Fostering accountability: Acknowledging transnational challenges in land investments for informed action

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LDPI Working Paper | March 2024

Fostering accountability: Acknowledging transnational challenges in land investments for informed action

by Jeremy Bourgoin, Roberto Interdonato, Marie Gradeler, Ward Anseeuw


Land deals worldwide persist in reinforcing the dispossession of traditional communities, facilitating the illicit transfer of public lands to private entities, and contributing to violence. Despite the widespread promotion of accountability measures, their enforcement remains elusive, as the responsible investors behind land deals evade scrutiny.

As highlighted in the 2020 Land Inequality report, the control over land remains opaque, with shareholdings in agricultural assets, especially land, not being disclosed to the public. Land and natural resources have become appealing to both public and private investors, including entities previously unrelated to the rural sector. Notably, financial capital, such as pension funds, private equity, and hedge funds, has shown a growing interest in "alternative assets," encompassing commodities, land, and agricultural infrastructure. A prevailing trend in most land investments is the anonymity of ultimate beneficiaries and major investors within these corporate and financial firms, particularly investment funds.

Simultaneously, official household surveys or farm censuses, relied upon for farm size and distribution data, fail to capture corporate and multiple land holdings within countries and even less so across borders. While complementary initiatives like the Land Matrix aim to bridge this gap, they have provided incomplete information on ownership structures. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to comprehend and acknowledge paLerns of land concentration to hold sectors and actors directly or indirectly accountable for pushing the planet beyond its natural limits, particularly in the realms of climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater use, and land system changes.

Merging grounded observations on land investments processes and impacts through the Land Matrix with information on shareholdings structures accessible through the ORBIS database, we uncloud the nature of land investors, and relate the type of investors with their respective impacts on human rights and environmental change.

  •   LDPI
  • 20 Mar 2024
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