A guide to prevent land grabs
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]