Introduction to legal tools for citizen empowerment

Can a half-acre of dry earth be more precious than gold? To farmers, herders and foragers in some of the world's poorest countries, the answer is very literally yes. Gold mining, agribusiness and other natural resource investments typically promise new jobs and public revenues. But they can also push poorer groups off their land and pollute their waterways.

Farm labourers in a field

Farm workers in Mozambique working to clear land for planting crops (Photo: Mike Goldwater/IIED)

While investment can be a force for good, it is now more urgent than ever to ensure that local rights to land, water and other resources are respected, that people have the support they need to engage on an equitable basis, and that the national and international legal frameworks and decision-making processes that govern investments are properly configured.  

Collaborating closely with partner organisations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, IIED’s Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment initiative works to strengthen rights and sustain agency in the arenas where natural resource governance meets the global economy. 

Our work supports local-to-global efforts through:

To find out more about the overall approach and how different elements fit together, please read:


The Arcus Foundation

Department for International Development (DFID)

The European Union

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Irish Aid



Lorenzo Cotula (, principal researcher, Natural Resources research group; programme lead

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