

Building effective partnerships beyond the ILC membership is an important aspect of the Coalition’s first strategic objective, “Connect”. ILC’s approach to partnerships has been to focus on encouraging partners to engage directly with the network, particularly at the national level, so that members can benefit from their unique perspectives and access to other actors. ILC’s core donors also have the status of Strategic Partners, creating opportunities for partnership beyond their role in funding the network. An example of how beneficial such partnerships can be for the work of the coalition has been that with Irish Aid, the Government of Ireland’s international development agency.

Irish Aid’s relationship with ILC initially developed thanks to earmarked funding for the Women’s Land Rights initiative, but grew through the Irish embassy in Tanzania when Irish Aid provided support for the Tanzanian National Engagement Strategy (NES). According to Sarah McIvor of Irish Aid, success stories from this early engagement, particularly related to Irish Aid’s priorities of supporting rangeland users and pastoralists, prompted the agency to explore ways to deepen its engagement with the ILC network: “We found that ILC aligned well with our own objectives and priorities, such as reducing global hunger, promoting resilience, ensuring that economic growth is inclusive, and protecting human rights. We particularly like ILC’s focus on people-centred land governance and how it aligned with our own policy on international development – One World, One Future.”

Irish Aid’s goals in partnering with ILC are to contribute to the implementation of the Coalition’s strategy, which Irish Aid sees as playing a critical role in advancing land rights worldwide. ILC’s operations in Irish Aid’s main countries of focus (Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Sierra Leone) is also an important factor. “The objective of our partnership has been to ensure land rights for poor and marginalised land users. There is a strong crossover between ILC’s membership and our partner countries, so becoming a part of the ILC network has added greatly to what our embassies can achieve in these countries,” McIvor explained.

Irish Aid has also committed to a focus on ensuring the participation of women in decision making around land rights issues, recognising both how critical women are to smallholder farming in sub-Saharan Africa and how difficult it can be for them to access land and have their voices heard by policy makers in the region. For this reason, ILC’s Commitment 4 – Equal Land Rights for Women – is of particular importance to the partnership with Irish Aid, according to McIvor. She also noted the progress that ILC has been making in conducting its gender audit and Gender Action Plan.

Irish Aid’s consultation to develop its new policy on international development also gave the ILC network an opportunity to share lessons on the importance of land rights to the proposed priorities of gender equality, reducing humanitarian need, climate action, and governance. Inputs to formulation of the policy were made through a combined ILC submission, with confidence that Ireland’s priorities will remain in alignment with the Coalition’s own priorities and values and that this strategic partnership will continue to grow and succeed.