Oakland Institute | 2 August 2010
Going Against the Grain
World Bank's Leaked Report on Land Grabs Contradicts its Advice to the Developing Countries
August 2, 2010. Oakland (CA): Recently leaked draft report from the World Bank, The Global Land Rush: Can it Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits, challenges the publicly held position of the World Bank on investments in agricultural lands in poor nations - a trend that has come to be popularly known as land grabbing. Although such investments have been hailed by the World Bank as a way to generate jobs and infrastructure, the report states, "investors are targeting countries with weak laws, buying arable land on the cheap, and failing to deliver on promises of jobs and investments," and in some cases inflict serious damage on the local resource base.
"Conclusions of the leaked report confirm those of (Mis)Investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation in the Global Land Grab, a report released by the Oakland Institute in April this year. They pose a challenge to the World Bank whose policy prescriptions, up to now, have contented that the land deals reflect a potential win-win situation for both investors and developing countries," said Anuradha Mittal, director of the Oakland Institute. "This calls for heightened scrutiny of the Bank's activities in promoting investor-friendly policies that spur foreign direct investment in agriculture in poor countries, and holding it accountable instead of allowing it to sweep the damning findings under the rug," she continued.
In April, as the World Bank and UN agencies released a discussion note entitled "Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that respects rights, livelihoods and resources," the Oakland Institute released (Mis)Investment in Agriculture, exposing the role of the Bank's private sector branch, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in fueling land grabs, especially in Africa.
"The Bank's report is certainly a surprising turn of events given that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has not only legitimized the land grab trend but effectively facilitated and promoted it," said Shepard Daniel, Fellow at the Oakland Institute and co-author of the (Mis)Investment report. "The report's conclusions that land deals are dangerous, lack transparency, and rarely seek to incorporate the host countries' overall investment strategies reflect our findings. The key question is how this acknowledgment will be integrated into the work of the Bank's agencies like the IFC, which have increased the ability of foreign investors to acquire land in developing country markets," she continued.
Following the publication of its reports, The Great Land Grab: Rush for World's Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor (2009) and (Mis)Investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation in the Global Land Grab (2010), the Oakland Institute is continuing to examine and document land deals in an effort to expose their impact and how this trend impedes the urgent and critical task of improving food security for the world's most vulnerable.