Local rights and global land hunger : a human rights-based approach in a context of large-scale land acquisitions

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Tengnas, Karin
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The global competition over African land is at an historical peak. Some call it “win-win opportunities”, others “land-grabbing”, violating the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Firstly, this dissertation explores the impact of large-scale land acquisitions on local livelihoods and rights, with a particular focus on African women. On this topic, the study concludes that local impacts depend on multiple factors, displaying a huge diversity between countries and individual investments. Despite new employment opportunities, cases generally illustrate severe negative impacts, i.e. loss of land, food scarcity and insecure employment conditions. Many African countries have initiated land reforms. The traditional systems, under which land is frequently governed, are commonly transformed into formal tenure systems. Secondly, the dissertation explores the impact of these formalisation processes, especially on women. While there is a risk that discriminatory practises and biases make women’s already fragile rights even weaker, some cases show that a formal right to land can enhance tenure security for women, by allowing for enforceable claims. Land governance, and its mutually reinforcing relation to human rights, is of vital importance for turning large-scale land acquisitions into development opportunities while protecting local rights. Thirdly, the dissertation explores the human rights-based approach (HRBA) as a normative framework and analytical and operational tool in relation to large-scale land acquisitions. The study concludes that a HRBA adds strength and legal substance to the principles of participation and inclusion; openness and transparency; accountability and the rule of law, and equality and non-discrimination. Such addition promotes good land governance. By empowering the rights-holders and enhancing the capacity of the duty-bearers (governments, corporations, and traditional authorities), international development cooperation may lead to greater and more gender balanced inclusion of civil society in negotiations of large-scale land acquisitions, increased capacity of civil society to scrutinise these deals, greater adherence of duty-bearers to the rule of law and new policies and procedures ensuring the protection of local rights and livelihoods. This is especially important in African countries with large amounts of land and weak legal and institutional capacity to protect rights, especially those of women.
Second semester University: Université du Luxembourg
land grabbing, Africa, land tenure