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What Can Be Done to Prevent the Adverse Effects of Land Grabbing?

ZIMBABWE

In developing countries, land grabbing has left families without homes and local populations without reliable sources of food. What was once farmland used to feed small villages and families has transformed into large-scale, foreign-owned agricultural operations that feed rich nations.

What can be done to prevent the negative effects of land grabbing? This is an issue that has been widely discussed by activists, researchers and policymakers who have taken an interest in transitional and global forms of land governance.

How Can We Prevent the Adverse Effects of Land Grabbing?

In recent years, two major projects have sought to address the serious issue of land grabbing through the proposed implementation of global land governance. The two projects, Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, are significant because they call for global or transnational rules of land governance, which have never existed before.

We know from experience that global and transnational governance of certain fields, such as labor, the environment and human rights, can have significant influence on the local level. This influence can affect future and present policies that may encourage the practice of land grabbing while curbing or limiting its extreme excesses.

Of course, this is not to say that global governance would be superior to national or local rules, but rather serves as a piece of the puzzle. It is also a matter that needs to be explored and better understood.

Naturally, there are unanswered questions that still stand in the way of implementing global land governance. Who can participate in the creation and negotiation of the rules? Who and how will they be enforced? Will the process achieve its intended outcome? Are there any potentially unforeseen consequences? These are important questions when considering global solutions for land grabbing.

Global land governance is such a new idea that scholars still have more questions than answers at this point. Two things we do know for certain is that the solution cannot come in the form of an international treaty, nor can there be an institution that governs “land grabs.” Over the last two decades, there has been a shift from a binding international law to differentiated forms of government, including public and private arrangements. Lessons can be learned by taking a look at what has and has not worked for in other fields of global governance.

It is also important to consider that land tenure and agricultural investment is also influenced by other governance fields, such as bilateral trade agreements and environmental programs. The REDD + (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and bilateral investment treaties may facilitate land grabs in a variety of ways.

Other research shows that global governance is often effective not because of a single institution, but rather a series of institutions that may or may not be linked together.

While there will likely be no single perfect solution to land grabbing, global governance may be a step in the right direction. The key difficulty will be determining how to create and implement these rules.

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