A guide to pre­vent land grabs

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

ACanada-based in­ter­na­tional pub­lic pol­icy re­search in­sti­tute for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment has de­vel­oped a “model con­tract” de­signed to pro­tect land own­ers and users in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries such as Myan­mar from harm­ful land grabs.

The In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, say they be­lieve gov­ern­ments in the de­vel­op­ing world now have a pow­er­ful new re­source to help them ne­go­ti­ate con­tracts to re­duce harm­ful ef­fects of large-scale land in­vest­ments. The guide, the first of its kind, pro­poses model con­tract clauses that can fill gaps in do­mes­tic law and con­trib­ute to pro­mot­ing more sus­tain­able for­eign agri­cul­tural in­vest­ment.

The NGO re­cently is­sued “The IISD Guide to Ne­go­ti­at­ing In­vest­ment Con­tracts for Farm­land and Wa­ter” de­vel­oped by its team of lawyers, so­cial sci­en­tists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.

Based on a more than three-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion of 80 agri­cul­tural in­vest­ment con­tracts, the In­sti­tute says the guide pro­vides op­tions for coun­tries such as Myan­mar to de­velop ru­ral economies, boost em­ploy­ment, build agri­cul­tural pro­cess­ing fac­to­ries, pro­tect against the im­pacts of cli­mate change and en­sure enough wa­ter for all.

The NGO says the guide is a proac­tive re­sponse to the “land grab” phe­nom­e­non that has plagued many coun­tries in South­east Asia and Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa over re­cent decades, whereby an un­prece­dented num­ber of for­eign in­vestors ac­quire land in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries for their own fi­nan­cial gain, of­ten to the detri­ment of poor farm­ers and pas­toral­ists.

Land grab­bing is a se­ri­ous prob­lem in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. By one es­ti­mate there are almost 1,000 farm­land in­vest­ments cov­er­ing almost 38 mil­lion hectares of land world­wide, ac­cord­ing to Land Ma­trix, Oc­to­ber 2014.

“This re­ally is the first of its kind; an at­tempt at cre­at­ing a model con­tract for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to at­tract in­vest­ment for agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, while at the same time, safe­guard­ing the needs of the poor and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Ms Nathalie Ber­nasconi-Oster­walder, di­rec­tor of the Eco­nomic Law and Pol­icy pro­gramme and head of the in­vest­ment pro­gramme at IISD.

“This prac­ti­cal guide tries to bal­ance the dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests of in­vestors, gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties, and ul­ti­mately help gov­ern­ments max­imise the ben­e­fits and min­i­mize the risks as­so­ci­ated with for­eign in­vest­ment in their farm­land,” said Ms Carin Smaller, the prin­ci­pal au­thor of the new guide.

The pub­lisher of the guide be­lieves that the most im­por­tant step to en­sur­ing pos­i­tive im­pacts of for­eign in­vest­ment is the on­go­ing de­vel­op­ment of do­mes­tic laws and reg­u­la­tions. It is the best le­gal mech­a­nism to en­sure a strong re­flec­tion of the na­tional in­ter­est.

How­ever, they say many states do not have all the nec­es­sary do­mes­tic laws in place and end up ne­go­ti­at­ing con­tracts that in­clude a wide range of eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues that would nor­mally be gov­erned by do­mes­tic law. Given this re­al­ity, the guide pro­vides op­tions for en­sur­ing that con­tracts con­trib­ute to long-term ben­e­fits for all stake­hold­ers and pro­mote the tenets of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. [Mizzima]

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