Since 2000, companies in G8 countries have acquired land in developing countries more than the size of the whole of Ireland. This is enough to feed 96 million people every year - almost the total population of the UK and Canada - international agency Oxfam reveals today.
The pace and scale of secretive land investments has put vulnerable communities at risk of land grabs, where they lose their homes and farmlands without compensation or consent - and often by violent means. Secrecy surrounding these deals often means that investors can also be hit by crippling unforeseen costs as a result of unresolved conflict when a deal gets thrown into dispute with local communities. With so much land being bought by companies linked to G8 countries and with a remit to promote investment, the G8 has a role to tackle land grabs.
Oxfam is calling for G8 leaders, meeting in Northern Ireland next Monday, to shine a light on shady land deals and help stop land grabs. David Cameron, UK Prime Minister and Chair of this year's G8, has already expressed his ambition for the Summit to be an opportunity to help tackle global hunger. Oxfam pressure has helped to put land issues on the G8's agenda for the first time.
Oxfam Chief Executive Mark Goldring said: “The secrecy on the ground and among investors means that nobody is a winner and for the world's poorest they can lose everything. The G8 must lift the veil of secrecy around land deals to help put an end to the scandal of land grabs.”
Oxfam is calling for G8 leaders to establish a global platform called a Land Transparency Initiative which would help improve land rights in poorer countries and support the UN's Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure. This initiative should also require land investors to share details of both their investments and engagement with affected communities. The G8 must also get its own house in order by regulating all G8-based companies investing in land so the details of all deals are shared and affected communities are involved and heard in the negotiations.
Goldring said: “The UK government has put the scandal of land grabs on the G8 table. Now it is time for other G8 leaders to take action so the outrage of land grabs is not in our name.”
Land the size of Ottawa in developing countries is sold to foreign investors every seven days.
The amount of land sold since 2000 is 11 million hectares, calculated from the new figures from the Land Matrix Partnership: landportal.info/landmatrix. This is a third more than the amount of Northern Ireland (1.4 million hectares) and the Republic of Ireland (7.0 million) combined. The total population of Canada and the UK is 98.4 million. (faostat.fao.org)
The UN voluntary guidelines on land tenure (Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests) were unanimously agreed by the UN Committee on World Food Security in 2012 and include wide-ranging provisions to improve land governance and tenure to improve the land rights of vulnerable communities.