ALIGN: Advancing Land-based Investment Governance

ALIGN supports governments, civil society, local communities and other relevant actors in strengthening the governance of land-based investments – from agriculture to infrastructure, extractives and manufacturing.

August 2020 to March 2025
Lorenzo Cotula

Principal researcher and head of law, economies and justice programme

Law, economies and justice
A collaborative programme of work on renegotiating the law to promote fairer, more sustainable economies
Forestry tractor carrying fruits from a field

Land-based investments raise difficult land rights issues, often rooted in competing visions of development. The ALIGN project works to improve investment governance to protect local land rights (Photo: FIANBelgium via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Development policy and practice place growing emphasis on the role of private investment in promoting sustainable development. But a wave of land-based investments for agriculture, renewable energy, mining, petroleum, manufacturing and infrastructure has raised widespread concerns about land dispossession and conflict.

International soft-law instruments such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) provide guidance on regulating land-based investments. But much remains to be done to translate guidance into real change.

And while public campaigning on ‘land grabbing’ has made some businesses more aware of tenure rights issues and risks, most businesses are yet to meaningfully reconsider their practices or engage with tenure issues unless forced to by flare ups of conflict.

Addressing these issues requires systemic governance reform to strengthen local rights and to enhance opportunities for public participation and accountability in investment processes.

What is IIED doing?

IIED, Namati and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) have developed an initiative to support governments, civil society, local communities and private sector actors in improving the governance and practices of land-based investments.  

The Advancing Land-based Investment Governance (ALIGN) project involves:

  • Sustained, in-depth work in Sierra Leone, Zambia and Indonesia to support policy development and implementation, legal empowerment, and dialogue between actors, both at the national level and in selected sites
  • Responsive support to governments, civil society, local communities and other relevant actors in a wide range of countries, for example working in partnership to provide inputs and recommendations for strengthened regulatory frameworks and practice, supporting policy development and implementation strategies, legal empowerment, training and multi-actor dialogue, and
  • Enhancing understanding and improving practices among key actors, globally and in specific targeted contexts, through developing and disseminating innovative responses to key challenges.

At April 2024, the ALIGN technical support facility had provided responsive technical support in over 30 instances across more than 20 countries to improve the governance of land-based investments.

Longer-term work in Sierra Leone has included feeding into the process of land law reform and engaging with the government on adopting guidelines for establishing Village Area Land Committees and Chiefdom Land Committees. Local consent is now required for new land-based investments. In Zambia, ALIGN has also been feeding into policy processes related to land-based investments and supported communities in the Central and Northwestern Provinces. Work in Indonesia focuses on supporting coalitions in the regions of Central Kalimantan and South East Sulawesi.

The project is supporting a number of dynamic peer learning spaces, and is convening debates on land-based investment governance in partnership with the Land Portal. Project publications, recordings of webinars and blogs, all aiming to enhance understanding and improve practices, are free to access or download and are linked below.

Responsible Land-Based Investment Navigator

As part of ALIGN, IIED and the Land Portal Foundation have developed the Responsible Land-Based Investment (RLBI) Navigator 2.0, a practical tool to help government, civil society and private sector actors identify and access targeted information on responsible land investments.

With more than 200 different tools and guides, reports, case studies and links to relevant platforms, as well as news and blogs on responsible investments, the navigator brings together a variety of resources to help specialist and non-specialist audiences protect land rights within the context of investments. 

Additional resources

Responsible Land-Based Investment Navigator, website

Blog: The push for clean energy: how nickel mining expansion is impacting agrarian economies in Indonesia, by Mutmainnah Adenan and Imran Tumora (2023) | Dalam bahasa Indonesia

ALIGN publications from the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI)

Incorporating climate considerations into investment assessment processes: guidance for national and local governments (2024), CCSI Guidance

Enabling a just transition: protecting human rights in renewable energy projects (2023), CCSI Briefing

Nature-based insetting: a harmful distraction from corporate decarbonization (2023), CCSI Commentary

Respecting the human rights of project-affected communities in wind and solar energy project deployment (2022), CCSI Business guide

Getting from ideas to reality: building political support to translate good ideas into actual practice (2021), CCSI Primer

COVID-19 and land-based investment: changing landscapes (2021), CCSI Briefing

Download other CCSI resources from ALIGN

Webinars in collaboration with the Land Portal

Video: When carbon markets go wrong (2024), Land Portal

Video: African traditional authorities and land investment governance (2023), Land Portal

Video: The Maledu judgment: The power of tenure rights recognition (2023), Land Portal

Event: The New Customary Land Rights Act in Sierra Leone: Bringing informed community consent to responsible investment (2022), Land Portal