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New green powers in the global land grab violate indigenous peoples’ rights

Photo: Pablo Toranzo/ ANDHES

LAND RIGHTS: Industries and investors lead the global land grab for new agribusiness and green projects at the cost of local communities and indigenous peoples. A new report guides you through the complexities and the legal frameworks related to human rights and today’s scramble for land.

Violations of indigenous peoples’ rights come in many colours.

Mining, logging and other extractive industries have traditionally been some of the main threats to indigenous peoples’ land. But new and green powers have entered the race for land.

Green grabbing on the rise

Nature conservation and green market development are increasingly involved in land grabbing and evictions of indigenous peoples according to a new report on land grabbing and indigenous peoples published by IWGIA.

The new mode of green grabbing includes acquiring lands for the development of green markets such as forestry for carbon offsetting, biofuels and ecotourism.

Establishment of national parks and nature conservation too often have a negative impact on indigenous peoples who are falsely perceived as intruders. A new report by Survival International backs these findings up.

Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’s Senior Advisor in Land Rights, says:

”It is no longer only the usual extractive companies that are leading the global land grab, as new powerful players such as agribusiness and green energy are also driving global land grab. Across the board indigenous peoples’ rights are being ignored – but there and it is more important than ever for the international community to secure the rights of indigenous peoples.”

The new report, therefore, gives a comprehensive overview of the legal instruments, national policies and international standards related to land rights and human rights followed-up by a set of recommendations. The aim is to give states, the private sector and civil society guidance to the legal frameworks.

Investors are favoured politically

The ongoing land grab is made possible by large investments. The case of Standing Rock shows that investors - pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, private equity funds, Western banks and financial investors - play a predominant role in financing the global land grab.

China, India, South Korea and the Gulf States are at the forefront of the agricultural expansion, as they seek to produce food overseas for their growing populations. However, the biggest country investors in terms of outward foreign direct investment (FDI) in agribusiness include Canada, USA, and Denmark.

As the current global land grab is driven by a complex multitude of actors, land deals, in general, lack transparency. So when local communities and indigenous peoples try to detect who stands behind land grabs, they are often lost in a complex web of multiple actors and layers.

The new report published by IWGIA concludes, the investors are usually favoured within the political, economic and legal frameworks. With case studies from Tanzania, Kenya, India, Myanmar, Colombia, Chile and Russia the report shows, how laws and policies adopted by States, international financial organisations and investment funds mainly support the rights of the investors rather than the local and indigenous communities.

What is land grabbing?

‘Land grabbing’ has many different definitions but what they all have in common is the idea that it involves the large-scale acquisition of land for commercial or industrial purposes, such as agricultural and biofuel production, mining and logging concessions, big infrastructure development or tourism

The large-scale acquisitions are undertaken with limited (if any) consultation of the local communities, limited (if any) compensation, and a lack of regard for environmental sustainability and equitable access to, or control over, water resources.

The continent that is witnessing the greatest level of land grabbing is clearly Africa. In 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that over the 2007 to 2009 period, foreign investors acquired at least 20 million hectares in Africa. Similar extensive takeovers of large tracts of land by foreign investors also take place in Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet countries. Many of these land deals are directly affecting indigenous communities, who are then forced off of their lands.

Read more about land grabbing

IWGIA’s efforts against land grabbing

IWGIA documents the ongoing land grabbing with a specific focus on the violations of international law, national policies, human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. We support and empower indigenous peoples to resist land grabbing by providing documentation, facts and comprehensive knowledge on their rights as well as supporting local projects and initiatives. Internationally as well as nationally, we advocate for the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples and emphasize the right to land.

Read more about land rights

Further information

If you wish an interview or have any additional questions regarding the report, land grabbing, land rights and indigenous peoples, do not hesitate to contact IWGIA’s press and communication team, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone: +45 3153 3016.

Tags: Land rights, Press releases



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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