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

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...

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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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Waiting to Return Home: Continued Plight of the IDPs in Post-War Sri Lanka

Threatened and despaired, a group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka petitioned the Oakland Institute to help them return home. This inspired the Institute’s latest report, Waiting to Return Home: Continued Plight of the IDPs in Post-War Sri Lanka . Backed by extensive field research and interviews, the report highlights a harsh reality—amid United Nations resolutions, task forces, and numerous promises made by the Sirisena...

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The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture

The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture, exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa.

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The Great Timber Heist: The Logging Industry in Papua New Guinea

The Great Timber Heist: The Logging Industry in Papua New Guinea , exposes massive tax evasion and financial misreporting by foreign logging companies, allegedly resulting in nonpayment of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to the world’s third largest rainforest. After the lease of 5.5 million hectares of land in recent years through the Special Agriculture and Business Lease scheme , today over 15 million...

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Blog

A poster of Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa at a protest in Oakland, California. Making the crossed arm gesture is now a criminal offense under Ethiopia’s state of emergency. Credit: Elizabeth Fraser

A Fire under Ashes: The Ongoing Struggle for Human Rights in Ethiopia

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 Elizabeth Fraser

As massive protests swept across Ethiopia last year, the dire human rights situation in the country made headlines around the world. The Financial Times described it as Ethiopia’s “Tiananmen Square moment ,” and then-US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Tom Malinowski called the government’s crackdowns on dissent “ self-defeating tactics .” A poster of Olympic silver medallist Feyisa...

Logging camp in Fergusson Island, Milne Bay. Credit: Paul Hilton/Greenpeace.

Laundering Illegal Timber: How Tropical Wood Stolen Through Land Grab Makes its Way to the Furniture Store

Thursday, June 8, 2017 Frederic Mousseau

With 3.1 million cubic meters of tropical wood exported, primarily to China, Papua New Guinea (PNG) became in recent years the world’s largest exporter of tropical wood, surpassing Malaysia, which had held the top spot for the past decades. PNG reached the coveted first place after expanding the exploitation of its forest resources through a legal mechanism called Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs). According to a government...

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Justice Denied: Government and International Community Fail to Bring Justice to Sri Lanka

Thursday, March 23, 2017 Elizabeth Fraser

For the past two months, protests have erupted across Sri Lanka’s North and East. Communities have launched rolling hunger strikes , insisting that their land be returned. Relatives of the missing have held sit-ins , demanding answers about their loved ones fates and whereabouts. And in numerous cities and towns people have marched, calling for the creation of a court with international judges to prosecute war crimes committed during the...

The World Bank’s Land Conference: Pro-Poor Bluff to Serve Neo-Colonialism

Monday, March 20, 2017 Alice Martin-Prével

This March 20, 2017, the World Bank’s 18th Annual Land and Poverty Conference begins, featuring a session where Bank specialists will deliver their assessment on the “quality” of land regulations globally. In particular, the Bank’s staff will comment on the implementation and findings of the Doing Business (DB) and the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA), two projects that rank countries’ regulatory...

Credit: Donald Trump photo: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0. Maithripala Sirisena photo by Mr Sudath Silva / Maithripala Sirisena Official [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Image cropped, and color adjusted.

This Human Rights Day, Stand Up for Human Rights in Sri Lanka

Thursday, December 8, 2016 Elizabeth Fraser, Anuradha Mittal

December 10, 2016. This International Human Rights Day – themed “ Stand up for someone’s rights ” – there’s a lot to stand up for. In the weeks since Trump won the US Presidential election, hate crimes against Muslims, people of color, and immigrants have spiked; white nationalists have been appointed to top positions in the White House; and many of Trump’s election pledges – from deporting...

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