Recognition and respect for tenure rights has long been recognized as an important concern for development, conservation, and natural resource governance. This paper discusses why secure tenure rights for local communities, indigenous peoples and women are central to good natural resource governance and important for livelihoods and human rights, as recognized in multiple international conventions. The paper reviews both challenges and opportunities for securing rights in practice and highlights successful cases of tenure reform. Communities are likely to continue to face resistance and opposition to recognition, and competition for land and natural resources, from more powerful actors, even after rights have been granted. Successfully recognizing and securing tenure requires a strong, evidence-based understanding of these challenges in order to design effective strategies to overcome them. This includes building coalitions and supporting grassroots organizations and social movements; designing a clear roadmap, with communities, for implementation; supporting the enabling conditions for improvements in livelihoods and effective and sustainable resource management; and monitoring progress to adapt to and confront new challenges.