Campaign Launches to End World Bank's Involvement in Corporate Land Grabs
On Monday, the Oakland Institute and /The Rules, along with other NGOs, farmer and consumer organizations from around the worldlaunched a campaign to hold the World Bank accountable for its role in the rampant theft of land and resources from some of the world’s poorest people – farmers, pastoralists and indigenous communities, many of whom are essential food producers for the entire planet.
Right now, millions of people are being thrown off their land because large corporations are being given special rights. The World Bank is driving this destructive trend with its Doing Business rankings, which force countries to compete with each other to do away with things like environmental protections, workers rights and corporation taxes.
“The World Bank is facilitating land grabs and sowing poverty by putting the interests of foreign investors before those of locals,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute.
The World Bank’s Doing Business ranking gives points to countries when they act in favor of the “ease of doing business.” This consists of smoothing the way for corporations’ activity by, for instance, cutting administrative procedures, lowering corporate taxes, removing environmental and social regulations, or lowering trade barriers.
The ranking system also encourages land reforms that tend to make land just a marketable commodity, easily accessible to wealthy corporations. In the process, they neglect human rights, the protection of workers, and the sustainable use of natural resources.
“Small holder farmers and herders are currently feeding 80 per cent of the developing world. Casting them aside in favor of industrial farming corporations from the West betrays the World Bank’s reckless and short term approach to development,” said Alnoor Ladha, executive director of /The Rules.
The Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings have caused many developing-country leaders to deregulate their economies in hopes of attracting foreign investment. In the agricultural sector, the rankings encourage governments to commoditize their land – and to sell or lease it to foreign investors, regardless of environmental or social impact.
Smallholder farmers, pastoralists, and the indigenous peoples are casualties of this approach, as governments and foreign corporations work hand-in-hand to dispossess them of their land – and gain World Bank approval in the process.
The results have already been devastating. Thanks to reforms and policies guided by the Bank, Sierra Leone has taken 20 percent of its arable land from rural populations and leased it to foreign sugar cane and palm oil producers. And in Liberia, British, Malaysian, and Indonesian palm-oil giants have secured long-term leases for over 1.5 million acres of land formerly held by local communities.
There is more than enough food for everyone, if proper support is given to smallholder farmers, pastoralists and indigenous peoples. The World Bank’s preference, though, is to use its power to impose a one-size-fits, corporate-led model of development. This jeopardizes developing countries’ ability to feed themselves and helps drive inequality all over the world.
Now the land-grab problem is about to get worse. Under pressure from the G8 and with funding from the Gates Foundation, the Bank is doubling down on its rankings fetish by introducing a new program called “Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture” (BBA). The BBA’s explicit goal is to promote “the emergence of a stronger commercial agriculture sector.” Its rankings will prize deregulation of the agriculture sector and is expected to enable further land grabbing around the world.
“We’re standing up with farmers, herders, and indigenous peoples of the developing world who are being steamrolled by the World Bank’s pro-corporate agenda,” added Mittal. “Initiatives like the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ rankings encourage governments to steal from the poor in order to give to the rich. That must end.”