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.
Strengthening local rights and voices
Effective use of legal rights can be a powerful tool for rural people to shape development agendas and increase local control, benefit sharing and public accountability in investment processes.
This requires concerted action at multiple levels – from calling on international human rights bodies, to rethinking international investment treaties and contracts to mobilising grassroots action to engage in legal reforms, register collective landholdings and enable communities to claim their rights.
Local level legal literacy and human rights advisory support requires diverse approaches from legal caravans, paralegal programmes, radio broadcasts or local deliberation tools.
This is the aim of the Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment project, a collaborative initiative to strengthen local rights and voices in the context of natural resource investments in low-income countries. The initiative was launched by IIED in 2006, and put into practice with a range of partners in Africa and Asia.
The Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment programme:
- Carries out high-impact analysis on 'land grabbing', the law regulating investments, gender dimensions, and strategies for empowerment and accountability
- Develops materials and approaches to strengthen capacity at local and national levels, such as guides, handbooks and briefing notes – for example on investment treaties, contracts and laws, investment chains, land rights, and ways for communities to claim their rights, and
- Facilitates international sharing of lessons from innovation, including through workshops, webinars, practitioner-oriented publications and newsletters.
Harnessing the law to contest 'land grabs', Lorenzo Cotula (2015) IIED Reflect and Act
Legal tools for citizen empowerment
Improving the use of legal tools to strengthen local rights and voices in natural resource investments