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Commercial Pressures on Land
Oxfam Calls on the World Bank to Freeze Large-scale Land-Based Agricultural Investments and the World Bank Responds
Please find below links to a call on the World Bank to freeze large-scale investments in land by Oxfam and the corresponding response from the World Bank. Both organisations are members of the International Land Coalition (ILC).
Large-scale land-based investments and acquisitions are at the heart of current land debates and a concern to all ILC members. There is a need for continued open dialogue on how to ensure that the priorities of local land users are met, considering the range of perspectives, including within the ILC membership.
The ILC is a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations working together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building.
We invite comment and dialogue on this issue
Land sold off in last decade could grow enough food to feed a billion people
Land eight times the size of the UK was sold off globally in the last decade, enough to grow food for a billion people says international development agency Oxfam. This is the equivalent to the number of people who go hungry in the world todayIn its new report, Our Land, Our Lives, Oxfam warns that more than 60 per cent of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010 were in developing countries with serious hunger problems. However, two thirds of those investors plan to export everything they produce on the land. Nearly 60 percent of global land deals in the past decade have been to grow crops that can be used for biofuels.
The report comes as Oxfam steps up its campaign to end land grabs that violate the rights of the world’s poorest people. Oxfam supports greater investment in agriculture and to small-scale farmers. However the unprecedented rush for land has not been adequately regulated or policed to prevent land grabs. This means that poor people continue to be evicted, often violently, without consultation or compensation. Many lose their homes and are left destitute, without access to the land they rely on for food to eat and make a living.
In Liberia, 30 per cent of the country has been swallowed up by land deals in just five years. Already an area of land the size of London is being sold to foreign investors every six days in poor countries. Oxfam calculates that land deals tripled during the food price crisis in 2008 and 2009 because land was increasingly viewed as a profitable investment. With global food prices again hovering at record levels urgent action is needed to stop the threat of another wave of land grabs.
Oxfam says the World Bank must act now to temporarily freeze its agricultural investments in land so it can review its advice to developing countries, help set standards for investors and introduce more robust policies to stop land-grabs. The World Bank is in a unique position as both an investor in land and an adviser to developing countries. The Bank’s investments in agriculture have increased by 200 per cent in the last 10 years, while its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, sets standards followed by many investors. The Bank’s own research reveals that countries with the most large scale land deals are those with the poorest protection of people’s land rights. And since 2008, 21 formal complaints have been brought by communities affected by Bank projects that they say have violated their land rights.
Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s Executive Director, said: “The world is facing an unbridled land rush that is exposing poor people to hunger, violence and the threat of a life-time in poverty. The World Bank is in a unique position to stop this from becoming one of the great scandals of the 21st century.
“By implementing a temporary freeze, and reviewing its approach, the Bank can set an example to all investors and governments that could help put a stop to these human rights abuses and ensure that investors genuinely help boost development in some of the poorest communities. Investment should be good news for developing countries – but it is important that it is truly beneficial and does not harm people or consign them to greater poverty, hunger and hardship.”
Oxfam wants to see progress towards the freeze at the World Bank’s first Annual Meeting since Jim Kim was installed as its new President, in Tokyo on 12-14 October. Putting a stop to its investments in the short term will give the Bank time to put its own house in order.
Specifically, Oxfam wants the World Bank’s freeze to send a strong signal to global investors to stop land-grabbing and to improve standards for:
- Transparency – ensuring that information about land deals is publicly accessible for both affected communities and governments.
- Consultation and consent – ensuring communities are informed in advance, and can agree or refuse projects.
- Land rights and governance – strengthening poor people’s rights to land and natural resources, especially women, through better land tenure governance as set out by the Committee for Food Security.
- Food security – ensuring that land investments do not undermine local and national food security.
Hobbs said: “The World Bank, with a remit to tackle global poverty, has a responsibility to help stop land grabs and must take urgent action because the rush for land is only likely to accelerate as competition for food and natural resources intensifies. It must ensure that poor people’s rights are protected.”
Act now to stop land grabs
Read the report: ‘Our Land, Our Lives’: Time out on the global land rush
Read the Land grabs Q&A
Contact = Information
For photographs, film, audio and testimonies, or to arrange interviews, please contact Lucy Brinicombe, +44 (0)7786 110054 /lbrinicombe [at] oxfam [dot] org [dot] uk
Oxfam is campaigning against land grabs as part of its GROW campaign, which aims to secure a future where everyone has enough to eat. Visitwww.oxfam.org/landgrabs
World Bank Group Statement on OxfamReport, “Our Land, Our Lives”
By 2050, there will be two billion more people in the world; a 70% increase in global food production will be needed to feed them. Food prices are rising, pushing many people back into poverty. Addressing this challenge will require major new investment in agriculture to improve the productivity of large and small farmers while protecting the environment and existing users’ rights.
We share the concerns Oxfam raised in their report “Our Land, Our Lives” regarding the potential risks that can be associated with large-scale land acquisitions and the need for appropriate governance, transparency, and participation of local land holders and other stakeholders in the land acquisition process. However, we disagree with Oxfam’s call for a moratorium on World Bank Group (“Bank Group”) investments in land intensive large-scale agricultural enterprises, especially during a time of rapidly rising global food prices.
A moratorium focused on the Bank Group targets precisely those stakeholders doing the most to improve practices – progressive governments, investors, and us. Taking such a step would do nothing to help reduce the instances of abusive practices and would likely deter responsible investors willing to apply our high standards.
Now, more than ever, the world needs to increase investment in agriculture, which is two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the very poor than growth in other sectors. Both smallholder and large-scale agriculture are necessary to boost productivity and produce enough food to feed the world’s poor.
In order to move from subsistence to commercial farming, 1.5 billion people who rely on small farms need access to knowledge, assets, credit, markets, and risk management that can come from larger-scale agricultural enterprises. We believe a holistic, multi-stakeholder approach is the only way to address the challenge of food security and help to feed the world’s poor in a sustainable manner.
The World Bank (IBRD and IDA) interacts primarily with governments to strengthen land tenure policies and improve land governance. More than 90% of our agriculture portfolio focuses on the productivity of and access to markets by smallholder farmers. In addition, 10% of our projects focus on the governance of land tenure. The World Bank has actively supported the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forestry and Fisheries” approved by the Committee on Food Security (FAO, Rome) in May 2012. In partnership with many stakeholders, such as the Grow Africa platform, we are now actively engaged in disseminating and operationalizing these guidelines at the regional and country levels. They are an essential element in our policy dialogue with governments and interaction with the private sector. For project examples, click here.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank Group’s private sector arm, works with client companies to raise agricultural productivity in developing countries while also supporting policies to protect land rights for the most vulnerable small farmers and helping governments put transparent laws in place. IFC invests in environmentally and socially sustainable private enterprises in all parts of the value chain (inputs such as irrigation and fertilizers, primary production, processing, transport and storage, traders, and risk management facilities, including weather/crop insurance, warehouse financing, etc.). IFC investments made directly in the agricultural sector have already delivered substantial economic benefits, including helping provide jobs for 37,000 people, including 11,000 women, and reaching 4.2 million farmers. For project examples, click here.
We agree that instances of abuse do exist, particularly in countries where governance is weak, and we share Oxfam’s belief that in many cases, practices need to ensure more transparent and inclusive participation in cases of land transfers. This is precisely the role that the Bank Group undertakes through application of its environmental and social standards as well as its work with host governments on land tenure and other essential reforms.
The Bank Group does not support speculative land investments or acquisitions which take advantage of weak institutions in developing countries or which disregard
principles of responsible agricultural investment. The World Bank supports and consistently recommends government policies that implement systematic land surveying and titling programs that recognize all forms of land tenure: public and private; formal and customary, including those of pastoralists or others with weak formal rights; collective and individual, including women’s rights; and rural and urban. IFC follows its own Performance Standards, which address issues ranging from environmental and social impacts, to labor practices, to community engagement and consultation, to assuring future livelihoods for existing users, and are acknowledged by a wide range of stakeholders as leading global standards. We recognize that implementing projects to meet high standards is challenging. In this regard, IFC’s commitment to publicly disclose information on a regular basis following Board approval is an important step in promoting transparency and accountability.
Prudent risk assessment and management and capacity building are the tools to achieve sustainable practices, and we are continually learning and refining our approach with input from stakeholders and our own experience. For example, IFC has enhanced its due diligence and early risk assessment procedures to assess local food security impacts of potential agricultural investments requiring large land areas and is piloting new requirements for contract transparency in cases of government- to-private sector land transfer. The World Bank plans to launch this month a multi-stakeholder consultative process to review and update its environmental and social safeguards policies. The main objective of the review is to strengthen the effectiveness of the safeguard policies to enhance the development impact of Bank-funded operations.
We believe in working with organizations likeOxfam regarding how best to address the challenges of food security and economic development but reject the call for a moratorium. Rather, the best way to address such broad and complex issues is to work in partnership with stakeholders through the appropriate multi-stakeholder forums, while continuing to offer advice and assistance to governments and investors to ensure positive outcomes and encouraging responsible investments. We welcome engagement that will keep investors and governments honest and that can help us work together on issues prompted by the land rush.
Media Contacts in Washington
tel : (202) 458-4906
- astilwell [at] worldbank [dot] org
tel : (202) 458-9385
- arosenberg1 [at] ifc [dot] org