The new online database is being launched by the Columbia Centre for Sustainable Investment (CCSI), a research centre on sustainable international investment based at Columbia University.
The OpenLandContracts.org database will contain the details of publicly available investment contracts for large-scale land, agriculture, and forestry projects from around the world. It will allow users to download contracts, as well as view summaries of key social, human rights, environmental, fiscal, and operational provisions.
The launch event will feature a panel discussion with high-profile speakers from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon and the World Bank.
Cotula will hail the OpenLandContracts.org as an important step forward and a "potential game-changer" for people wanting to scrutinise investments in the land and agriculture sector.
He will also set out the key challenges that need to be addressed in order to democratise international investment and make legal instruments more accessible to researchers and citizens.
Cotula has been at the forefront of work to ensure that international investments and land deals are transparent. He leads IIED's work on Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment – a collaborative initiative that aims to strengthen local rights and voices in natural resource investments.
In 2011 IIED launched the first report that looked at the contract details of major agribusiness investments. The report highlighted the fact that most contracts relating to agribusiness investments were hidden from public view. The report warned that developing nations granting large land concessions through rushed, secretive and one-sided deals risked creating new social and environmental problems.
In June this year, Cotula authored a report, 'Democratising international investment law', which reviewed current efforts to make international investment law more transparent. The report makes the case for greater citizen engagement in the development and implementation of international investment law. It also reviews recent trends in citizen activism, and distils some lessons learned from civil society advocacy on investment treaties.
A companion report, 'Land rights and investment treaties: exploring the interface', looks at the potential impact of international investment treaties on efforts to secure land rights. It highlights the fact that international investment treaties can have far-reaching implications, with investors potentially using such treaties to challenge land reform programmes and public action on "land grabbing".
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Notes to editors
IIED's Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment programme carries out high-impact analysis on 'land grabbing', the law regulating investments, and strategies for empowerment and accountability. It develops approaches to strengthen citizens' capacity at local and national levels, and shares lessons learned, including through workshops, webinars, practitioner-oriented publications and newsletters.
Democratising international investment law: recent trends and lessons from experience, Lorenzo Cotula (2015), IIED
Land rights and investment treaties: exploring the interface, Lorenzo Cotula (2015), IIED Land, investment and rights series
The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), is a joint initiative of Columbia Law School and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. It is the only university-based applied research centre and forum dedicated to the study, practice and discussion of sustainable international investment.
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see: www.iied.org).