Halting the global land rush: protecting land rights and promoting food security

11 October 2012 | Minutes

Organiser: Oxfam

This event will discuss how to invest in agriculture in a responsible way, including research on the scale of the global rush for land, and it will explore potential solutions to the problem, including the role that the World Bank can and must play

Panelists: Hannah Stoddart (Head of Land Campaign, Oxfam International), Nathaniel Don E. Marquez (Executive Director, Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development / ANGOC), CHAIR: Zanny Minton-Beddoes (Economics Editor, The Economist)

Facilitator: Zanny Minton-Bedoes


Hannah Stoddart, Oxfam

  • Massive scale of global land acquisition, WB role is growing, including with cases of land grabs; WB is a standard setter; WB also has $1.5 billion invested in land administration programmes
  • Freeze! 6 month freeze to do a review on policies, practices and safeguards – transparency, FPIC, promote land rights, and promote food security
  • We are not calling for the WB to stop all investment or that the WB is the worst; but the WB has a role to play

Rachel Kyte, World Bank

  • Yes this is a big issue; ref FAO new figures on hunger; pressure on land; food for fuel; volatility of food prices. Especially there is pressure on African land because of potential for productivity increases
  • We are aimed at increasing smallholder farmer yields, incomes and environmental outcomes; but we can’t get to our goals by only investing in smallholders. Large scale land investment can work well.
  • We are engaged with client government to improve investment climate and attract good long-term investment; this is why we developed principles on good practices: Responsible Agricultural Investment(RAI); now we are looking at how to implement in everything we do
  • Targeting the WB is not the right way to go; we have complaint mechanisms for dealing with these things, and not all the complaints are related to land grab (only 1 right now)
  • We have ramped up agricultural investment, we want to work with good responsible investors, and build good investment climates and frameworks for making the right decisions on investment; we don’t think we are investing in land grab; we need to make sure we are helping countries
  • We must be engaging with the myriad agencies and national governments on the ground as well as with CSOs
  • We also have a safeguard policy review just launched – game on to talk about these issues

Zanny: (1) given scale and urgency – how can business as usual be changed? (2) what is the next step on engagement?

  • Massive concentration on food issues from G8/G20/EU – degree never seen before; and we have funding like we have never seen before (GAFSP) – this is not business as usual
  • There is no evidence we are involved in land grab except 1 or 2 projects; safeguard review, step up investment, more active in land tenure rights

Zanny: (1) Do you agree there is a land grab problem? (2) Is there not a role as a standard setter?

  • There is a problem, especially where there is a lack of transparency – the solution is sunshine and transparency
  • We need to build the capacity of host country government to make things more transparent and engage effectively with investors
  • IFC performance standards are followed by many people. IFC is looking at how to incorporate RAI into performance standards; and we will have a performance standard review

Don Marquez

  • We need to think about the precautionary principles; while doing the safeguard review we don’t keep investing
  • Small holder agriculture is viable and contributes to global food security
  • Yes we need to work’ with the country governments – investments and loans need to benefit people – whose food security are we talking about?
  • Land brings power and dignity in Asia, where they exist laws are not being implemented; for example Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Philippines, palm oil plantations in Indonesia, corporate agricultural policy in Pakistan
  • Too little bargaining power to local communities
  • A 6-month freeze would be useful, but other things need to be done – especially the private sector; CFS guidelines on governance of tenure, ILO/UN work on indigenous communities; the problem is that guidelines are voluntary and need to be operationalized


  • Oxfam questions that the WB is not involved. There are a number of cases in Africa and Latin America – cases are in mediation or under audit; also some more cases are emerging where the WB would be implicated
  • We don’t know enough about investments; IFC 50% of the portfolio through financial intermediaries with lack of standards and intermediaries – need transparency of the Bank’s portfolio itself
  • Freezes are not unprecedented – ie land admin project in Cambodia led to a Cambodia lending freeze; also Indonesia palm oil case led to moratorium on palm oil investment
  • RAI principles are too watered down – CFS voluntary guidelines are the best sort of protocol we have internationally now, but FAO does not have funding for implementation; the Bank’s $1.5 billion in land admin could be used to implement CSF voluntary guidelines
  • Actions the WB can take during 6 months freeze: as investor, as standard setter, as adviser


Mark Rentschler – safeguard review is a big opportunity, there a lot of targets in the safeguards; what are you hearing from partners?
Hannah – engaging with safeguards review – asks developing; but certainly FPIC, FI application, prohibition on involuntary resettlement, better recognition of customary and informal rights

Clare Lauderbach – we have documented small-holder farm investments have marginalised women – need to consider gender dimensions; in 21 land cases mentioned – are there gender considerations?

Hannah – we agree with the need to recognise women’s rights! We have a publication forthcoming

Duncan Pruett – there are gender dimensions in these cases, not sure how many; most of our partners want us to be more radical; We have an African campaign, yesterday Pan-African Parliament launched a statement of concern about land grabs

Meg Taylor, CAO – cases don’t get filed with gender dimensions usually; now there are 12 cases on land, including 5 with regards to agriculture.

Zanny – how do you work with customary tenure?

Don – title is not the sole instrument; a strong bias against tribal governance especially regarding indigenous peoples where it is stewardship, not ownership. IP have their ancestral lands titled by other people because they are illiterate; thewomen’s rights issue is beyond the land code – it is about family relations and we need a paradigm shift to deal with that

Hannah – this campaign is the start of something – the World Bank can take a lead; we have voluntary guidelines that can now be implemented at national level

Don – land is power relations; we need to do genuine agrarian reform; We need to work with smallholders and support their struggles