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Large scale land appropriations: Analysis of the phenomenon and proposed guidelines for future action.

AGTER | September 2010

Land tenure and Development Technical Committee

A synthesis of contributions from land tenure and global food security experts.

The ’Land tenure and development’ technical committee is an informal think tank composed of experts, researchers and officials from the French Cooperation. It was set up in 1996 to provide strategic support to the French Cooperation and supervise land tenure initiatives through a network of French and international actors. Initiatives by the Committee include the White Paper on land governance and security of tenure in developing countries (summary) produced by actors in the French Cooperation, and numerous other works and tools aimed at improving our understanding of land issues in developing countries and our ability to meet the challenges they present.

At the request of this committee and thanks to an Agence Française de Développement financing, AGTER has facilitated the reflexions of a working group on large scale land appropriations. This one gathered the ’Land tenure and development’ technical committee’s members and numerous experts from various institutions and civil society. They met regularly during the last months to confront their views and analysis. The synthesis of their contributions has been drawn up by Michel Merlet and Mathieu Perdriault. Its french and english versions are now publicised through the ’Analysis and propositions’ document presented on the ’Land Tenure and Developement’ Technical Committe website or below.

English PDF - 847.8 kb

This document considers the meaning of ‘investment’ and the types of investment the world needs to achieve food security and protect the environment, distinguishes the privatisation of common resources from the concentration of lands that are already recognised as private property, and identifies new elements of land appropriation and concentration.

We are all affected by this phenomenon, which is now a major global issue. Employment, the creation and distribution of added value, and the production of food goods and environmental services all serve the general interest. Their regulation cannot be left to the play of the markets. Beyond the debate about different models of production, there are fundamental societal choices to be made.

The proposals presented here are built around two principles:

  1. protecting existing rights to land and resources, and
  2. the need to recognise collective rights that ensure that private individual uses and rights are compatible with the general interest. These are explored at the national, regional and global levels.

The authors recognise the importance of putting voluntary measures in place, but emphasise that the problem cannot be addressed solely by relying on the good will of socially responsible businesses.

Therefore, they invite all concerned to work towards :

  • Establishing a genuinely binding legal framework at the global level
  • Develop policies and mechanisms that reward labour and economic efficiency and
  • Use land taxes to redistribute ground rents that it has not been possible to eliminate.

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