Navigating the challenges of land-based investment governance

IIED and Land Portal are publishing a blog series about governance of land-based investments in the global South. In this first blog, Amaelle Seigneret and Nathaniah Jacobs present a brief background to the issues – and a dedicated tool to help navigate them.

Amaelle Seigneret is a researcher and Nathaniah Jacobs is a senior researcher, both in IIED's Natural Resources research group

Aerial view of a forest in Cameroon.

Aerial view of a forest in Cameroon (Photo: Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR, via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In this blog series 'Practitioners’ perspectives: responding to the challenges of land-based investment governance', we invite rights defenders and practitioners to reflect on their strategies to push for more responsible and sustainable investments, on why and how they have developed them, and the tangible outcomes these strategies have had. Stay informed about new blogs via our news page for the series.

Land-based investments: what are the challenges?

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is mounting pressure on governments to kickstart national economies and drive economic recovery.

For some governments, promoting natural resource-intensive investments – such as mining and agribusiness – through social and environmental deregulation (PDF) appears to be an increasingly prominent approach. In contrast, others appear to advocate for an alternative pathway of a green economic recovery, involving the increased use of renewable energy and nature-based solutions.

But regardless of the paths or types of investment chosen, any increase in large-scale land-based investments will likely come with significant land footprints, putting growing pressure on both the environment and the individuals, communities, pastoralists and Indigenous Peoples who currently use the land.

These challenges are not new. Since the onset of the Global Land Rush in 2008, the negative impacts of poorly planned or irresponsible investments have become the subject of increasingly nuanced debate. Lost livelihoods, displacement, failure to deliver benefits for host communities and those who live nearby, and even violent conflicts have all been observed.

But recognition of these issues has led to a deeper understanding of them. From complex political economy dynamics and the costs of not proceeding responsibly to the diversity of actors, laws and policies involved, a vast number of knowledge products and practical guides have emerged on how to navigate these challenges – and how to avoid them in the first place.

The navigator: a tool for practitioners

A dedicated knowledge hub now brings together this wide range of tools and guides on how to address a variety of land-related issues and strengthen the governance of land-based investments.

The Responsible Land-Based Investment Navigator, jointly developed by IIED and the Land Portal Foundation, is maintained through the ALIGN project. It collates resources tailored to the roles and needs of different actors, from governments, civil society and grassroots organisations, to actors within the private sector such as company operators, lenders, investors and buyers.

Many of these guides and tools draw on practical experiences from a growing community of practice. Rights defenders and practitioners have developed creative and wide-ranging strategies to respond to the many-faceted challenges: from understanding the political and legal contexts in which investments occur and designing strategic interventions to influence policy and law-making arenas, to linking these efforts to research and initiatives on the ground.

Sharing stories of change: the blog series

In addition to the navigator platform, as part of the ALIGN project, our new blog series also aims to support this growing community of practice. Across the globe, dedicated organisations and individuals are working hard to improve investment processes and correct gaps in laws and policies that undermine long-term sustainability for both communities and investments.

Most importantly, it is these people who are finding ways to translate words into action. Thanks to the extensive mobilisation of civil society and rights defenders, change is happening even at the highest institutional levels.

One culmination of this work is the international recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and rural communities at the 26th United Nations climate change conference (COP26) in 2021.

But most of the hard work is happening at the local level, where rights defenders and practitioners are pushing for concrete change: greater protections for Indigenous Peoples and their livelihoods, ensuring local communities have a seat at the negotiating table, and that they receive tangible benefits from land-based investments.

Their grassroots actions are driving ongoing debate to ensure important issues are brought to light and heard by decision makers and ultimately transform the governance of land-based investment for the better. In this blog series, we have invited partners from diverse backgrounds and contexts to reflect on their experiences of responding to the challenges of land-based investment governance – and on how they are making change happen.

We would love to hear from you!

We welcome contributions from individuals working to improve land-based investment governance or rights protection. If you would like to propose a blog post, please get in touch with us at align@iied.org.

This blog was originally posted on the Land Portal website

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