Direkt zum Inhalt | Direkt zur Navigation

Sektionen

Benutzerspezifische Werkzeuge

Sie sind hier: Startseite / Professoren & Dozenten / Prof. Dr. von Bernstorff / Current projects / The problem of “land grabbing”
Prof. Dr. von Bernstorff

The problem of “land grabbing”

Prof. Dr. Jochen von Bernstorff as advisor for the Federal Republic of Germany at the conference of the"UN-Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security" (March 2012 in Rome).

 

Land grabbing describes the increasing trend of foreign investment in agricultural land, especially in countries of the south and in Eastern Europe. States as well as private investors either become leaseholders or entirely purchase the land in question. Such transactions serve a variety of purposes, including the security of food supplies of the investor-country. However, often it is also a strategy for profitable production of food or other agricultural products for sale on the global market.

Click here for the following document (in German): Das Problem des “Land Grabbing” und die UN-Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, 2012

Further information on the UN-Voluntary Guidelines are available at FAO.

The following extract is from von Bernstorff, Jochen: Das Problem des “Land Grabbing” und die UN-Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, 2012:

Over the past ten years, foreign investment in agricultural land, especially those located in Eastern Europe and the southern part of the globe, have dramatically increased. This empirically proven global trend of land acquisition is complex and multi-dimensional. Those who seek to acquire control of the land could be states as well as private investors. A large proportion of investors are made up of states from all five continents, especially countries such as India, South Korea, China, Saudi Arabia and other states of the Persian Gulf region, as well as European and American investment funds. Investors would lease, and to a lesser extent purchase, large swathes of farmland, especially in poor African, Latin-American, Asian and Eastern European States, and use them for various purposes. One aim is to secure the food supplies of the investor-country. Often it is also a strategy for profitable production of food or other agricultural products for sale on the global market.

There are two interpretations of this sudden jump in land acquisition.[1] The first view, which is held prominently among members of international civil society, interprets these developments as a danger for the countries of the South. NGO studies, such as “Seized” (2008) by GRAIN, used the term land grabbing to great international public effect. Land grabbing leads to the forced displacement of small farmers, upon whom hundreds of millions of people around the globe depend on for supply and sustenance. The consequences are further impoverishment of these small-scale farmers and the related growth of informal slum settlements in the megacities of the South.[2] In addition, the local populations of countries which receive this type of investment, who are already desperately in need of economic development, rarely benefit from the resulting profits. The main concern voiced by many critics of this trend is the loss of local decision-making power over vast areas of the agricultural sector and its earnings. The problem is especially serious when the country in question is at the same time dependent on UN food aid and the import of food from abroad, thus being exposed to price volatility in the global market.

The second view on the matter, as taken by the World Bank and presented in previous FAO studies, emphasizes the opportunities of foreign investors. However, the two conflicting views do have one thing in common: They both acknowledge the fact that in the past decades, the agricultural sectors of the countries of the southern hemisphere have suffered from under-investment. This fact of under-investment forms the basis of the more optimistic interpretation of the recent trend in land acquisition: Increased investment in the starved agricultural sectors of these countries provides the chance for economic growth and thus greater affluence for the local population, as well as the opportunity to improve agricultural infrastructure. Greater foreign investment in land is to be understood in the context of “development”. Associated risks can be minimized, such as through “responsible” investment.[3]

The controversy surrounding this debate has produced various case studies, focusing on individual countries and investment projects.[4] The majority of studies offers a critical analysis and is often financed by organisations of civil society. However, positive reports have recently been published.[5] Despite these waves of case studies, an independent scientific evaluation of the problems of land grabbing is merely in its earliest stages.[6] This current study aims to analyse the institutional and legal processes involved, which have been triggered by the land grabbing debate.

The highlighting of these issues by civil society has polarised international public opinion. As a consequence, various international organisations have reacted to the socio-economic phenomenon of land grabbing through deeper analysis as well as attempts at regulation. The World Bank and UN organisations such as the FAO, IFAD and UNCTAD, at the behest of the G 20, produced in 2010 the “Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment” (RAI). Since its publication, the RAI has been subject to controversial debate.[7] The central tenet of the following study is, however, an analysis of the UN-Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. This 40-page document, which was adopted by the UN on 9th March 2012, consists at present the most comprehensive reaction to the land grabbing problem. Under the auspices of the FAO, this regulatory framework was formulated by UN member states, in consultation with global civil society, over three sessions of one-week negotiations. It was unanimously adopted by the FAO General Assembly. It was a conscious decision by the FAO Secretariat to set up a process to rival the heavily criticised RAI of the World Bank and thus offer an alternative. Unlike the RAI, this process was marked by broad consultations and negotiations, which were open to all UN member states and relevant civil society. Due to the way it was established, its scope and substance, the Voluntary Guidelines currently offers the most up to date international standard for the analysis of land grabbing.

 

 


[1] Engels, Bettina/ Dietz, Kristina/ Seiwald, Markus/ Zeller, Christian/ Clausing, Peter/ Goschenhofer, Christina/ Exner, Andreas/ Hoering, Uwe/ Fatheuer, Thomas, Peripherie, Land – Konflikt, Politik, Profit in: Zeitschrift für Politik und Ökonomie in der Dritten Welt 124, 2011, 497.

[2] The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, has pointed out, on numerous occasions, the connection between land-access problems of small farmers and urbanization. Large-scale rural exodus and migration to the cities are not the result of industrial urban development. Rather, they are more often the consequence of rural poverty, which can be explained by lack of land ownership, insecure landholding and new forms of land use (E/CN.4/2005/48, paragraphs 43-44).

[3] World Bank/ FAO/ UNCTAD/ IFAD, Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources, Knowledge Exchange Platform for Responsible Agro-Investment (RAI), 2009.

[4] EED, Collection of Studies and other Papers concerning „Land grabbing and conflict“, 2011.

[5] Deininger, Klaus/ Byerlee, Derek, Rising Global Interest in Farmland. Can it Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?, 2011; hierzu kritisch Engels, Bettina/ Dietz, Kristina/ Seiwald, Markus/ Zeller, Christian/ Clausing, Peter/ Goschenhofer, Christina/ Exner, Andreas/ Hoering, Uwe/ Fatheuer, Thomas, Peripherie, Land – Konflikt, Politik, Profit in: Zeitschrift für Politik und Ökonomie in der Dritten Welt 124, 2011, 447-469.

[6] See also, Engels, Bettina/ Dietz, Kristina/ Seiwald, Markus/ Zeller, Christian/ Clausing, Peter/ Goschenhofer, Christina/ Exner, Andreas/ Hoering, Uwe/ Fatheuer, Thomas, Peripherie, Land – Konflikt, Politik, Profit in: Zeitschrift für Politik und Ökonomie in der Dritten Welt 124, 2011, 497.

[7] World Bank/ FAO/ UNCTAD/ IFAD, Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources, Knowledge Exchange Platform for Responsible Agro-Investment (RAI), 2009; zur Kritik De Schutter, Olivier, The Green Rush: The Global Race for Farmland and the Rights of Lands Users, in: Harvard International Law Journal, 2011, 52, 503-559; The Global Campaign For Agrarian Reform Land Research Action Network, Why We Oppose the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI)?, 2010; Daniel, Shepard/ Mittal, Anuradha, (Mis)investment in Agriculture, The Role of the International Finance Corporation in Global Land Grabs, 2010.