Emily Polack

Senior researcher, law, economies and justice programme, Natural Resources research group

Emily’s work focuses on legal empowerment processes in the context of natural resource investments, in the agriculture sector but also other contexts where investments intersect with land governance and other human rights and environmental justice concerns.


This work includes convening action research, peer learning and policy engagement oriented towards securing more sustainable or fairer investments with particular consideration to the agency of marginalised groups and unrepresented voices in decision-making processes from local to global. 

Most recently she has been exploring legal empowerment among farmers navigating and asserting rights in investments in commercial agriculture, including highlighting gender transformative processes. This work covers innovative and inclusive approaches to, for example, collective land access, livelihood diversification, organisation and movement building, more equitable contracting and policy reforms. It  explores accountability mechanisms in investment processes and regulatory frameworks that offer spaces for greater citizen agency in the agriculture sector. 

Previously, Emily has led research on rights-based approaches to climate change adaptation, with a focus on gender and intergenerational justice. 


Land and natural resource governance; socio-legal empowerment processes and citizen engagement in law reform; responsible agricultural investment; sustainable agri-food systems; exploring the role of law in sustainable development and a just transition (who makes law in whose interests and who can make use of it).

Before IIED

  • Researcher on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, formulations of climate justice with a focus on gender and intergenerational justice, child rights and child-centred adaptation
  • Consultant on climate change research and advocacy, Practical Action 
  • Volunteer on support to Indigenous communities’ river protection network, tackling transbounday water conflicts in Southeast Asia 


  • LLM international development law and human rights, University of Warwick, UK
  • BA international relations and development studies, University if Sussex, UK

Current work

Emily has played a technical coordinator role in the Empowering Producers in Commercial Agriculture project. She is co-convening the peer-to-peer learning component of the Advancing Land-Based Investment Governance project.