Land Rights

The purchase and lease of vast tracts of land from poor, developing countries by wealthier nations and international private investors has led to debate about whether land investment is a tool for development or force of displacement.

The Facts

Over the last eight years, there has been a significant increase in land-based investment, both in terms of the number of investment projects and the total land area allocated. Industrialized nations and private foreign investors have driven demand for arable land in developing regions, particularly in Africa, but also in South America, and Asia-Pacific.

The lands offered to investors are frequently in use although occupants lack legal claims to the land and access to legal institutions. As demand for land assets increases and governments and multilateral institutions promote land investment, displacement and impact on livelihoods have become serious sources of concern.

What we are doing about it

The Oakland Institute is committed to increasing transparency about land deals including the terms of the deals, the actors involved, and the impact on people and the environment.

Publications

Justice Denied: Resettlement, Demilitarization, and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Justice Denied: A Reality Check on Resettlement, Demilitarization, and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Justice Denied exposes the many issues that continue to plague land release and resettlement in the country, and the failure of the Sri Lankan government to fulfill its international commitments to transitional justice. The Sri Lankan military continues to occupy large quantities of land; land released by the government is often of poor quality, hindering the ability of many to rebuild their livelihoods; there is a vast and unmet need for...

Illegal Logging Papua New Guinea:  Taking On the Logging Pirates Report Cover

Taking On the Logging Pirates: Land Defenders in Papua New Guinea Speak Out!

A landmark report from the Oakland Institute, Taking On the Logging Pirates: Land Defenders in Papua New Guinea Speak Out! elevates the voices of communities across the country who are opposing the theft of their land, made possible by the corrupt practices of local officials and foreign companies.

The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda

The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda

In recent years, there has been a significant trend toward land acquisition in developing countries, establishing forestry plantations for offsetting carbon pollution generated in the Global North. Badged as “green economic development,” global carbon markets are often championed not only as solutions to climate change, but as drivers of positive development outcomes for local communities. But there is mounting evidence that these corporate land...

Miracle or Mirage Report Cover

Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia

As months of protest and civil unrest hurl Ethiopia into a severe political crisis, a new report from the Oakland Institute debunks the myth that the country is the new “African Lion.” Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia exposes how authoritarian development schemes have perpetuated cycles of poverty, food insecurity, and marginalized the country’s most vulnerable citizens. A key government objective...

Backroom Bullying Report Cover

Backroom Bullying: The Role of the United States Government in the Herakles Farms’ Land Grab in Cameroon

Backroom Bullying: The Role of the United States Government in the Herakles Farms’ Land Grab in Cameroon, shows how bullying by US government officials may have played a critical role in the granting of nearly 20,000 ha by the Cameroonian government to the US-based firm Herakles Farms in 2013, instead of the cancellation of clearly flawed project. Using information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, this report reveals not...

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Blog

Tractor in Ethiopia

Development Gone Wrong

Saturday, March 31, 2018 Anuradha Mittal

“I am not afraid of being arrested. I am afraid of being tortured.” These words from Pastor Omot Agwa , an Anuak land rights defender, are a poignant reminder of “development” gone wrong in Ethiopia. The agricultural sector, seen as the driver for development by the Ethiopian government, has been used to lure foreign investments for agribusiness ventures—large industrial plantations as those set up by Saudi Star and...

2015--Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at NY event on industrialization in Africa. On January 3, 2018 Prime Minister Desalegn announced that the government would release all Ethiopian political prisoners and close the notorious Maekelawi police station. Credit: UNIDO (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Release of Ethiopian Political Prisoners: Stifled Voices amidst False Promises

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 Elizabeth Fraser, Frederic Mousseau

For years, the Ethiopian government has denied that there are political prisoners in the country. This is despite its consistent use of the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle dissent and detain thousands of politicians, journalists, religious and indigenous leaders, and students.

Paul Palosualrea Pavol speaking at an October 2017 Oakland Institute event. Credit: The Oakland Instittue.

Money Will Not Buy My Heart to Give My Land Away

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The day we met Paul Palosualrea Pavol, he was evidently tired. It took him four days to travel from his home village in West Pomio, Papua New Guinea (PNG) to our offices in Oakland, California. Weary eyed, he was still eager to share with us his struggle against logging and palm oil companies that have stolen over 5.5 million hectares of land in his country.

Round logs ready for loading on a cargo ship bound for China. Local Pomio landowners are protesting against the biggest land grab in PNG history. Under a lease system called SABLs (special agricultural and business leases) forests are being destroyed and customary land is being stolen. Credit: Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

Rainforest or the Illegal Logger – Who is Really Under Threat in Papua New Guinea?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 Frederic Mousseau

“The forestry industry is on the brink of disaster” warned Bob Tate, the head of the Papua New Guinea Forest Industries Association (PNGFIA) on November 22, 2017. According to Tate, a spokesperson for the logging companies clear cutting the forests of Papua New Guinea (PNG), increase in log export taxes put in place by the government this year, combined with low international prices for tropical timber, are putting the industry at...

The U.S. Capitol Building - Washington DC. Credit: www.GlynLowe.com. Image overlaid with text, modified background. (CC BY 2.0)

Ethiopia Silences the United States on Human Rights Abuses

Thursday, October 19, 2017 Elizabeth Fraser

In July 2017, when a House Resolution on human rights and democracy in Ethiopia (H. Res. 128 ) was heard in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, support for the bill was resounding . Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) called the Ethiopian government a “corrupt regime” and “a dictatorship that knows no bounds.” Committee Chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) warned that the Ethiopian government must “take tangible steps to ensure...

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