Launched in 2003, the World Bank’s annual Doing Business (DB) ranking system rates 189 countries on the “ease of doing business” within the country and pressures them to achieve higher rankings in subsequent reports by enacting neoliberal regulatory reforms. Despite its positive veneer, the report encourages governments to eliminate economic, social, and environmental safeguards and promotes competition among countries for higher rankings and, consequently, higher foreign direct investment.
Large companies across the world are invading rural areas in developing countries, allegedly responding to a need for economic development, food security, and poverty alleviation. Such is the narrative of Senhuile, a shadowy company backed by a maze of foreign investors, which is operating in the natural protected area of Ndiaël in northwest Senegal.
The holiday season can overwhelm us with its Christmas jingles on repeat and cheap decorations that crowd the aisles of every big box retailer. In between RSVPing to holiday parties and cleaning the house for visiting relatives, donating to food drives and charities can become just another chore on our list of obligations. Why open our pocketbooks and write yet another check? Are there Americans who really need our help?
On October 14, 2013, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance announced its decision to exclude two Malaysian logging companies, WTK Holdings Berhad and Ta Ann Holdings Berhad, from its Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) portfolio.
As families across the United States sit down for the Thanksgiving feast, many others will struggle to afford even basic food on this holiday. For a lot of Americans, hunger is a constant concern. Food insecurity, and malnutrition and hunger with it, has grown dramatically in recent years. In 2012, one out of every six, or 49 million, Americans was food insecure.  The magnitude of food insecurity renders the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more important than ever.
“In a sense, Wola belong to land as much as it belongs to them.” Paul Sillitoe’s  consideration about the Wola farmers of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) brings us to the heart of a critical question: what is the value of land in a country like PNG? In the current context of land grabbing, why is it important to preserve traditional systems of tenure? In the West, people understand land as a private piece of territory with a title deed attached to it, but in PNG there are additional economic, social and spiritual dimensions to land.
Africa’s arable lands continue to receive growing attention for research and policy debate mainly due to the pressing social, political, and environmental challenges that African countries face with regard to food insecurity and foreign direct investments. “Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity: A Program to Scale Up Reforms and Investments,”  a book published by the World Bank and authored by Frank Byamugisha, is the latest in this debate’s odyssey.
According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Washington should care for the generations ahead. Yet, his recent austerity measure undermines investment in America’s future. If the $40 billion cut to the existing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the House of Representatives should pass in the Senate, the government will have failed the nation’s poor.
Released on July 22, 2013, the World Bank’s report, Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity, provides a ten-step program to “boost governance,” “step up comprehensive policy reforms,” and “accelerate shared and sustained growth for poverty reduction” in sub-Saharan Africa.  At first glance, these ambitious objectives, aimed at addressing the ongoing crisis of land grabbing on the African continent seem promising; however, the report’s substance fails to deliver.
While the United States Senate made final tweaks to pass its highly publicized immigration reform bill S.744 last Thursday, community members in the San Francisco Bay Area protested the firing of hundreds of undocumented immigrant workers.
Bruce Wrobel, the CEO of Herakles Farms and founder of the nonprofit organization All for Africa, is a self-proclaimed “environmentalist and activist for the poor.” Upon first glance, his initiatives in Africa seem to support these claims--but scratch the surface and the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. A new report by the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace, Herakles Exposed, reveals the company’s internal documents that highlight the discrepancy between the image Bruce Wrobel hopes to cultivate and his company’s actual practices. As shown in the report, Herakles Farms not only sidesteps sustainable practices, but also appears to be caught in an unstable financial situation in spite of its attempts to bypass responsible social and ecological practices.
Herakles Farms doesn’t seem to value providing straightforward information or answers to the Cameroonian government, the local population impacted by their palm oil plantation in Southwest Cameroon, nor their own investors. Which version of the company’s own documents are we to believe when they present completely opposite information depending on the audience?
The just-released 2012 Human Rights Practices country report for Ethiopia, compiled by the US State Department, confirms an uncomfortable fact—most US government officials are aware of the repressive nature of Ethiopia’s US-backed regime.
In early February, the Oakland Institute organized a three-day forum in New Delhi with the Indian Social Action Forum, Kalpavriksh, and Centre for Social Development on the impact of large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia and India by private enterprises on indigenous communities in both countries.
As part of the Oakland Institute’s (OI) continued research and reporting on the ever unfolding and unfortunately more distressing news coming out of Ethiopia, OI recently published a new briefing paper titled Unheard Voices: The Human Rights Impact of Land Investments on Indigenous Communities in Gambella. Prepared by the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law, this briefing paper provides an overview of the human rights impacts of land investment and the villagization process on the indigenous Anuak community in Ethiopia’s Gambella region.
Mounting evidence indisputably shows that the brand of agricultural investment spreading in Ethiopia is accompanied by, or rather dependent upon, military violence and the suppression of civil rights.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s report, State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, was released on October 9, 2012. Although one might be tempted to celebrate the decrease in the number of undernourished people from nearly 1 billion in 2009 to 870 million today, this new report is not a harbinger of good news.
Beatings, rape, and torture have become the new normal for many living in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. New reporting by Human Rights Watch (HRW), sheds light on the current living conditions of Ethiopians in the Gambella region as a result of the government’s villagization program. Marred in human rights abuses in the aftermath of an unfortunate shooting that left five Saudi Star employees dead this June, the Ethiopian government has retaliated with arbitrary arrests, beatings, and rape. Oakland Institute (OI) and HRW have done extensive research in the Gambella region and this new report shows a continued pattern of abuse by the government.
As part of the Oakland Institute's mission to bring fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time, we are launching a blog that will feature coverage of fast-changing focus areas such as land rights, the high food price crisis, food sovereignty, and more, as well as analysis and opinion articles by the Institute's international staff, fellows, and researchers.
Our hard-hitting reports and research have exposed insidious land grabs in Africa, pushed university endowments to divest from exploitative funds, halted the eviction of hundreds of thousands of small farmers, and made the case that emergency food aid should be bought locally or regionally--but there is always more to share on these swiftly evolving issues.
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