Indigenous land rights are increasingly under threat
The soaring demand for food, fuel and other commodities is cranking up pressure on land, but the sector remains largely unregulated internationally.
Increasingly, secret deals are struck between governments and investors, and communities robbed of land that’s rightfully theirs.
Imagine waking up one day to be told that the land that your family has lived on for generations has been leased to developers. You have to be out by the time the bulldozers arrive next week. You can’t see the documents behind the deal, and you won’t be getting compensation. And if you don’t go quietly, soldiers will make you wish you had.
This type of “land grab” is happening more and more often across the developing world, as investors scramble to acquire cheap land for everything from food to biofuel plantations to mining. As much as 54 million hectares has already changed hands in land deals over the last decade, or is under negotiation. And this figure is set to grow as population growth, consumption and financial speculation drive demand upwards.
With strong rules to protect communities and environment, these investments could stimulate development in some of the poorest parts of the world. But the market is moving much faster than regulators can, leaving behind a murky trade controlled by powerful and often corrupt elites.
Land deals are often done in secret, without consulting those most affected. Environmental damage and human rights are paid lip service at best, and more often completely ignored. Communities can’t find out who has been given their land or see the contracts, so they don’t know what it is worth or who to blame for taking it.
Global Witness is investigating the impact of large-scale land concessions on rural communities and the environment, and is pushing for solutions to fix the system at the national and international levels. Our Dealing with Disclosure report, for example, sets out practical steps for governments and companies to make land deals fair and open. We also work with rural communities in a number of countries to help stand up for and strengthen their rights to their land.
Land grabs are closer than you think. Holes in international law mean we have very little way of ensuring that our supply chains and savings don’t link us to land that has been illegally or violently taken.
Source: Global Witness campaign (May, 2018)
Report: Dealing with Disclosure – setting out in detail what governments, companies and citizens can do to ensure against the negative impacts of secretive land deals.