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2019 Annual Report

Letter from the Executive Director

Anuradha Mittal speaking at McDonald’s worker protest June 2020. © Brooke Anderson

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken over a million lives, crippled national economies, and exacerbated the already staggering level of inequality globally — leaving the most marginalized further disfranchised. The Indigenous, migrant workers, small holder farmers, and people of color are most impacted; crushed simultaneously by the worsening pandemic of racism, fascism, climate crisis, and injustice. In the face of these threats, we hold firm to the four principles that drive our work: courage, rigor, agility, and accountability.

The murder of George Floyd catalyzed millions of Americans to rise up, demanding an end to racism and violence against Black and Brown communities. The same goals form the foundation of our work to dismantle similar power structures and ideologies that prop up inequity and corruption abroad. In order to win our struggle for global social, economic, and environmental justice, white supremacy and institutionalized racism have to be dismantled. In the United States, we proudly stand with the Movement for Black Lives demanding that we defund the police and invest in communities. Around the globe, we stand together with land defenders and communities rising up against neo-colonialism and theft of their natural resources. Enough is enough.

Below you will read about our work alongside communities around the world in their struggle to defend their life and land rights, and the victories our efforts have helped secure. Our financial independence remains fundamental to our work — we do not accept any government or corporate funding. Instead, our work is made possible by a community of private funders and individual donors who believe in us. If you value the work we do please consider making a monthly or one-time donation to help us continue.

In solidarity,

Anuradha's Signature

Anuradha Mittal and the Oakland Institute Team

Rigorous, Independent, and Fearless

Protest against illegal logging in Pomio, PNG, 2011

The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time. We do this by combining meticulous research with creative communications strategies and advocacy campaigns to bring change around the world. Our work often starts at the invitation of local communities to assist their struggles. We are proud to work strategically and collaboratively with these partners!

Hold Powerful Actors Accountable

Our work holds governments, corporations, and international institutions accountable for their actions and policies. We do so through publishing reports based on rigorous research and analysis, international advocacy campaigns, testifying at Congressional and Senate hearings, as well as at the United Nations and much more.

Dismantle False Solutions

The Institute’s research and advocacy exposes and debunks the false solutions put forward by governments and corporations to fight hunger, climate change, and bring about development.

Strengthen Land Rights and Livelihoods

In partnership with impacted communities, we research and document threats to land rights, livelihoods, and natural resources, and develop communications and advocacy campaigns to support and elevate these struggles in the international arena.

Support Sustainable Farmer-led Food Systems

We support sustainable farmer-led, agroecology-based, food systems and work to build a farm economy from the bottom up. Our research is bringing forward blueprints and evidence of what these systems can look like and what policy changes are needed for them to flourish.

Stand by our Partners in the Face of Criminalization

The Legal Defense Fund that we started in 2015 to support land rights defenders continues to assist individuals and groups defending their livelihoods and the planet.

Elevate People’s Voices

Underlying all our work is our strong commitment to elevate the voices of farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, Indigenous Peoples, and communities who are marginalized and repressed in the name of development. We believe that the poor are the experts on poverty; the oppressed are the experts on human rights; and peasants and rural communities are the experts on agricultural development.

Reframing the Debate, Making an Impact

Woman walking on a path into Nogoli, PNG Highlands.

Underlying all our work is our strong commitment to elevate the voices of farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, Indigenous Peoples, and communities who are marginalized and repressed in the name of development. We believe that the poor are the experts on poverty; the oppressed are the experts on human rights; and peasants and rural communities are the experts on agricultural development.

  • “I tip my hat to the entire Oakland Institute team for this great victory, which is reminiscent of David’s against Goliath.”
    Frédéric Paré, Former Coordinator of Quebec’s Food Sovereignty Coalition
  • “We are facing a human rights and eco-cultural crisis… the situation is really bad, we live it everyday. What we have learned from this report is even worse: the government has sold much more land than we knew, government officials are involved in illegal land sales… this report is a ray of sunshine telling the world the truth of our situation.”
    Lottie Cunningham, 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate and Founder of the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN)
  • “Nicaragua's Failed Revolution is powerful, timely, and revelatory. A superb piece of investigative journalism presented in a printed format that clarifies facts and commemorates the anguish and bravery of these activists and their besieged community.”
    Gar Smith, A Project Censored award-winning journalist and winner of the World Affairs Council’s Thomas More Storke International Journalism Award
  • “I continue to follow your work closely and am always so impressed with what you do. I often tell people about Oakland as a strong example of an organisation that uses high quality research to press for radical change.”
    Lucy Hovil Senior Researcher, International Refugee Rights Initiative, and Senior Research Associate, International Refugee Law Initiative, University of London
  • “You have been a treasure to us, my words can never be enough to thank you, for the wonderful work you did at the Oakland Institute and thank for fighting a good fight. I will be always remembering you about the impact you’ve made to my family and I'm so blessed to know you, at the most critical period fighting for my father’s freedom.”
    Obok Akway, son of Okello Akway Ochalla, Indigenous Anuak leader, former Gambella Governor and political prisoner in Ethiopia

Featured Media

Our research generates millions of media impressions annually, bringing fresh perspective and voice to reframe the debate on key issues. Below are are just some of the media that have featured our work in 2019 and 2020:

ABC News logo
ABC Radio logo
Associated Press logo
The Guardian logo
Le Monde logo
Mongabay logo
New York Times logo
PBS NewsHour logo
Reuters logo
Vice News logo
VOA logo
Washington Post logo

2019 – 2020 In Review

Shattering the Silence on Indigenous Human Rights Crisis in Nicaragua

Screenshot from PBS NewsHour report The Cost of Beef

While Nicaragua is seen as exemplary in granting land rights to Indigenous communities, our report Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution, shattered the silence around incessant violence faced by the Indigenous and the Afro-descendant communities in the Caribbean Coast Autonomous Regions. Our research exposed the key drivers of this violence, international and national actors, including the mining, logging and cattle ranching industry, as well as the Nicaraguan government.

Dismantling False Climate Solutions in Uganda

Green Resources plantation

Our campaign against the establishment of pine plantations by the Norwegian firm Green Resources, which displaced farmers and destroyed livelihoods in Uganda, resulted in its only carbon credit purchaser, Swedish Energy Agency, to terminate its agreement with the company.

Halting the Privatization of Customary Land in Papua New Guinea

Land Summit or Land Grab graphic

Our work in partnership with civil society groups in Papua New Guinea (PNG) supports the struggle of local communities facing the destruction of their livelihoods and their environment for logging, palm oil plantations, and mining projects. land rights. Our report, Land Summit or Land Grab?, co-published in 2019 with Jubilee Australia, challenged the Land Summit organized by the government to initiate the transfer of customary land into private hands, believing this will lead to economic growth. While debunking these myths, we instead advocate for investments that support the national economy and ensure land rights in the country.

Exposing Failed Development Model of Gibe III Dam

Kara parent and child sitting along the bank of the Omo River. Copyright: Kelly Fogel

How They Tricked Us: Living with the Gibe III Dam and Sugarcane Plantations in Southwest Ethiopia revealed the devastating impact of the Gibe III dam and agricultural plantations established in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo region. Our research documents how the Bodi, Mursi, and Kwegu communities have lost essential farm and grazing lands and now face acute hunger as a result of government sponsored projects. We continue to call on Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed to take urgent action to address this issue and to stop the violent repression of Indigenous people by security forces.

Revealing Failure of Agro-Industrial Parks in DRC

Chief Nzasi Ndukupala interview gif

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), our investigation revealed how the establishment and collapse of the Bukanga Lonzo agro-industrial park pilot resulted in numerous land rights violations and human rights abuses, environmental degradation, as well as embezzlement and corruption. The Bukanga Lonzo Debacle ignited a campaign not just against a failed project, but a failed development paradigm – promoted and supported by the World Bank and the African Development Bank – that prioritizes industrial agriculture over the rights, well-being, and livelihood of local communities.

Holding the World Bank Accountable

Dollar bills overlaid on landscape

In a major victory, the World Bank removed the land indicator from its 2019 Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) Report, a key policy instrument used to influence governments in favor of agribusiness and foreign investment in the Global South. This decision came after global outrage that was sparked by our report The Highest Bidder Takes It All: The World Bank’s Scheme to Privatize the Commons that exposed the Bank’s unprecedented aggressive attack on land rights. The land indicator prescribed governments to become land brokers, transfer public and customary lands to private ownership, and sell public land to the highest bidder.

Resisting Resettlement of Maasai in Tanzania

Entrance to a new boma built by the displaced Maasai.

Amidst the growing intolerance of dissent and authoritarianism in Tanzania, we continue our international advocacy in support of Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo. Closely monitoring the situation and remaining in contact with partners on the ground, we have released a number of public alerts in the follow up to our 2018 report, condemning President Magufuli’s suppression of justice and the disastrous “Four Zone Resettlement Plan” that threatens the very survival of the Maasai.

Standing in Solidarity with the Working Poor in the United States

Anuradha Mittal at June 2020 protest at a McDonalds for worker's rights amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Through our solidarity work with farmworkers and essential workers, we remain committed to challenging government policies that serve wealthy interests at the expense of the most marginalized communities and the environment, both at home and around the globe!

2019 Financials

2019 financials breakdown pie chart

As this chart shows, 79% of every dollar raised goes directly to our programs and legal defense fund. Review our annual 990 forms.

Download Full Annual Report

Report cover

Please Support Our Work Today and into the Future

Hana Mursi, Ethopia July 2012

Since 2004, the Oakland Institute has supported the struggles of communities around the world for their land and livelihoods. In the face of repression, corruption, and injustice we raise the voices of the most impacted, reframe the debate, and mobilize for change.

Please support our work by making a one-time, or monthly tax-deductible donation. Your donation allows us to be bold: we research critical issues, run campaigns, and provide the essential advocacy and support that sparks action and ensures accountability.

We ensure our independence by not accepting any government or corporate funding. With your support, we can continue to win major victories on behalf of pastoralists and fisherfolk, the Indigenous, and smallholder farmers.


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Oakland Institute 2019 Annual Report


In order of appearance:

Miskitu villagers on the banks of Rio Coco, November 2018. Credit: The Oakland Institute

Oakland Institute Executive Director Anuradha Mittal speaking at McDonald’s worker protest June 2020. © Brooke Anderson

Protest against illegal logging in Pomio, PNG, 2011 © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

Walking into Nogoli, PNG Highlands. © James McIlraith / University of Otago

Screenshot PBS NewsHour, “The Cost of Beef”. PBS NewsHour

Plantation at Bukaleba. Credit: Kristen Lyons

Gilford Ltd. clearing land in West Pomio. © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

Kara parent and child sitting along the bank of the Omo River. © Kelly Fogel

Screenshot from “The Bukanga Lonzo Debacle” video, interview with Chief Nzasi Ndukupala. Credit: The Oakland Institute

Highland scene in Amhara, Ethiopia. Credit The Oakland Institute

Entrance to a new boma built by the displaced Maasai. Credit: The Oakland Institute

Bodi tribe warriors posing on a bulldozer near Hana Mursi. Credit: The Oakland Institute